Jesus and his disciples stayed so busy going from village to village sharing the gospel, they had little opportunity to observe traditions the Pharisees thought important, like ceremonially washing their hands.
Now we’re not talking about scrubbing hands to keep from getting germs—they didn’t know about germs. No, the religious leaders’ concern was that they must ceremonially wash any Gentile contact off their hands and, by golly gum, Jesus and his disciples should do that as well.
Jesus countered by quoting Isaiah’s words,
“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.” Mark 7:6-7
Jesus went on to describe a law the leaders had made that over ruled one of God’s own commandments. Then he gathered a crowd around Him and emphasized that,
“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.’ ” Mark 7:15
When the disciples were alone with Jesus, Matthew remembered that Peter asked Jesus to further explain his parable. I picture Jesus closing His eyes and breathing deeply to maintain patience as he said,
“Are you so dull? 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, he declared all foods “clean.”) Mark 7:18-19
Don’t let that parenthetical remark slip by you. After the resurrection, Peter will have to have a roof-top vision to truly understand this, but note this beginning point.
Jesus explains a little more about the “heart thing.”
“What comes out of a man 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.’ ” Mark 7:20-23
I’m trying to think of a modern day application to this principle. The “worship wars” of the last few decades have about declined from their peak and most churches have settled into whatever style they are going to have, but I think it’s worth using as a good example of arrogance emanating from the heart.
The traditional side said, “This is how we’ve always done it. We don’t want all those jazzy instruments in the church. It’s like making our sanctuary a bar. What sense does it make to sing two or three phrases over and over? Our texts are solid and enhance our understanding of the elements of our faith.”
The contemporary side said, “We need to meet people where they are with relevant texts and music. All gifted musicians should be able to use their gifts. No more old songs. We sing songs that engage the singers and bring life.”
Jesus might say, “It matters not your style, what matters is your heart. Are you worshiping the song, the sound, the singer, the tradition, the performer… or your God?”
~ Joyce ~