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Dying for Change

From the series Real Discipleship

Many people think God is just some overly strict parent and Christians aren’t allowed to have fun. But where does that idea come from? And how can we fix it? In this message, Chip continues his series – “Real Discipleship” - by breaking down who God truly is, and how we can avoid moving backward spiritually.

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Message Transcript

If you’ll open your Bibles to Mark chapter 7.

There are a couple ways, before you ever decide to follow someone, you ought to know two things. One, what breaks their heart? Because you need to find out what makes a person tender. And the other, what makes their backbone stand up? Because if you’re going to follow someone, you want to know how tender they are, but you also want to know that when it gets tough, they stand for certain things.

As we have gone through this book, we have seen that the sight of children, hurting people, women in distress, people in pain, boy, they break the heart of God. We have seen Him reach out and feed people and touch people and heal people. Now we are going to learn a little of the other side of God’s character.

Have you ever wondered, I mean, if you could ask Jesus, “What really makes You mad? What’s Your hot button?”

This is what makes Him mad. And as you see it, you’re going to find that it is the number one source of irritation here and throughout the book and His life, and you’re going to see why. Open to Mark chapter 7 if you’re not already there, and let’s start.

As we enter here, He’s extremely popular. I mean, He can’t go into a town now. He has healed people, whole, people are bringing people out of the hills and He’s just walking through towns now and they touch the hem of His garment and whole cities are being healed and now Herod the king has heard about it and He has got questions. And now it has made it down to Jerusalem and they realize they don’t just have an itinerant preacher on their hands, they have got a movement. “How are we going to stop this movement?”

And so, they are going to send a select group of Pharisees and lawyers, or scribes, and they are going to go examine this guy Jesus and find out what in the world is going on, basically, to come up with a strategy to stop Him.

And now we begin the second opposition section in this book. The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come down from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and they saw some of His disciples eating with unclean,” that is ceremonially, “unwashed hands. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to,” get this phrase, it’s going to come up a lot, “the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash in this way. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and kettles.)” You get the picture. Here’s the scene.

This official delegation, dressed in their priestly robes and tassels and the whole bit, they want to see what’s going on. First thing they notice, they look at the disciples, and they have been in the marketplace and they buy food, and a good, orthodox Jew, there was this tradition of the elders was oral tradition. Hundreds of years of interpretations, application, interpretations, rabbi upon rabbi. So, by this time, they literally had hundreds, thousands of little rules that would tell you almost down to how to brush your teeth.

And part of their rules was that out of a genuine passage, Leviticus 11 and Leviticus 15, the concept of the Old Testament is that if something is unclean and touches something that’s clean, now they are both unclean. And they took this and ran with it to the point that if they went into the market and they brushed up against a Gentile, they went home and washed those clothes, because they are defiled; they are unclean.

If they bought a piece of fruit from a Gentile and their hand touched their hand, they went home and I’ll show you in a second, they would go wash their hands ceremonially. Every time before they ate, they would wash, not to get their hands clean, this is because this whole world is defiled and they were special. And they thought what defiled them was all the externals.

So what they would do and this is how meticulous it was, you were to put in a basin the amount of water that is contained in two and a half eggshells. Is that getting picky? Then you would hold your fingertips up toward heaven and you would pour the water down over the fingertips and it had to run to the elbow. And then with you fists, you would scrub. Now, obviously they are not worried about dirt. This is some way to get rid of all the cooties that the Gentiles have. And then they would do the same thing with the other hand, and they would do this. They would do this all day, every day in every way.

Now, they had rules down to if it was a pitcher that had an inside and a handle, if a Gentile touched the outside, it’s okay, you don’t have to do anything. If they touched the inside, you have to clean it.

If it was a tube or if it was made out of leather, you did one thing. If it was made out of metal, something else. If it was a key made out of metal and wood, depending on which part was wood and which part was metal, you had to clean it a certain way. They had rules on top of rules on top of rules.

So, that’s their mindset. And they think, see, after all these years they have divided and all these great teachers: This is how you get holy with God. And now they see this preacher with this power and these miracles, the disciples aren’t even doing the basics, the A, B, Cs. They’re not even washing their hands. So, verse 5, they are going to ask Jesus a question. “Hey, Buddy, what’s with these guys?”

“So the Pharisees and the teachers of the law asked Jesus,” hm, “‘Why don’t Your disciples live according to,’” here’s the phrase again, these oral traditions, “the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with unclean hands?”

By the way, in passing, two hundred years after the time of Christ, they had so many thousand traditions that they codified them all and put them in a book and it’s called the Mishnah. And there’s some good information there. But it’s a book about the book that tells you everything to do from A to Z.

Now, I wonder how Jesus will respond. This is the religious elite. These are the people that all the common people look to as godly. These are the Pharisees and these lawyers. They expound and apply and they know the original languages and let’s see how Jesus responds to the religious elite.

“He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:” and He quotes Isaiah 29, “‘The people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain;’” emptily, “‘their teachings are but rules taught by men. You have let go of the commands of God and you are holding to the traditions of men.’”

Do you get the idea? This theme is the tradition of men is set against the truth of God and they are on a collision course.

It goes on, verse 9, “And He said to them, ‘You,’” and you can hear His voice, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” Your man-made religion.

And then He gives them an example, verse 10. I’m not just blowing smoke; this isn’t a generalization. I’ll give you an example. Verse 10, “For Moses said,” fifth commandment, “‘Honor your father and mother,’” in fact, let Me pull another commandment out, “‘Anyone who curses his father or mother should be put to death.’” That’s how serious this is.

Old Testament law, God viewed, we have a responsibility for our parents, especially when they are aging. Hm. “But you,” huh, “you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help that I might have otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a designated gift, or devoted to God) – then you no longer let them do anything for his father or his mother. Thus you nullify the Word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many such things like this.”

What He was doing, He was just reaching right in. First of all, He said, “You’re hypocrites.” The word originally meant a person who gave judgment and did it behind a mask, so you didn’t know who it was. Later, the word evolved to mean someone who was a play actor. It eventually evolved into someone who is representing on the outside what is not true on the inside. We would call them a phony.

The religious elite, He says, “You’re phonies! You’re stinking phonies! You’re playing games. Isaiah was right. You say the right stuff, you pray the prayers, you do the stuff, but you know something? Your hearts, your hearts are so far away from the Father.”

And then He gives them an example. He says, “You have elevated these traditions so much that you have – God’s Word is gone. You don’t even obey it. Let me give you an example.” And then He gives the word about honoring father and mother.

And this little tradition, this Corban, what they could do is they could say, “Take this money,” and they would put it in a special line item on the account and say, “Oh, this is designated to God.” Now in the research I did, they didn’t even have to give it to the temple. They could even spend it on themselves. But they could just put it in a special line item column, if you will, in accounting terms, and say, “This is designated to God. And Mom and Dad, we would really like to help you, but it’s God’s. Sorry.”

It was basically a religious loophole so that they could spend it on themselves and get out of the clear-cut command of God.

Notice His summary statement here. Verse 14, now He’s going to explain. “Jesus again called the crowd to Him and said,” I like this. You know, all through the book so far, He teaches and then He just calls the disciples over. Now He is doing battle. He’s popular. I mean, they don’t dare touch Him where He’s at. And He says, “Hey! Everybody! Over here! Crowd, come on, I’ve got something I want to say. See these religious leaders? See My disciples? I want to make something perfectly clear. I want to set the record on what it means to be godly and holy. Okay? Come on, guys.” What does He say?

“Listen to Me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him unclean by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of the man that makes him unclean.” See, He reaches back into the passage in Isaiah and He says, “Look, people, there is no external thing that you can put in your body that makes you unclean. It’s not rubbing up against a Gentile or drinking out of a cup that someone else touched. You have missed it! It’s what comes out of your heart. That is what makes you unclean before God.”

It’s not a matter of rules and regulations and following lists. It’s not whether you wear makeup or not. Or whether your dress is above the knee just a little or below the knee a little. It’s not whether you play cards or not. It’s not whether you dance or those who do.

Godliness has to do with the heart. Some of those things may be right for some of you, some of those things may be wrong for some of you. The issue isn’t those things. Now listen as He develops it in verse 17.

“Now, after the crowd had left,” He has a group of people, I fear this is too much like myself, “the disciples asked Him about the parable.” You can almost see it, “Uh, excuse me, Lord, you know that part about the inside/outside thing? I’m still a little unclear.”

“Are you so dull?” The word means spiritually insensitive. “Guys, have you been with me this long? You have heard Me preach, you have seen the miracles, and you still aren’t on first base? You still don’t understand?”

“He asked them, ‘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.’” The heart is the seat of affections, the will in the Jewish thinking, and ours. The real you, the decisions, your heart, the “you”.

“But it doesn’t go into the heart, it goes into the stomach and out of the body.” It’s a digestive system, guys. “In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.” Now, we can’t even grasp how radical that is. We can’t, I mean, we don’t have a relationship in our society right now that we can grasp how radical. He just, whoo. He said, “You know all those dietary laws? All those were laws guiding My people to protect them and help them.”

He said, “They have become a rule and a set unto themselves and people have lost Me in the midst of it.” And He said, “Look, there’s nothing you can eat – pork, that can’t get you down. Hooved animals, nothing you can eat can really defile you. It was only in the obedience to that from the heart that ever brought favor with God.”

I had a chance several years ago to be in a missionary’s home in Haiti. And we went on this Jeepney ride and along the way, the guy I was with who was part of the missions organization said, “This family has been having some struggle and they are getting some counseling here. And let’s see if we can just encourage them a little bit. Just keep your eyes open. If you see something that might be insightful, let me know and we’ll help them.” “Great.”

So, we got there kind of late and went to bed and got up the next morning and so, we ate breakfast and it was a pretty normal-type breakfast. And then dad goes, “It is time for family devotions,” in a voice like that. And I’m thinking, Is there a, there must be, other people are going to show up.

And then he takes this Bible, nine feet by four feet, boom! And you watch these two kids, he’s got a teenage girl and a pre-teen son. And they slink back in their chair like, Oh brother. Here we go again.

And so, he reads out of 1 Chronicles or Leviticus or something forever. I mean, I’m bored. And then he turns and no one says anything. You don’t discuss it; he doesn’t talk about what it means to his life. He just read, rrrrrrr.

And I’m sure they’re going to get through the whole Bible too. Way to go, gang. And then he turns to his wife and says, “Mother,” that always kind of gets me, but, “Mother, it’s time to pray.” And so, she pulls out this notebook. And she’s got lists and numbers and marks and so, she bows her head and, you know, gosh, I bow my head and see what’s going on here and I watch these kids and they’re going, “Oh…”

And she prays for almost everyone on this side of this hemisphere. And I’m fighting sleep at this point. You know? Then they shut it, “Thus sayeth the Lord, may God bless the reading of His Word.” And I’m thinking, as I look at these two kids, Boy, you know, if they don’t embrace the Lord, it won’t surprise me. They were having major problems with their kids. And now they are going to go over the hill to a Christian counselor in Port-au-Prince and say, “We don’t understand! God called us to the field! Every day we are in the Scriptures, we pray with our kids! We have family devotions every day. Why is God allowing this to happen to our children?” Ha, ha!

You know why? Because they missed the boat! I saw this couple relate for about three days and I think the last time he kissed his wife was about five years ago. I mean, I’m not sure, but that – there was icicles in the home. I mean, such a cold, I didn’t see any love and warmth and passion and life and encouragement. That’s what kids catch. Do you need to have family devotions? You bet. But they need to have some life and power and, you know, I think those two – that couple – I don’t know what background they came out of but it was lemon juice in the morning and prune juice at night. And, yee, gosh.

I don’t know what they had, but I didn’t want it either. But, see, they were absolutely convinced, they were absolutely convinced they were doing what God wanted them to do. Because you know what they did? They didn’t have the Mishnah, they didn’t have an oral tradition, but somewhere along the line they thought it’s just reading the Bible, praying so often.

And we’ve got our lists, don’t we? Huh? Don’t some of you feel real guilty? Boy, didn’t read the Bible this morning. I’ll probably have a flat tire. Maybe lose my job. You never know.

I’ve got to do this, and we could make up different lists and we all have these little lists. Traditions.

Now, those things need to be done with the right spirit from the heart, but there is a trap and the trap Jesus wants us to see is that tradition always has to do with the status quo. Tradition has to do with: Don’t change. There are whole churches that operate, you know, on the front of their stationary it says, “It has never been done that way before, and it never will be.” And under that on the letterhead it says, “Don’t rock the boat.” Nothing new.

See, tradition, we love it because it provides comfort because the status quo. What you’re going to find is truth liberates, but it means – what? Change. Truth demands that I change. I don’t know about you, I don’t like it. It makes me uncomfortable. It stretches me. It makes me dependent. I have to cry out to God. I can’t handle it. I’m inadequate. I know I can’t do it. It’s too big, it takes too much faith, and God says, I know. And this is the conversation I wanted to have with you. I love it when you come to Me this way, and I’ll empower you so when you get done, you’ll know I did it. Oh! Okay.

See, tradition strangles the truth. But the truth is what liberates. It’s tradition that builds political factions in churches. It’s tradition that says, “These flowers, this way must always be here.” You have to have an active congress in some churches to change the order of worship, let alone bring in a synthesizer and drums and all the rest.

And you know something? I don’t think God, I don’t think God is any more pleased with drums and synthesizers and guitar and bass than He is with a beautiful, huge organ and stained-glass window. I think He could care less how you do it. You know what I think He cares about? If you’re on your knees hearing that beautiful organ music through stained-glass windows, that your heart is filled with Christ. And you want to do what He wants to do, and you want to hear from Him.

And if that style of worship, that’s all it is, meets the need of your heart, fantastic. Because you can hear, you can be-bop here and clap and sing, “You are my rock,” and have your heart next door. You’re no closer to God just because the style is different.
We’ve got churches, eighty-five percent of the churches in America are shrinking. You know why? Because they are more concerned with keeping things as they are – don’t rock the boat.

The greatest message in the world, our message is God has come, He lives among us, and if you have a sin problem – ha, ha, ha – we all do, there’s a way out. He forgives. That message has been entrusted to institutions where eighty-five percent of them in America are shrinking. You know why? Because those churches are more concerned about having it their way and staying comfortable rather than getting out on the cutting edge and doing things differently.

The doctrine stays the same; everything else is up for grabs. Period. We’ll worship on Saturday night, Monday night, Thursday morning. I don’t think God cares. We’ll worship when people can come. The style of music five years from now may be totally different. The methods of ministry, children’s, youth, five years from now it may be totally different. You know why? Because our commitment is to love people, care for people, and honor God. And the methods always have to change.

In business, if your methods don’t change, what happens? You go bankrupt. In churches, you just die. The Church is dying for change. Now, let’s find out if this external adherence doesn’t really make you right with God, what does? Jesus will explain it to His disciples.

“He went on to say,” in verse 20, “‘What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean.’” Not what goes in, not the list, not the rules, not the externals. Tradition always focuses on the externals. Truth always focuses on the internals.

“For from within, out of a man’s heart,” and now we have a list only here. It’s the broadest list in the New Testament from the very lips of Christ. If you want to know what separates you and me from God, there is the list. It’s not the rules you keep. Instead, “Out of men’s heart comes evil thoughts.”

The word means just a broad spectrum of evil. “Sexual immorality,” a broad word. You name the type of sexual immorality, this word says on the canopy that it can fall under. “Theft, murder, adultery, greed,” the passion to have more, to compare, more is better, I’ve got to have it, it makes me significant.

“Malice,” that ill feeling, that bitterness in relationships, the desire for harm to come to so-and-so or so-and-so. People have hurt you; people have cheated you. Ex-in-laws, ex-mates, parents – that malice in our hearts that says, “Well, gosh, down deep I’ll be so happy if something happens to them, because they deserve it after what they did to me.” That defiles you and defiles me.

“Deceit,” the little things, the cheating, the little lies, the “white lies”, the trying to have it both ways at work, the padding of expense accounts. Sales presentations you know aren’t totally true, but you do it to get the sale. That’s defiling.

Fantasies, “Lust, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” In our day, some of us think that, I come to church. Great. I made it three out of four weeks this month. I prayed three out of four days. Reading the Bible more often. Oh man, way to go! I can’t hardly stand it. I’m starting to give regularly and boy is that tough and I’m trusting God. Fantastic. So why is God upset that I’m sleeping with my girlfriend? Because He is a holy God and He is not impressed with you or me or the Pharisees keeping the rules.

I spent the first three years of my Christian life reading through the New Testament, because I didn’t understand the Old Testament so I kept doing the New one, you know? I never read the Bible until I was eighteen and the first three or four times through I kept reading, looking at myself like a disciple thinking, Oh, you know, like the cowboy, old cowboy movies you watch, you always identify with the good team? The guys with the white hats?

You know what I learned? I started reading through the New Testament and started identifying with the Pharisees and I got an education, because I was a lot more like the Pharisees than I was like the disciples. And God started to do a work in my life.

See, it’s your heart God is after. And if He has your heart, trust me, you’ll be in the Word. You’ll give graciously, not because you have to. And your life will be different. He wants my heart and He wants yours.

There’s nothing wrong with liturgy. There’s nothing wrong with candles, nothing wrong with robes, but left to ourselves, our tradition snuffs out the truth. And what God wants us to do is be people of truth and honesty. Admit when we blow it, significantly change; to say I’m sorry to people on the jobsite, in our home; to be vulnerable and open when we blow it. Keep taking the steps so God can say, You’re inadequate, you have need, you have hurt. Great. That’s what grace is all about. That’s the kind of people that I always bless. “My strength is perfected” – how? “in your weakness.”

Now Jesus does something that is absolutely incredible. The author wants to make a point. The tradition of man has been demonstrated. The theme, obviously, is the tradition of man versus the truth of God in this section. And now the truth of God is going to be demonstrated. He is going to give us three quick snapshot miracles.

In miracle number one, He is going to say there is nothing externally that can defile a person. The ethnic origin of this lady is hated by the Jews. I mean, hated by the Jews. And He’s going to do something for her that He didn’t do for a lot of Jews.

And then the second miracle, He’s going to demonstrate that internal defilement, something wrong with us, a handicap or something the Jews would say, “You know, that guy is off, isn’t he?” He’s going to say no. In fact, I don’t even feel rejected. He’s going to be so bold to even touch him on his tongue.

And then finally, He’s going to open the gates and this whole next section, verses 24 through chapter 8:10 all occurs, guess where. If you look up the cities on the map, they all occur in the heart of the Gentile area.

Mark is telling his readers, Jesus came, yes, for the Jews first, absolutely. But who for? The whole world. Notice how he makes these points. These are illustrations of what has just been taught by the Lord.

Verse 24, “Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.” Up north. “He entered a house and didn’t want anyone to know it;” He’s out of the Jewish section and looks like He’s trying to get a break, “yet He could not keep His presence secret. In fact, as soon as He heard about it, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and she fell at His feet. The woman was a Greek,” or a Gentile, “born in Syrian Phoenicia,” which is present day Lebanon. And they hated them.

I mean, the Samaritans were bad news; these people were just yuck. Their slang term for them was dogs. Matthew 15, here it says she begged. From Matthew 15, the parallel passage, she begged and said, “Oh Lord, Son of David.” She recognized Him, unlike the Jews, as the Jewish Messiah. I mean, He did all the miracles, He had the teaching. “You’re the Messiah. Oh Lord, Son of David,” she cries. And what does she ask? “Please drive the demon out of my daughter.” That’s her request.

Now, Jesus in faithfulness to His mission to the Jew first and then also to the Greek or the Gentile says, “First,” priority, “let the children eat all they want.” Children are the Jews. First, Hey lady, the first priority in my ministry is for the Jews. And He goes on to say, “For it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
It literally means the little puppies. And they had outside dog pets. And they would eat with their hands. And when they got done, there were crumbs everywhere and they would just push it off the table and let all the little dogs come in and they would clean it up. Now, this passage has gotten Jesus in trouble. Many people think, “Boy, how harsh.”

Well, what He was saying is, Look, ma’am, you’re right about Me. I am the Jewish Messiah. And My first priority is to ministry to the Jews. Because it’s not right to take that first priority and give it to you Gentiles, to you “puppies” if you will. And I think you’ve got to hear the tone of His voice.

And I don’t think He was, “Hey, I’m for the Jews! Get out of here, lady!” You know, that’s not Jesus. I think it was, “Hey, there is priority in ministry here. This is the plan.” And then He gets absolutely delighted. Listen to the response.

“Yes, Lord,” I wish more Jews were saying that, “she replied, ‘but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’” Do you hear what she is saying? Two things. Humility and faith. Hey, if You have a priority and I’m a second-class citizen in terms of how You want to meet the needs and fulfill the Father’s plan, hey, I’ll be second-class. But don’t the little puppies get to eat? Shrewd response. Jesus was thrilled.

You’ve got the Pharisees over here that know everything from the law and all these rules and all this jazz and they rub up against people and they reject Him. And here’s a woman who breaks out of all the prejudice and Jesus saying, “You may be a woman initiating conversation,” culturally unacceptable. “You may be a Gentile and of the most hated race of the Gentiles, but your external defilement in the eyes of a Jew doesn’t hold water when you come in humility and simple faith.” Because that is what God is looking for. The heart.

So, notice what He does. “He then told her, ‘For such a reply,’” because of what it indicated, “‘you may go home; the demon has left your daughter.’ She went home and found her daughter lying on a bed, and the demon was gone.”

External defilement of any kind, He says, That’s not the basis for relationship with Me. It’s from the heart, humility, and faith.

Next quick picture, the healing of the deaf and the dumb man. Verse 31, “Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre, through Sidon, down through the Sea of Galilee, into the region of the Decapolis.” Okay, it’s a Gentile region. Remember when He healed the demoniac, where did He send him? Back into Decapolis to tell what God had done for him. From this passage, it sounds like he did a good job. A lot of people knew.

“There some people, and they brought a man to Him who was deaf and could hardly talk. And they begged Him to place His hand on the man. After He took him aside, away from the crowd,” now notice. A Jew is not going to even touch a Gentile. Notice what Jesus does. “He put His fingers into the man’s ears.” That’s pretty intimate. “Then He spit and He touched the man’s tongue. Then He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said, ‘Ephphatha!’ (which means ‘Be opened!’). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak plainly. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more He did so, the more they kept talking about it. The people were overwhelmed with amazement.”

The words here only in the New Testament. It means they were hyper, super, abundantly amazed and bewildered. In the perfect tense meaning it happened and it continued to happen. They couldn’t believe who He was, what He did. They were convinced.

Then notice what happens. Their commentary on the life of Christ, “He has done all things well. He makes even the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.”

Notice the strategy of the author. He teaches on internal versus external defilement; quotes Isaiah and says it’s the heart. Then He goes over here with a woman who is clearly out of bounds by the culture and says, “Faith and humility. I accept her.” And then He takes a man and he is totally out of bounds; he’s got an impairment. Remember when the fellow had blindness? And what was the Jewish mindset? Even the disciples said, “Hey, Jesus, would You tell us who sinned? Was it this guy or his folks?” And Jesus said, “Guys, you’ve got a little misunderstanding, but it’s for the glory of God.”

See, anybody with this kind of a – they were unclean. And Jesus, He could have just spoken a word and made him like that. What did He do? It’s like He’s rubbing it in their face.

“Hey, he won’t make me dirty!” is what He is saying. And He sticks His hands and His fingers and then spits and puts it right on his tongue.

And you know what He’s saying to us? There are no unclean people. People with orange hair and earrings here and earrings up here and people who come from all kind of different lifestyles, there’s nothing about their exterior that can make them unclean! And the Church of Jesus Christ needs to love them unconditionally and build bridges and care the way He did. That’s His message. His message is it’s for everyone.

In fact, the author finally in sort of a crescendo, the next ten verses is going to give a great example. Verse 1, chapter 8. “During these days another large crowd gathered.” He’s right in the middle of the heart of the Gentile region. “Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples and said to them, ‘I have compassion for these people; for they have been with Me already three days and they have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.’ His disciples answered, ‘But where in this remote place can we get enough bread to feed them?’ ‘How many loaves do you have?’” You know, He keeps working on them.

Where’s your focus, guys? On what you have or what you don’t have? “‘Seven,’ they replied. He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When He had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, He broke them, gave them to the disciples to set before the people, and they did so. Then He took a few small fish as well, and He gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people,” all these Gentiles, “ate and were satisfied.” That’s an historical event; they were fed. It was a real need. He did it for the Jews – five thousand, remember?

But I think the author clearly in the context of this passage wants us to know that these Gentiles, these unclean people that the religious elite won’t even get near, Jesus says, “I came. I’m the bread of life.

So they can eat and be satisfied. ’ll take care of their sin. I’ll give meaning to their life. I bring forgiveness to them all.” In fact, as it goes on, I think the author really rubs it in. “Afterwards, the disciples picked up seven baskets full of broken pieces that were left over.”

Now, it’s interesting. Same author, we looked at five thousand Jews being fed. How many baskets left? Twelve baskets left over. Except the word for baskets was a term for a Jewish small basket with a small neck and they were carried on the side for your daily provisions.

This time, he feeds four thousand people in a Gentile area, and the word for baskets is what Gentiles used and it was a large, big basket kind of like a laundry, one of those laundry things. It’s the very same word when Paul was hoisted over the wall. It’s big enough for a man to get inside of.

What’s he saying? Now, I don’t want to push too much into the numbers, but I think He fed the Jews and had twelve baskets left over. Twelve tribes. “I have come for all the Jews, whosoever will.” He feeds the Gentiles seven baskets. The number of perfection, of completeness. He is saying, “I have come for the whole world – Jew, Gentile alike –
so they can eat and be satisfied.

I don’t care what they look like, I don’t care what rules they don’t or do follow, what I care about is their heart. If they will come in humility and faith like this woman, if they will sit at My feet and learn of Me and be taught and respond, I’ll heal them. I’ll feed them.” That’s His message for us.

How are you doing? Where did this passage start out? How are you doing? Are you a hypocrite? Are you focusing on the rules? Does God have your heart? Do you unconsciously, like me, justify yourselves by these external little things you do and think that makes you right with God? Is there some things of the heart that Jesus talked about in your business life? In your financial life? Is there bitterness in relationships? Are there little closets of lust and fantasy? That’s what defiles you and me. That’s what God wants to get rid of. That’s what He wants to transform in your life and mine. That’s what brings us to the Savior.

Contrast: Pharisees with rules who miss the boat; needy people rejected by others who come in faith. The Church of Jesus Christ can transform this world when we are the latter instead of the former. But we long for the truth and make whatever changes we need to make to reach out and love people, refusing to be strangled by tradition.