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About this series
How Jesus Chose to Change the World
What does it mean to be a real disciple of Jesus? Through this new series based in the Gospel of Mark, Chip breaks down this complex idea, by using the simple lessons Jesus taught His followers. We'll learn how characteristics like commitment, humility, and trust - set genuine Christ followers apart. Chip helps us better understand how we can avoid sin, grow in our walk with Christ, and just as important, help others mature in their faith as well. Don't miss how real disciples of Jesus, can radically change our world.More from this series
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.