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ch. 7:1-24  ch. 7::24-31



Clean And Unclean  (ch. 7:1-24)


In verse 1 we note that there was some Pharisees and teachers of the law who came from Jerusalem.  These men were not local men.  They came a distance to keep an eye on Jesus, and were probably the elite of their class since they were from Jerusalem.  These weren’t the ordinary run of the mill Pharisees and teachers.  They had been sent to trap Jesus so they’d have an excuse to arrest Him.


While in the presence of Jesus at a meal these men noted that “some” of His disciples had eaten a meal without washing their hands.  This was against Rabbinical tradition that had been handed down from generation to generation.  This is not a rule from the Law of Moses.  It was a tradition of the Rabbis that Jews followed.


Remember that Mark is writing to Gentiles that may not understand Jewish tradition.  He explains that there are other such traditions as well, as the washing of cups and bowls. 


In verse 5 the Pharisees ask Jesus, “why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders…”   The Pharisees held their own traditions up as high as the Law of Moses. This is something that many Christian groups have done over the years. 


In verse 6 Jesus says that “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites”.  I’m not sure that this was the first time that Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites, but His anger towards these men seems to have been building up to the point that He is now calling them hypocrites. A hypocrite is someone who is pretending to be something he is not, and the worst form of hypocrisy is actually believing what you’re pretending to be.  This is what the Pharisees were doing.


Isaiah was speaking to the Jewish leaders of his day, and now Jesus takes Isaiah’s words and uses them against the leaders of His day.   The quote is from Is. 29:13, “these people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me”.   God does not want mere lip service.  The whole point to the Christian life is to give our lives to Jesus in a trusting relationship.  This can’t be done in word alone. This is a matter of the heart.  Of course words are important, but without the conviction of the heart, words are meaningless.


So Isaiah goes on to say that because these people’s religion is in lip service only, they worship in vain, and their teaching is just a bunch of rules.  When they worship and when they teach, it’s all a waste of time in the eyes of the Lord.  Anyone finding themselves in this situation might as well not even worship.


In verse 8 Jesus tells these Pharisees that they’ve forsaken the commands of God to follow the tradition of men.  Once again, so many denominations have fallen into this same trap.  They promote their tradition as if it were a Biblical mandate.  Jesus was not happy with this back then, and I doubt if He is happy with it today.


In verse 9 Jesus comments on what Isaiah says and relates it directly to the Pharisees by saying, “you have a fine way of setting aside the commandments of God in order to observe your own traditions”.  Nobody in their right mind would agree to setting aside God’s command for their own tradition if they logically think it through, but this is exactly what Jewish leaders had done over the years, and were still doing in Jesus’ day.  They upheld their own tradition over God’s commands, and once again, this is the tendency of man, even in the church today.


Jesus then in verses 10 and following points out an example of this.  He reminds them of the fourth commandment found in Ex. 20:12 that speaks of children honouring their father and mother, and that’s not just young children. That’s adult men and women whose parents are still alive. 


Then Jesus quotes from the civil part of the Law of Moses, (Ex. 21:17) where it says that if a child does not treat his parents as commanded, then he or she should be put to death.  We make a distinction here between the civil part of the Law and the moral part of the Law which we call the Ten Commandments.


This is a severe penalty for what we might think is a minor offense, but it shows you what God thinks of disrespect towards parents. It’s a good thing that the Law was nailed to the cross with Jesus.


Verse 11 and 12 is hard to understand at first reading.  This is what Jesus is saying here.  The Jews had a great list of rules concerning vows.  One rule was this.  If a parent needed help a child could call out “corben” – the word means a gift.  When this took place,  whatever was needed to help the parent did not go to the parent but to the Temple , meaning to God.  The priests would do with this as they wish.  The parents would receive nothing. 


What Jesus is thus saying then in verse 13 is that the tradition of the Jews, that is, their rules on vows, nullifies God’s command for children to look after their parents.  To Jesus, this was the height of hypocrisy.                 


Then in the last half of verse 13 Jesus says that this is just one example of their nullifying God’s word.  There were lots more.  As I’ve said before, when the church promotes it’s own tradition over and above the Word of God, then the church also nullifies the Word of God, just as the Jews did back in these days.


When you nullify or cancel out what God says, then you’re saying what you say is more important.  This is not only illogical, but highly prideful and we know what God thinks about our pride.


In verses 14 through 16 Jesus makes a point that would make any Jew think, and probably make him upset.  He says that nothing outside of a man that goes into him can defile him, that is, make him common or unclean.  Only that which comes out of a man can defile him.


The Greek word “katharos” is the word that is translated as clean or undefile in this passage, depending on what version you are reading.  This word has a range of meanings but simply means “free from mixture, without a blemish or spotless”.   The Greek word “akathartos” is translated as “unclean or defiled”.  When someone or something is unclean, it is a mixture of pure and impure.  It is not totally pure. 


What Jesus is saying here makes perfect sense from a New Testament perspective.  As Paul clearly points out in the book of Romans, we are defiled, or sinful from birth.  When that sin comes out, that is out of our mouths, at that point we defile ourselves.  Food that goes into our mouths doesn’t cause our sinful condition. 


The Pharisees majored on the externals, partly because the Law of Moses majored on externals, but the Pharisees went far beyond where the Law left off.  Jesus saw this as hypocrisy.  Yet at the same time the Jews saw Jesus as a hypocrite because according to the Law of Moses they weren’t to eat certain foods.


Now Jesus obeyed these food rules.  He obeyed them and thus fulfilled them on the behalf of the Jews.  But once fulfilled by Jesus, they were laid aside.  Jesus was in fact teaching New Testament thinking to these people, something that had not yet come about, while living in Old Testament times Himself. 


In verse 17 we see the disciples asking Jesus what He meant when He said nothing that went into the body makes you unclean.  Jesus was frustrated  with His disciples and called them “dull” in their thinking.   So Jesus tried again to explain that when one eats food, it goes into his mouth and then into his stomach.  The food does not go into his heart, and one’s heart (not physical heart) is the root of the issue.  The heart of man is where evil is.  And what comes out of the mouth  comes from the heart and not the stomach.  Thus what comes from the heart through the mouth is what makes a person clean or unclean.  This is the intent of the New Testament.  The Old Testament spoke to the outward man, while the New Testament gets to the core of the man, that is, his heart.  This is why the Holy Spirit comes to the believer – to change his heart.  This is why as New Testament Christians we are to put these things into their proper perspective.  We should not do as the Pharisees did, and that was to promote outward things over the inwards things.


Many churches over the decades have majored on outwards dress for example, when they should have been majoring on issues of the heart that would in turn effect outward activities such as dress. 


We see Jesus’ frustration with fallen man here.  By telling His disciples they were dull in their thinking, I believe He was demonstrating a bit of frustration with them.  Of course I think Jesus understood why they were dull of understanding.  His divine side may have had compassion while the human side of Jesus may have felt the frustration. 


In verses 20 through 23 Jesus lists a number of evil and sinful things that man does, and He says that they all originate in the heart.  This is why the New Testament places the emphasis on the heart.  Just doing external things like washing your hands has no effect on changing the heart.  This is an interesting list.  You have  such things as sexual immorality, and murder, but in the same breath you have “foolishness”.   The Greek word translated as foolishness or folly means to act without reason, a wanting of mental sanity or sobriety, or a lack of a good understanding of the reality of things.  We tend to down grade foolishness but Jesus seems to suggest that it’s an evil that comes from the heart along with such big sins as murder. 


I’m not sure that when Jesus speaks of foolishness He’s thinking of what I’d call “foolish fun”.  Lots of things we do and say are done in the name of “foolish fun”, that is, there’s no meaning or reason, they’re just done out of fun or joking around.  I don’t believe such activity in itself is a sin.  I think the foolishness about which Jesus is speaking to here is what I  might call serious foolishness, that is, acting unreasonably, without good understanding, and meaning it – it’s not a mater of having fun or joking around.    


The Faith Of A Syrophoenicien Woman (ch. 7:24-31)


In verse 24 we see Jesus leaving the area where He was and went to, or around Tyre, which was a more Gentile populated region.   He wanted to escape the crowd, as it seems He often tries but couldn’t  A certain woman heard that He was there and brought her demon-possessed daughter to Jesus. 


In verse 26 Mark tells us that this woman was a Greek lady.  She was not a Jew.  She was born and probably lived along the  Mediterranean  Sea coast because that is where Syrian Phoenicia is.


In verse 27 Jesus says, “first let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs”.  Most scholars would say that Jesus is not speaking here of literal children and literal dogs.  Jesus is making a point to this lady using the analogy of dogs and children, something she picked up on right away, which in my thinking is pretty good for this Gentile woman.  She must have had some understanding of Jewish thinking. 


First of all we need to note the words “their dogs”.   The word “their” refers to the children.  The dogs are their pet dogs.  Also the Greek word translated as “dogs” here is really “little dogs’.  There is a vast difference between “little dogs” and “dogs” in this culture.  “Little dogs” were family pets.  Larger dogs were bigger dogs that roamed the streets in search of food as wild scavengers.  For this reason, Jews called Gentiles “dogs”.  They viewed Gentiles as wild scavengers because they had no owner as they had in their God.   This understanding is important in interpreting what is being said in these verses.


Jesus tells the lady that the children, meaning the Jews must be fed first.  But when using the words “fed first” Jesus is implying that the lady will get fed, but in the appropriate time.  Like a pet dog, the children eat first, then the dog eats.


We need to also understand a Biblical principle here and that all things to do with God’s dealings with man is first to the Jew and then to the Gentile.  We see this especially in many places in Paul’s writings.  Jesus came to the Jews.   His 3 years of ministry was primarily to Jews, not to Gentiles.  God chose for Himself a people in Old Testament times that were Jews. Salvation and the Holy Spirit first came to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. This is what Jesus was trying to say to this lady, and she understood.


As a side note, I also believe that this thinking of the Jews first applies to prophetic history.  I’m not sure it stopped at the cross.  Salvation is now to both Jew and Gentile – there’s no distinction there.  Yet when it comes to prophetic history, I believe there is still a distinction between Jew and Gentile. 


In verse 28 this Gentile woman replied by saying “yes Lord”, meaning she agreed totally with what Jesus had just said.  But she also added that the little dogs eat the crumbs of food that fall to the floor as the children eat.  Although God’s chosen people in Old Testament times were Jews, a Gentile could be adopted into the Jewish community as a convert, thus benefiting from God at the same time as the Jews.  Thus the Gentles were seen as these little dogs getting the left-overs given by God to His people, and she was one of these little dogs.


In verse 29 we see that Jesus was greatly impressed by this woman’s response and so He told her that her daughter was healed of the demon.  Jesus did not appear to say anything to the demon.  The girl wasn’t even in His presence.  She was home. 


So in verse 30 we see the woman at home with her daughter who had been completely delivered. 


Jesus was impressed with this woman’s reply to Him.  She was humble. She did not think she was someone she wasn’t, which was not like the Pharisees Jesus had been dealing with.  Her answer was also based on good Biblical understanding.  Both humility and understanding should  be present in our lives as well as we approach our Lord Jesus.


The Healing Of  A Deaf And Mute Man (ch.7:31-37)


In verse 31 we see Jesus moving eastward from Tyre , through Sidon , and into the area of Decapolis, which is south and  east of the Sea of Galilee .  This is where the man with a legion of demons was delivered by Jesus.


In verse 32 some people brought a man to Jesus who was deaf and could not talk. They “begged” Jesus to heal him.  We note that many, if not most people begged Jesus for healing.


We note in verse 33 that Jesus took this man aside to be alone with him.  Jesus puts His fingers into the man’s deaf ears. After that Jesus spit and touched the man’s tongue.  Mark does not say that Jesus spit on the man’s tongue, neither does he say that Jesus spit on his finger and touched the man’s tongue with His wet fingers. 


It’s pretty clear that both actions of Jesus was to show this man that Jesus knew what his problem was and that He’d make him better.  Just why Jesus spit is not one hundred percent clear to me. It might well have been a way to get the man’s attention.  He could not speak to him so Jesus dramatically spoke through actions.


After Jesus simply said “be opened”, the man could hear and he could speak.  It is thus clear that this man at one time could hear and speak because he knew how to speak once Jesus healed him.


The chapter ends by Jesus telling the people not to tell anyone, but like most others, they “were overwhelmed with amazement”, and the word spread.  


During this time in Jesus’ ministry scholars tell us that Jesus tried to avoid the large crowds and the controversy, but both continued to follow Him.  


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