You’ll notice if you listen to the video, that I’m asking you to let me pray for you. The video gives a better explanation of how I want to do that, but the simple fact is that I want to pray for you in a format I’m calling “drive by prayers.” If you want me to pray for you, you can just respond on the comments. If you have specific needs that you want kept confidential, then you an send my a direct message on Twitter, my handle is @rockyfort, or on Facebook. The group I’m using is called “Daily Enduring Truth.” (Imagine that!) If you’re already my friend on FB (rockyfort) feel free to message me there as well. Just to make it clear: I want to pray for you.
1. Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. 2. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. 3. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. 4. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
As Jesus continued in His ministry and His popularity began to grow, the Pharisees showed up to check Him out. While we’ve seen them a few times, specifically in Mark 2 and 3 in the biblical account, they always seem to show up whenever too many people start following Jesus. And, much like today’s internet tradition that the person losing the argument starts picking on grammar, they attacked Jesus on what most would consider a non-essential religious practice: hand-washing. Note that when the Pharisees talk about washing their hands, they’re not talking about basic hygiene, they’re dealing with a religious ritual designed not only to remove the physical dirt from their hands, but also the spiritual dirt of those they might encounter in the market place: both Gentiles and Jews who weren’t as observant as they were. It’s not that they were “germaphobes,” in today’s terms, so much as they were spiritual germaphobes who sought to prevent the possibility of anything unclean sticking to them. There was an elaborate ritual Pharisees followed to make sure that they had washed off the dust of the masses, so that they might be spiritually clean. And because washing their hands wouldn’t take care of other things, they had a symbolic washing of all of their eating sites and utensils. What did they see among Jesus’s disciples? They didn’t follow that ritual, and if Jesus didn’t teach them that basic practice, what kind of a real teacher was He?
5. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? 6. He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Make no mistake about this question: the Pharisees don’t care about what the disciples are doing. When they pointed out this spiritual faux pas, they were doing so to attack Jesus for His shoddy teaching, or so it seemed to them. Jesus shot back at them by calling them hypocrites, which was an insult of course, and then quoting from Isaiah that while they sought to honor God by their words and even their actions, their hearts were far from God. They were going through the motions of their faith, without having their hearts in line with God’s heart. This is just a quick aside, but earlier this week, I saw someone aghast that Christians were insulting other Christians because it was unChristlike. While I seek to avoid such insults myself, Jesus used accurate descriptions of those who opposed Him which could be considered insults. The quick lesson, as followers of Christ, we should always season our speech with salt, as it were, but never be afraid to describe actions and their implications accurately. The problem the Pharisees had was that they had worked so hard to develop just the right way to do everything, that they had lost all sense of relationship with God. Worship had become a mechanical process of following the rules that they had created rather than a process of seeking God through their lives.
8. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
One of the great things about the different denominations we have is that we have many different forms to use as we seek to honor God. Whether we relax in quiet contemplative worship built on the traditions of the past, revel in the hymns and contemporary music of our day, or rejoice ecstatically while we jump and dance to wild music, we can seek God in many different formats. The key is the freedom to seek God as He directs and leads us. The Pharisees had reduced God to a set of rules and regulations. The sad thing about many of our denominations is that we reduce God, and the search for God to our expression of worship. We look down on those who seek contemplative worship because we can’t imagine not being excited by the presence of God; we criticize those dealing with hymns and some contemporary music for eschewing the traditions of the past and only indulging in half-hearted worship – afraid to really let loose; we’re aghast at those who would get so excited in their worship while completely forsaking the traditions of so many years of faithful believers. The truth is, God isn’t blessed by the form worship takes so much as the heart of the person worshiping. We should never have the same attitude that the Pharisees had that their way was the only right way. Jesus pointed out the flaw in their system in that it focused on following man’s interpretation of what God said rather than allowing people to seek God with all their heart.
9. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. 10. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: 11. But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. 12. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; 13. Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
Jesus ripped into the Pharisees here with an example that showed that while they may have originally been seeking to honor God as they developed their traditions, some of their man-made traditions are a direct contradiction to God’s commands. He gave examples related to parents. The word of God says that we’re to honor our father and mother (Exodus 20:12) and that whoever curses their father and mother shall be put to death (Exodus 21:17). Please note that in this time, it was the duty of a child to honor their parents not just with words, but by caring for them and meeting their needs. Once a parent was no longer able to work, they needed support since there were no safety nets in those days. Cursing a parent also was not just a word thing, a child who didn’t help meet the physical needs of their parents were curses instead of the blessings they should be. With that biblical background and cultural understanding, Jesus attacked the tradition of “Corban.” What was Corban? Corban was the idea that funds or resources were dedicated to God and could not be used for secular purposes. The practice that Jesus attacked was when Pharisees would designate some, or all, of their resources as Corban so that they could avoid taking on the responsibilities they had as children to care for their parents. While Jesus didn’t deal with this issue, I think it’s an important reminder for us in our day that we are our brother’s keeper and that we need to be careful when dealing with the resources God blesses us with so that we can find ways to bless others.
14. And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: 15. There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. 16. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
This is one of those amazing statements of Jesus that flies underneath the radar. Jesus turned from the Pharisees and called to the people who had seen this interaction. The Pharisees had complained about the disciples defiling themselves by eating with unwashed hands. Jesus not only refuted that, but broadened the statement in an amazing way. It isn’t what goes into a person that defiles him, it’s what goes out. This not only addresses unwashed hands (ceremonially) , but also begs the question of what does this have to say about the dietary laws? Dietary laws were one of the distinguishing features that separated Jews from the world around them. There is something to be said about how they enhanced the physical health of the adherent. While some Jewish groups no longer adhere to those laws, they still have an impact. At the same time, some Christians, recognizing the health benefits of those laws, still seek to follow them. The message of Jesus makes it clear, to me anyway, that it isn’t whether or not you wash your hands and it isn’t whether or not you follow the dietary laws, it’s whether you’re right with God. Your relationship with God isn’t measured by what you eat or drink, it’s measured by what you say or do. Jesus offered a more in-depth description of His meaning in the next few verses. He called on those who could hear to hear, and to understand.
17. And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. 18. And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; 19. Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
Often the disciples asked Jesus to explain what He taught because they didn’t understand what He was teaching. I believe, in this case, that the disciples couldn’t believe what they were hearing and they asked Jesus about this teaching because they wanted to make sure that they had heard Him correctly. Jesus made it plain. You eat, the food goes through the digestive system, and then is eliminated from the body. That food doesn’t affect the heart or the character of the person eating. The NIV makes the last phrase a parenthetical thought noting that Jesus declared all food clean. While we know that the disciples, for the most part, still followed the dietary laws that went so far as separating themselves from Gentiles while they ate, based on Paul’s description of the situation in Galatia, they still seemed to understand this teaching when Jesus explained it.
20. And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22. Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23. All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
What defiles a person is what comes out of their mouth, their actions, their writings, their overall attitudes. If you eat all the “right” foods, but your words, your thoughts, and your deeds give place to anything on the list of evils Jesus described, your heart is defiled in front of God. On the other hand, if your eat all the foods on the “forbidden” list but you don’t entertain those evil thoughts, words, or deeds then your heart is pure before God. We could spend a lot of time focusing on those evil deeds while realizing that this list isn’t exhaustive, but perhaps better would be to consider a list of some of the things we should be doing if our heart is right with God. We should see sexual purity and faithfulness in marriage, we should see a respect for life, for all life. We shouldn’t seek to accumulate wealth, but find ways to give it to others. We should deal honestly and fairly with all people and we should seek to honor God with all our words and deeds. While we depend on the forgiveness of God, we should not seek to give God numerous reasons to forgive us.