Read Mark 7:1-23
As Jesus’ popularity grows, so too do the attacks from the religious leaders, the Pharisees. Pharisees from Jerusalem gather around him and notice that Jesus’ disciples are not appearing to follow Jewish law. I In particular, they are eating without first washing their hands. See in Jewish culture, washing of the hands was a great ceremony. Yet, Jesus’ disciples were not following the ritual at all, eating with unclean hands. To the Pharisees this is a big deal. If Jesus is really from God, then he would value the law of God and therefore the disciples’ lack of ritual suggests that Jesus himself ignores God’s law.
The Pharisees begin to question Jesus, ‘how can he claim to be a man of God if his disciples neglect to follow the Jewish ceremonial law?’. It was a direct attack against Jesus’ character, the Pharisees were claiming that he was a faker, that he was claiming to be one thing but his actions were telling the truth about him.
I love Jesus’ response because it cuts them down to size. Essentially he says: “You are worried about my disciples not washing their hands? Seriously, that’s what you are worried about? You guys just don’t get it do you? You are obsessed with following laws on the outside but on the inside your hearts are all messed up. You’re worried about my disciples’ unclean hands, but you don’t even look after your own parents in their times of need. You tell your parents, the same parents that the law of Moses commands you to honour, that whatever money you were going to give them for support is now ‘Corban’ (meaning a gift for God)., You are using God as your excuse to not honour your own parents – but you are upset at my disciples for not washing their hands – seriously you guys gotta get it right.”
Jesus goes on to tell them that instead of stressing so much about whether someone’s hands are clean or not they should be more concerned about the state of their hearts. In verse 15 he tells the Pharisees that it is not what is outside the body that makes it dirty, but what comes from within. It’s not what you eat or how clean your hands that are that are separating you from God, but it’s your heart. Sin does not come from outside the body – it’s a heart issue. Want to deal with sin? You have to deal with your heart. Want to get right with God, then you need heart surgery. I’m not talking about running down to the nearest hospital and asking someone to open you up, but instead asking the Holy Spirit to transform your heart, to do His work so that you may have a new heart.
Be careful, this passage is not saying that your actions don’t matter, that we shouldn’t do good things, but rather we must not be false. Do good! But don’t do good in an effort to look good to others, but instead do what God desires out of the overflow of what he has done within you.
- What stood out for you in today’s story? Do you have any questions?
- The Pharisees were using rules as an excuse to not do what they were really meant to do. Can you think of a time when you have tried to use rules to not do the right thing?
- We can concentrate so much on looking like we are following the rules that we can forget to spend time getting to know God better. What is one thing you can do today/tomorrow to get to know God better?
- Who could you bless this week by living generously through your words or actions?