Mark 7.1-23

Title: The Traditions of Men

Text: Mark 7.1-23

Introduction: Our text this morning is Mark 7.1-23. As we left off last week, we saw Jesus ministering to the people in the region of the Gennesaret. You see that there in 6.53ff; 6.51-52 give us some context of what’s coming in the next chapter and beyond. 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. It just doesn’t seem to fit does it? They’re astounded and amazed and every time they’re ‘astounded or amazed’ this has been presented as a positive for them. cf.: 1.22, 26; 2.12; 5.20, 42

1.22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And in v 27: 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

2.12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

5.20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. And in v 42; 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.

It has been a positive for them, that is, until now. Now we see them… utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. Two negatives: not understanding and hardened hearts.

This should create some problems for us – it should cause us to question:

  1. What is it they do not understand about the loaves?
  2. What does Mark mean when he says their hearts were hardened? Are they in danger of becoming like the Pharisees?

When I hear of hardened hearts, I think of Pharaoh. There were amazing miracles going on before his very eyes and he didn’t understand. His heart was hardened and it led to the exodus. Could this be an allusion to the Exodus? And if so, what is Jesus trying to teach them – or Mark trying to teach us?

But there is more here: pull back from this sentence and look for common themes with me. There in v 52 we see that they didn’t understand about miracle the loaves of bread. Well, that’s a reference to the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. Out of curiosity, I searched for bread in Mark. It appears 16x’s in these three chapters (6-8) and it appears only 3x’s in the rest of the book. That’s significant. Why? I think I know and it is something we should take note of: Mark wants us to see this theme of bread – Because Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Now before you say, What? Let me show you what I mean: The 3 references to bread outside of these three chapters (6-8) are in 2.26; 3.20; and 14.22. 3.20 is a reference to the fact that they were so pressed by the people that they couldn’t even sit down and eat bread. 2.26 is in reference to the show bread given to the Lord and reserved for the priest that David ate with his friends. And 14.22 is in reference to the Lord’s Supper. This is my body, which is broken for you.

In the other Gospels the writers are blatant and blunt. I am the bread of Life. But, not with Mark. I think he is saying the same thing, but he is much more subtle at it. It’s like a pearl that’s hidden in a field and we’ve got to search it out.

Walk with me through chapters 6-8 and find the references to Bread; Gk: 6.8, 37, 38, 41, 44, 52; 7.2, 5, 27; 8.4, 5, 6, 14, 16, 17, 19.

But there is more with this… not just the theme of the bread, but the hardening of their hearts, the darkening of their understanding. Mark is especially hard on the Disciples – and remember, he’s written this Gospel from Peter’s stories.

…but their hearts were hardened. We see this back up in 3.5: And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. And v 6 says they went out (the Pharisees) and plotted how to destroy him. That’s where the hardness of their hearts led – to his death.

We see it again in the passage we’re looking at today – where Jesus quotes Isaiah – 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;

This section will culminate in Chapter 8.14-21; where Jesus asks them: Do you not yet understand? The answer is no… we’re not understanding what you’re doing. Here in 8.21, marks the transition to the next section in Mark’s Gospel, where Jesus will set his face toward Jerusalem and his crucifixion. He will tell the disciples all about it, but we’ll see they aren’t getting it.

Let me pause right here and pray for eyes to see and ears to hear what God is teaching us… Pray.

Lord, Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. 19 I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me! Give me a heart to follow closely after your heart. I pray this prayer, not just for myself, but for those who are listening. Open the eyes of our hearts and let us see the beauty of your ways. Soften these hearts to receive your teaching and then to commit, with all of our heart, to follow you, Lord.

With this thought of the Bread of Life and the disciples missing what Jesus is teaching, Let’s look at today’s passage, 7.1-23; There three separate sections to this little story of the Pharisees and their confrontation with Jesus:

  1. The Pharisees are offended and confront Jesus about his disciples’ lack of discipline when it comes to the traditions of the elders (1-5).
  2. Jesus responds to the Pharisees hypocrisy with Scripture references and examples (6-13).
  3. Jesus uses this confrontation as a teaching moment to show his disciples the principles that characterize the heart of God (14-23).

Transition: let’s begin with this 1st section, the offended Pharisees…

I.      The Pharisees are offended and confront Jesus about his disciples’ lack of discipline when it comes to the traditions of the elders (1-5).

exp.: in v 1 and 2, we see why they’re offend; rd v 1-2; here we have…

  • The Offence: eating bread w/ unwashed, defiled hands. And all of God’s children said – NASTY! Yeah! Any germ-a-phobe like me is going to side with the Pharisees on this one! At first glance, you might say you agree with them. But is that really the problem? We have…
  • The Explanation: rd v 3-4; properly: Gk is unless they wash their hands with a fist. There is a certain way to wash, and the disciples aren’t doing that. When you read this you get the idea that these guys were just eating with dirty hands. I’m with the Pharisees if that’s the case! But a closer look at the Gk tells us that their complaint wasn’t that they didn’t wash their hands; it was that they didn’t wash their hands “with a fist”. They didn’t wash their hands the way the Pharisees do! If it ain’t done like we do it… it ain’t done! So, here’s the deal: Jesus is responsible for his disciples. It might just be his fault as much as it is theirs. So they confront Jesus about his apparent failure to teach the disciples how to wash themselves.
  • The Confrontation: rd v 5; the word translated ‘defiled’ is the word common. Common and Uncommon are words used in the Law to differentiate the clear distinction between the things of God and the things of man. Sometimes you see the words holy and This is the word they’re using here. They eat with common hands or unholy hands. When they say that the disciples are eating bread with unclean hands, they don’t mean they have dirt under their fingernails. Clean and Unclean, Uncommon and Comman, Holy and Unholy – this is the terminology these folks would have been familiar with. You see their thought was that you had to baptize your hands before eating. And not just the hands, but also, the cups and pots and copper vessels and the dining couches and the… You get the idea.

t.s.: These disciples of Jesus aren’t practicing religious requirements like they should…Jesus why do you let that go on?

II.    Jesus Responds to the Pharisees hypocrisy with Scripture references and examples (6-13).

exp.: rd v 6a; And he said to them… I wonder if there was a pause before he spoke. I wonder if he was quiet first. The words he is using seem to me to be something you would say rather quickly and loudly. Rd v 6-7; Jesus quotes from Isaiah.

Just a side note here: Isaiah is quoted more than any other prophet in the OT. Furthermore, we’ll be studying Isaiah in the Fall at WEBS.

I think two points are to be made by Jesus when quoting Isaiah.;

  1. These people were simply giving lip service to God. Their hearts were not in their worship.
  2. They had elevated their traditions to the level of the commands of God. Or worse, above God’s commands.

He tells them straight out in v 8; You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” We’ll see these same two points being made in v9-13; rd 9-13; Here we see the 5th commandment and the punishment for those who do not keep it. However, Jesus blatantly accuses the religious leaders of lining their pockets, so to speak, at the expense of honoring parents. These leaders would ‘nullify’ the Word of God with the hopes of gaining whatever had been dedicated.

app.: talk about hardened hearts! Jesus was revealing the hearts of these Pharisees and Religious leaders. Their hearts were indeed far from God.

Before we leave this section, I’d like to show you something. From where, specifically, is Jesus quoting? Isaiah 29.13; read Isaiah 29.13-16a;

t.s: So these religious leaders have gotten more than they bargained for! They’re offended and so they confront Jesus. Now, Jesus turns to the people and teaches them with a parable.

III.    Jesus uses this confrontation as a teaching moment to show his disciples the principles that characterize the heart of God (14-23).

exp.: rd v 14-15; Ok, so we’ve got a problem now; How can Jesus wipe away the law in just one statement like that? Isn’t he doing the same thing he is accusing the Pharisees of doing? The Disciples must think so because they don’t get it. They’re without understanding. Look at v 17-19; there is a principle here that is being overlooked; common, holy, clean – this is a matter of the heart. The Law taught us these things. God instituted these laws and requirements to distinguish himself as separated from them. And, he did the same for them to distinguish between them (the Jews) and the Gentiles. They were distinguished, different, holy. He made them clean and so different from the unclean – the Gentiles.

Jesus is saying to them that they’ve missed it! rd v 20-23;

app.: I read this part of the story and I wonder how many of these traits or characteristics mark the Pharisees in their actions to line their pockets and rob from the elderly who are now neglected by their own children.

This, of course, is easy to do when applying it to others. But, I think the goal is really to read this and think of myself! – Apply it to myself!


Ill.: Ticket for not having a plug in my shotgun.

app.: The Truth is: We’re all lawbreakers. And we all need someone to intercede for us. That’s what Jesus did. The penalty for our sin is death – and he paid that debt for us when he died on the cross. Some people trust in their traditions to save them. Jesus is teaching us here that that can never happen.


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