Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash,  And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,

    but their heart is far from me;

in vain do they worship me,

    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God) — then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” Mark 7:1-13

Mark brings us to a critical point of his gospel story in chapter seven. The Scribes and Pharisees have kept the Law (the 10 Commandments and the Pentateuch) and the interpretations of it, handed down for centuries, called the Oral Law. They confront Jesus with the fact that his disciples are not keeping their rules, the way they perceive religion, goodness and service before God. Tension builds as Jesus answers them by quoting Isaiah 29:13 where the prophet accuses God’s people of worshipping with their lips but their hearts were far away. He accuses them of being the same, hypocrites (serving God outwardly but disobeying God inwardly) and idolaters (their word was more important than God’s word and took its place). There was the Pharisees’ way and there was Jesus’ way and the two were very different.

In our culture today there are basically two ways of understanding the world. In one, the world says the problem is “out there” and the answer is what a man can do. In the other, the Bible says the problem is in our hearts and the answer is what Christ has done! One says the world is wonderful and people are good. The Bible says because we are sinners, we sin and need a Savior. People tend to see themselves in charge (better than God). But if we think of salvation, we see ourselves as God does: in desperate need of a new birth, a clean heart, and a new life. Every human heart has the root of every human sin in it. And, as those men of long ago that Jesus addressed, it is entirely possible to look great on the outside while being dead on the inside.

Let’s make it personal. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” When the Lord examines your heart, what does He see? A person trusting in what you do or a humble sinner trusting in what Jesus has done? Someone basing life on the latest thoughts and trends or on the Word of God? Mark is going right for the heart. Look at yours. Like the Pharisees it’s easy to adopt do’s and don’ts to the detriment of a close relationship with Jesus, and a life being changed by God’s power and bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,. Titus 3:4-7

By Donna Burns