Scripture: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-231 Now when the Pharisees gathered together to him, with some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands, observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they purify themselves; and there are many other traditions which they observe, the washing of cups and pots and vessels of bronze.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with hands defiled?" 6 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; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.' 8 You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men."
Meditation: Which is more important to God - clean hands or a clean mind and heart? The Scribes and Pharisees were upset with Jesus because he allowed his disciples to break with their ritual traditions by eating with unclean hands. They sent a delegation all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee to bring their accusation in a face-to-face confrontation with Jesus. Jesus dealt with their accusation by going to the heart of the matter - by looking at God's intention and purpose for the commandments.
Allow God's word to shape your heart and intentions
Jesus explains that they void God's command because they allow their hearts and minds to be clouded by their own notions of what is true religion. Jesus accuses them specifically of two things. First of hypocrisy. Like actors, who put on a show, they appear to obey God's word in their external practices while they inwardly harbor evil desires and intentions.
Allow God's word to change your way of thinking
Secondly, he accuses them of abandoning God's word by substituting their own arguments and ingenious interpretations for what God requires. They devised clever arguments based on their own thoughts rather than on God's word. Jesus refers them to the prophecy of Isaiah (29:31) where the prophet accuses the people of his day for honoring God with their lips while their hearts were far away from choosing and doing what God asked of them.
Jesus points his listeners to the source of true defilement -
evil desires which come from inside a person's innermost being.
Sin does not happen. It first springs from the innermost recesses
of our thoughts and intentions, from the secret desires which only
the individual soul can conceive.
Let Jesus be the master of your heart and desires
When Cain was jealous of his brother, Abel, God warned him to guard his heart: "Sin is couching at the door; it's desire is for you, but you must master it" (Genesis 4:7). Do you allow any sinful desires to enter the door of your heart and mind? We do not need to entertain or give in to sinful desires or thoughts, but instead, through the grace of God, we can choose to put them to death rather than allow them to be the master who controls our way of thinking, feeling, and acting.
The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness
Only God can change our hearts and make them clean and whole through the power of the Holy Spirit. Like a physician who probes the wound before treating it, God through his Word and Spirit first brings to light our sinful condition that we may recognize sin for what it is and call upon God's mercy and pardon. The Lord is ever ready to change and purify our hearts through his Holy Spirit who dwells within us. His power and grace enables us to choose what is good and to reject what is evil. Do you believe in the power of God's love to change and transform your heart?
"Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and make my heart like yours – on fire with love and holiness. Strengthen my will that I may always choose to love what is good and to reject what is evil."
1 O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2 He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right, and speaks truth from his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue, and does no evil to his friend, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
4 in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest, and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Keeping one's own heart with all watchfulness, by Origen of Alexandria, 185-254 A.D.
"These things are what 'defiles the person' when they come out
from the heart and, after they have gone out from it, go through
the mouth. Thus if they did not occur outside of the heart but
were held by the person somewhere around the heart, not being
allowed to be spoken through the mouth, they would very quickly
disappear and the person would not be defiled any longer.
Therefore the source and beginning of every sin is 'evil
reasonings.' For if these reasonings did not prevail, there would
be neither murders nor acts of adultery nor any other of such
things. Because of this each one ought to keep one's own heart
with all watchfulness. (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON
quotations from Common Bible: Revised
Standard Version of the Bible, copyright
1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised
Standard Version of the Bible, copyright
2006, by the Division of Christian Education
of the National Council of the Churches of
Christ in the United States of America. Used
by permission. All rights reserved.
Citation references for quotes from the
writings of the early church fathers can be
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