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Mark Chapter Seven, Worship By Faith

In our study of Mark chapter seven, we will walk with Jesus as He shows the disciples the difference between traditions and faith. We will look at how traditions can even be elevated to a position above the Word of God over time.

Mark 7:1 & 2

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were 'unclean,' that is, unwashed.

A special delegation of Jewish leaders showed up to observe Jesus and His disciples. They noticed that they were eating without washing their hands.

Mark 7:3 & 4

(The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

This delegation knew that this was not in keeping with the ways of the Jews. Their traditions were universally accepted among God's people and so seeing someone not keeping them identified them as non-Jews.

Mark 7:5

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, 'Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with "unclean" hands?'

These so-called leaders asked Jesus how He could allow His disciples to act in such a manner.

Mark 7:6-8

He replied, 'Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men." You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.'

Jesus passed on the chance to debate the leaders about the merits of their traditions and instead pointed them back to the words of the prophet Isaiah. He had warned Israel of the fact that their religious traditions would one day be elevated above the very Word of God and that is just what was happening here. We notice that Jesus did not say that the tradition of hand washing was bad, as we all know that for the purposes of good health it is in fact good. He pointed out the fact that these traditions were becoming like an eleventh commandment and they were even forgetting the first ten. He goes on to explain that the Jews were just going through the motions of worship but their hearts were not even focused on the things of God anymore. Throughout the ages, the same thing has happened in the body of Christ. Why are there so many divisions (denominations) in the church? Men and women of God will start doing something that seems good and right in their local church (the hand-washing of our day). Over the generations, this tradition will be incorporated into a "statement of faith" and used to separate the group from the larger body of Christ. It can even get to the point where it is used as some man-made test of faith to determine whether a person will enter heaven or not. At this point, the tradition has replaced the Word of God and is exactly what Jesus was talking about here.

Mark 7:9-13

And he said to them: 'You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, "Honor you father and your mother, and, Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death." But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: "Whatever help you might have otherwise received from me is Corban" (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.'

Apparently, it was the practice of the Jewish leaders of that day to tell the people to give offerings to the temple even at the expense of their parents. On the surface, this may seem like some sort of service to God but Jesus points out the fact that this tradition was contrary to the Law of Moses. He also points out that this is just one of the many ways that they were ignoring the word of God. We may ask ourselves what this has to do with us as Christians. There are many "Christian leaders" who tell people to neglect their financial responsibilities and send the money to their "ministry" as some kind of "seed offering". I have even seen Christians who send quantities of money to these "ministries" and then go to other ministries for help in meeting their basic needs of food and clothing. This practice goes against the Biblical principle of God's provision for His people. As David said (Psalm 37:25), "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread." Like Jesus told the Jewish leaders, there are many traditions in Christianity that have been set up that directly contradict the Word of God.

Mark 7:14-16

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, 'Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him "unclean" by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him "unclean."'

Jesus gathered the crowd and introduced them to the freedom that He had to offer them. The Jews were slaves to the Law and to their traditions. Early manuscripts have a verse 16 which reads: "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." This speaks to the fact that it is only through the power of the Spirit of God that a man can accept this. Because of pride, men have a desire to work to make a name for themselves. This is what happened at the Tower of Babel (see Genesis 11) and continued in the religious leaders of that day. They wanted everyone to know and see how religious they were but Jesus was saying that religion cannot save you. The same thing happens in the church today as many put on a show of religion but lack a saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is only through the power of God that we can get past religion and get to a saving faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Mark 7:17-19

After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 'Are you so dull?' he asked. 'Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him "unclean"? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.' (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean".)

We see that the disciples still did not understand the freedom that they had obtained through their faith in Jesus. They asked Jesus what he had meant and He explained that things that enter our body are only temporary but what is in the heart lasts forever.

Mark 7:20-23

He went on: 'What comes out of a man is what makes him "unclean." For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man "unclean."'

Jesus went on to explain that the sin is not what is taken in as there is freedom in our faith. The sin is the attitudes and actions that come out which are not Christlike.

Mark 7:24-26

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

Jesus left and went to another area hoping for a little time of rest but people found out and a woman came to Him in hopes of freeing her daughter from a demon. We see that this woman was not a Jew as she was a Greek.

Mark 7:27-30

'First let the children eat all they want,' he told her, 'for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs.' 'Yes, Lord,' she replied, 'but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.' Then he told her, 'For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.' She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

We see an interesting conversation between Jesus and this woman. He basically tells her that He has come for the Jews. Her answer is that He does not have to take away from them to meet her need as well. She saw the fact that Jesus came for all men and He commended her for it and drove the demon from her daughter. We notice that it only required a "crumb" of faith for it to be done and must ask ourselves if we have even a "crumb" ourselves.

Mark 7:31 & 32

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.

Now, we see the faith of some people in bringing a deaf man to Jesus. They believed that Jesus could physically heal him and so they brought him to the place for healing. We must ask ourselves whether we have that same kind of faith, today, as Christians.

Mark 7:33-35

After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man's ears. Then he spit and touched the man's tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, 'Ephphatha!' (which means, 'Be opened!'). At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

Jesus took the man away from the crowd to heal him and in this we see a big difference compared to the so-called faith healers of our day. It wasn't about putting on a show for a crowd but simply healing the man. We notice that Jesus touched the man physically and may wonder why He did so when He had not needed to touch the girl to drive out the demon. Sometimes, Jesus used aids to healing such as mud or a physical touch based on the circumstances and the amount of faith of the one being healed.

Mark 7:36 & 37

Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. 'He has done everything well,' they said. 'He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.'

Once again, we see Jesus tell the people not to tell people about this healing but they continued to speak of it. He wanted them to see the spiritual healing but all they were focused on was the physical. It is much the same today as some people put on big "healing services" or "miracle services" and schedule them like some kind of circus act. They are usually fake and are not what Jesus did in His ministry.

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