Outward appearance or inward brokenness?
The Gospel of Mark chapter 7 - Outward appearance or inward reality, which one matters more to God?
JESUS AND OUTWARD APPEARANCE
1-13- The Pharisees and the teachers/experts in the law traveled at least 100 kilometers from Jerusalem all the way to the region of the gentiles near the sea of Galilee. They sniffed Jesus out where he was, just like the hound-dogs. They must have heard of Jesus ministry preaching, healing, casting out demons and doing great miracles. It is surprising it didn't clue into them that this may be the Messiah, after all they've heard of him – healing the sick, and feeding the 5 thousand men, and many would probably have their wives and children with them, which the number of them would turn out to be closer 10.000. But the first thing they notice is that Jesus' disciples did not wash their hands according to “the tradition of the elders” before they started eating. These traditions were the collected sayings of the Rabbis from past generations explaining the law, or rather explaining it away, and creating the laws which were to keep people from breaking the law of God. The name of the book which was handed down to them as “the tradition of the elders” is called Talmud. Now Talmud consisted of two books Mishnah (a rabbinic legal code), and Gemara (which was a commentary, or an interpretation of Mishnah). A book that explained the book which was supposed to explain 'THE' book of the law – Torah.
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 defiled hands?"
Jesus' quick reply was a quote from probably his favorite prophet, Isaiah, “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 merely human rules.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions."(7:6-8).
The context in which Isaiah was writing in was something like 'national apostasy', people so full of evil, idolatry, and rebellion against God. They were still performing ceremonies, meeting, keeping Sabbath and sacrificing, but their hearts were hardened. They were double minded, saints on the sabbath, and devils for the rest of the week, doing their own thing.
Isaiah 29:14, “Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish."
The Lord has brought judicial blindness on the leaders of Israel in Isaiah's time and the same is fulfilled of the religious rulers in Jesus' time on earth. And if blind lead the blind, both will fall into a ditch. The rulers and the teachers of the law have studied and educated themselves into imbecility. They were so worried about washing hands, cups, pots, kettles and couches, the outward “traditions of the elders”, which don't bring us any closer to God. And they have neglected to clean their hearts with the Word of God. By their traditions which are “many”, they have set aside the commandments of God and nullified/invalidated the Word of God. They've made the Word of God to be nothing, in comparison with their traditions.
v.9-"You have a fine way [or "you are experts". Imagine that, being experts!] of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” They would honor the fathers of these traditions, but not obey the command of God to “'Honor your father and mother,'and, 'Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.'” (v.10). Their sin Jesus is saying is deserving of death. That's how seriously wrong they are. And not only so, they teach others to do the same. They told those who wanted to give money and help their parents in their need to “corban”, that is to devote their financial gift to God, and in this way they didn't let them do anything for their needy parents. Does God care if you give money to the church, but not help your neighbor, friend or even more so your own parents. Paul says in Timothy, he who does not provide for his own is worst than an unbeliever. v.13- Jesus said, ”And you do many things like that."
v.14-16, Jesus calls the crowd to him and gives them a short parable and tells them that things from outside like food that goes into them, cannot defile them before God, rather only what comes out of them, from a sinful heart, that defiles them. But the explanation he leaves for the disciples alone. Jesus explains to the disciples that the outward appearance looks good only to people around them, but God cares what's in the heart and what comes out of it.
The washings and ceremonies that God gave them were to point to their need to wash their hearts by faith in the promise of the coming Messiah, the seed promised to Abraham. But instead, they've added more washings and ceremonies and traditions. They were so concerned with the outward things, that they neglected to wash away the filth in their hearts.
“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those
who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” (Hebrews 9:10,14). hearts by nature are sinful, therefore sinning is a daily reality. God knows that, and he has made the provision for that, and they have set aside God's way of being clean before him. Only through faith in Jesus may we be washed from our sins by his blood.
Lip service, cold hearts, ignoring the Word of God, not caring for God's people, the sheep of his pasture. How far have the religious rulers fallen from God, from loving him, from pleasing him. How's my heart before God? Am I, are we, blind to the plain and clear voice of God, because we have put something in our lives first? Is there any hypocrisy in me, in us? Are we just playing, stage playing our Christian life, so we may do what we want and how we want it? Does God's Word, his commands, and his good will have any place in our hearts? Or is God just on our lips, but far from our hearts?
JESUS AND INWARD BROKENNESS
v.24-30-”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.” It seems Jesus left that place frustrated with the unbelief of the covenant people of God. As God incarnate he looked for faith, repentance, embrace of the truth, joy in seeing and hearing the Messiah, but instead unbelief and preference to follow their own traditions which replaced the Words of God. And now he wants to be alone, crowds don't impress him. But this Gentile a Greek woman, who was unclean on the outside to the Jews, hears of him and finds him. His presence is found by those that are beyond being just amazed at what God can do. But they believe and seek him in the brokenness of heart and find him, just as this poor broken woman did. She fell on the floor and desperately asked Jesus to cast out the demon from her daughter...Jesus responds with these words:
27 "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 the dogs."
28 "Lord," she replied, "even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."
29 Then he told her, "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter."
v31-37-after this Jesus goes back to the Sea of Galilee and “There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. v.32.
33 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. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, "Ephphatha!"(which means "Be opened!"). 35 At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.” Jesus did this not according to what they asked, but because the man could not hear well and depended on his sight and touch. Jesus demonstrated to him alone, “it is God who has healed you” not man. And Jesus did it by taking the man aside away from the crowd so that the mute and deaf man might not be distracted by the crowds from what he was about to witness. Jesus put his fingers in man's ears as if to indicate your ears are plugged, but I'm unplugging them, after that he put his own saliva on his fingers and touched the man's tongue, indicating to the man that he will do something radical for his speech, turning the spitting as a sign of cursing on the deaf and mute and turns it into a blessing. Then Jesus looked up to heaven to show to the man's most reliable sense – his sight, that the healing Jesus was performing was not of human origin, but from God. At that point the man's ears and speech were completely healed “and he began to speak plainly”. Maybe his first word was 'yak', because someone else saliva was put on his tongue...but most likely he was praising God...
v. 37a, “People were overwhelmed with amazement.” a common description of the many crowds throughout the book of Mark. Perhaps Mark was giving a clue to the persecuted church in Rome to beware and not be amazed at people's amazement at the sharing of the gospel with them. Being amazed at and trust in Jesus are two different things.
Application: Jesus will not cast out anyone. Anyone that hears and believes and comes to Jesus no matter how broken they will be welcome. We need to deal with Jesus personally and sincerely, loving the Word of God more than traditions, even if we go against the traditions of everyone around us – things that have been around for a long time, but are in the way of us and others coming to Christ. Outward appearance promoted by the traditions that replace the Word of God are hypocrisy, God hates it. Where's my heart in this? Do I like the approval of others who see me outwardly appearing righteous? Or is God's opinion of me more important to me? Is my heart broken over my sin and open to his love for me, forgiveness, cleansing?