This morning we are in Mark chapter 7. Once again a delegation from Jerusalem has come to investigate Jesus. Last time they asked Jesus a question about practice – “Why don’t your disciples fast?” This interaction also leads to a question – “Why do some of your disciples eat with defiled (unwashed) hands?”
Jesus responds by addressing the perils of religious tradition and the root of the problem of evil. We’ll look at both of those and fast forward to the promise of transformation.
1. The perils of religious traditionalism.
Religious traditionalism ends in opposition to the commandments of God.
Traditionalism goes beyond the commands of God. (vs 3-4)
Traditionalism replaces the commands of God. (vs 8-13)
Traditionalism produces hypocrites. (vs 6-7)
Traditionalism is powerless to create true change. (14-23)
2. The problem of evil
The Pharisees’ concern with purity was a good thing. What they got wrong was the trajectory of evil. They thought evil was “out there somewhere”. If they could effectively separate themselves from the unclean world, they would remain clean. The problem is that the source of evil is not out there, but on the inside.
“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags
Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord GOD.
Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one!
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
3. The promise of transformation
Can you imagine? Jesus as he looked over the crowds of people, plagued by the problem of evil in their hearts and suffering terribly from its consequences – caught in an argument over the washing of hands.
Jesus had come for something far greater than hand washing. He came to fulfil a promise of true transformation.
18 “They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. 19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness.
Through the cross of Christ, true transformation is made possible. All who trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins receive not only that, but the incredible promise of a new heart.
4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Christian, do you sense evil in your heart? Do you cry out with Paul, “who will save me from this body of death?” You must remember that your old heart has been crucified with Christ and you have been given a new, clean heart.
22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown