Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mark 7:1-23

Some Pharisees and their lawyer friends from Jerusalem once again latched onto Jesus. But their focus shifted to the apprentices when they noticed that they were eating without doing the standard hand washing ritual. The Pharisees and all the devote Jews wouldn't think of eating without first doing a methodical hand washing ritual. After all, this was the very ritual that had been prescribed by the esteemed elders and which had grown in significance with each generation.

And ritual hand washing wasn't the only devotional rule generated by the elders. For example, when people went shopping they'd bath their whole bodies once they got home -- just in cast they had inadvertently defiled themselves by touching something unclean in the market. "No washing -- no eating" was the accepted practice. They had other rules, too -- rules about washing cups, bottles, pans -- even mattresses. These guys wanted to wash everything under the sun -- just to make sure it all stayed good and clean.

So the Pharisees and religious lawyers, consumed with passion for washing, questioned Jesus. "Why are your apprentices eating without first washing their hands? You know the rules of the elders. But your followers still eat without first ritually washing their hands."

Jesus retorted,
"You're the very hypocrites the prophet Isaiah was talking about when he said, 'Their godly devotion is hollow because it's all talk, and their hearts don't back it up. Their teaching is no more than shallow man-made gibberish.'

"You totally ignore the clear commands of God while prioritizing the words concocted by humans and handed down to you as though they are something important."

Jesus continued to lambast the religious experts. "Clearly you're experts -- experts at ignoring God's commandments in order to maintain the human rules. For example, Moses said that you should honor your father and mother. He also said that this command is so serious that the person who disrespects his parents should be executed. But you are disrespecting your parents when you fail to care for them -- claiming to be penniless because you've dedicated all your money to God. You think that because of this legal maneuver you're free from the obligation to attend to the needs of your fathers and mothers.

You're using a tradition developed by people as a means of spurning the word of God. And then you have the gall to hand this and other spurious traditions onto others!
Jesus then addressed the crowd again saying, “Listen up you all. I want you to understand that as far as God is concerned, nothing external to the body can contaminate a person; rather, the real contaminant is the foul stuff that the body excretes.”

Later, after they'd moved on from the crowd, while they were off in the privacy of a home, the apprentices asked Jesus to elaborate. To them his illustration seemed like a riddle.

He responded, “Are you as daft as the Pharisees? Do I need to get explicit? There is nothing intrinsic in the food itself that contaminates a person. Nothing external to the body has that kind of power. When you eat something it doesn't drop into your heart but into your stomach. And from there it is released in the toilet." (This was Jesus' way of decreeing that the so-called unkosher foods don't contaminate a person -- at least in God’s sight.) "Rather," Jesus explained, "God looks at what comes out of a person. Specifically he's interested in what flows from the heart -- a person's CPU. When evil is projected from the heart -- lust, thievery, murderous and adulterous activities, greed, evil thinking, deceit, immoral carousing, envy, trash talk, arrogance, and foolishness -- these nasty defiling things come out of the person. So God thinks that you should concern yourself more with these contaminants than with ritual purity as defined by ancestral traditions."

The Pharisees and some legal experts from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus. 2 They saw some of his disciples eating food with unclean hands. (They were eating without first ritually purifying their hands through washing. 3 The Pharisees and all the Jews don’t eat without first washing their hands carefully. This is a way of observing the rules handed down by the elders. 4 Upon returning from the marketplace, they don’t eat without first immersing themselves. They observe many other rules that have been handed down, such as the washing of cups, jugs, pans, and sleeping mats.) 5 So the Pharisees and legal experts asked Jesus, “Why are your disciples not living according to the rules handed down by the elders but instead eat food with ritually unclean hands?”

6 He replied, “Isaiah really knew what he was talking about when he prophesied about you hypocrites. He wrote,

This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. 7 Their worship of me is empty since they teach instructions that are human words.[a]

8 You ignore God’s commandment while holding on to rules created by humans and handed down to you.” 9 Jesus continued, “Clearly, you are experts at rejecting God’s commandment in order to establish these rules. 10 Moses said, Honor your father and your mother, and The person who speaks against father or mother will certainly be put to death. 11 But you say, ‘If you tell your father or mother, “Everything I’m expected to contribute to you is corban (that is, a gift I’m giving to God),” 12 then you are no longer required to care for your father or mother.’ 13 In this way you do away with God’s word in favor of the rules handed down to you, which you pass on to others. And you do a lot of other things just like that.”

14 Then Jesus called the crowd again and said, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand. 15 Nothing outside of a person can enter and contaminate a person in God’s sight; rather, the things that come out of a person contaminate the person.”

17 After leaving the crowd, he entered a house where his disciples asked him about that riddle. 18 He said to them, “Don’t you understand either? Don’t you know that nothing from the outside that enters a person has the power to contaminate? 19 That’s because it doesn’t enter into the heart but into the stomach, and it goes out into the sewer.” By saying this, Jesus declared that no food could contaminate a person in God’s sight. 20 “It’s what comes out of a person that contaminates someone in God’s sight,” he said. 21 “It’s from the inside, from the human heart, that evil thoughts come: sexual sins, thefts, murders, 22 adultery, greed, evil actions, deceit, unrestrained immorality, envy, insults, arrogance, and foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from the inside and contaminate a person in God’s sight.”