“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.’” Mark 7:6 NIV

In Mark 7:1-23 Jesus first has a discussion with some Pharisees about their traditions and their hearts. Later, he talks with his disciples about how men’s hearts reveal what kind of men we are. Proverbs 27:19 tells us, “As water reflects the face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” Jesus tells the Pharisees their hearts are far from God, regardless of the many laws and traditions they observe and obey. Then he describes for the disciples the unclean actions that come from inside a heart that is far from God, “evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly,” (Mark 7:21-22).

Then, Mark 7:24-37 tells us that Jesus travels to two pagan, gentile regions and he encounters true faith in God with the Syrophoenician woman, and trust in Jesus ability to heal with the friends of a deaf and mute man in the Decapolis region. This is yet another example of God’s kingdom, which Jesus teaches about, that seems to be upside down. Jesus is willing to touch the lives of sinners, heal the disabled, minister to the outcasts.

I believe Jesus called out the Pharisees because they were focused on outward actions, instead of making their hearts right with God. David says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” He goes on to say, “The sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise,” (Psalm 51:10, 17). David pens these words after admitting to Nathan and to God that he was guilty of murder and adultery. Yet the Bible says David is a man after God’s own heart. David was a sinful man, who acknowledged his need for God, for his forgiveness, and God’s restoration.

This is the message of God’s kingdom. It is open to all, Pharisees, gentiles, demon-possessed, poor, disabled, lepers, homeless, refugees, criminals, liars, and thieves. David’s psalm shows us how to be honest, ask for forgiveness and restoration from God. Are we following Jesus’ example? Do you go where the sinners and outcasts are and share the good news of the kingdom? Is there an “outcast” that you know who needs prayer? Are you involved in ministry to the homeless, to prisoners, to someone who needs a helping hand or an encouraging word?

By Grace Hunter