Sunday August 13th
For those who are watching their weight, I found this helpful list of 5 Dieting Rules:
The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, 2 and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) 5 The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?”
In the Old Testament there were at least 613 laws or rules that applied to the Jewish people’s lives. The Pharisees believed that God had given them exclusive knowledge of what these laws meant and how they should be interpreted and applied by everyone else. This made them very judgmental!
In verse 2 we are told “they saw some of his disciples eat bread with impure, that is to say, with unwashed, hands”
The Pharisees had been looking for reasons to find fault with Jesus, and now they noticed something that wasn’t right in their eyes. Jesus’ disciples were not washing their hands before eating.
But the Law of Moses really had no rule that every person had to wash their hands before every meal. As was typical for them, the Pharisees had extended the biblical instructions for priestly hand washing in preparation for the temple sacrifices (Ex. 30:19; 40:12) to include the eating of any food by any Jews at any time.
That’s what legalism tends to do…it keeps spreading further and further in the reach of its rules. If A originally used to be off limits, pretty soon B and C will be off limits too! (These are sometimes called fence laws)
One strange reason the Pharisees were so adamant about the washing of hands is because they believed that the washing of hands got rid of Shibta, which was an evil spirit which supposedly got upon the hands at night. Sounds like some strange superstition doesn’t it? There was no biblical grounds for this belief, only their own traditions.
But their religious rituals were so important to them that their rules, “the tradition of elders” were practically on the same level as God’s laws in their eyes.
Let’s look at how Jesus answered their concerns over the breaking of the tradition of the Elders:
6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
7 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
That word “neglecting” the commandment of God can also mean “canceling,” or “abandoning”.
Jesus says, “You are so concerned about your own doctrines and commandments because you think your way is better than God’s way. Your tradition means more to you than what God says.”
Jesus points out to them that they completely fulfil the prophesy from Isaiah about people who give lip-service to God, but whose hearts are turned away from God.
Then Jesus gives a specific example:
9 He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”
Corban was a Hebrew and Aramaic word, indicating something as dedicated for a religious purpose.
So if I saw that you had $20 and asked if I could borrow it, you might say, “Sorry, I can’t lend it to you, it’s Corban. I’m planning on putting it into the offering box this Sunday.” And I would have to accept that. So just by simply saying a vow to reserve their possessions as a gift to God, these Pharisees could avoid their responsibility for supporting their elderly parents.
“Sorry you have to live in that dilapidated old trailer, Mom and Dad, but I kind of promised to make a big donation to the temple this week, so any help I could’ve given you is already corban!”
By allowing people to declare things as corban, the Pharisees were actually encouraging them to break God’s commandment about honoring fathers and mothers.
I think what Jesus does next is really powerful. He calls the crowd over and publically makes it clear that the Pharisees rules are totally backwards:
14 After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Now that seems pretty plain, doesn’t it? Forget what these Pharisees are telling you. Hand-washing isn’t that important, but speaking foolish talk about God’s law is.
As usual the disciples are a little dense, so Jesus has to break it down for them even more clearly:
17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. 18 And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) 20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
So Jesus gives them a basic biology lesson. Food goes into the digestive system, not into the heart. The heart is more affected by bad attitudes than by bad food. The Pharisees were all wrapped up in preventing a little dirt from entering into a person’s mouth, while Jesus is much more focused on the filth that comes out of a person’s mouth, because our words reflect what’s going on in our hearts and in our minds.
Uncleanness of the heart, not the food we eat, is the real source of our sin problem.
The next little encounter that Jesus has also revolves around bread, but this is a different kind of bread:
24 Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice. 25 But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.” 29 And He said to her, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30 And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.
It certainly seems shocking to most of us when Jesus refers to this woman and her poor sick daughter as dogs. We saw in Philippians chapter 3 that this term was a derogatory way that Jews commonly referred to gentiles. But Jesus is simply using this term to explain the complete plan, namely, that “salvation is for the Jews first”, and then it would be offered to the gentiles.
The children of Israel had to receive their bread first before it would be made available to the gentiles, or dogs. We can actually see that the woman understands exactly what Jesus means. Her reply indicates that she totally gets it. She knows that as a non-Jew she has no right to take away the bread that was intended for the people of Israel. She only wants a few crumbs of this salvation bread, not enough to rob the children of their blessing.
Jesus honors her humble acceptance of God’s plan and gives her the “crumbs” of healing bread that her daughter needs.
Keep in mind that all of us, whether Jews or gentiles, are true children of God by our faith in Jesus. We don’t ever have to settle for crumbs from the table. Jesus wants us to partake fully of the bread of life, which includes both our salvation and our healing.
To show that healing is included in the power of Christ, Mark includes one more miracle to finish this chapter:
31 Again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. 32 They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him. 33 Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; 34 and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” 35 And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. 36 And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. 37 They were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
The prophet Isaiah had spoken words of encouragement from God to the people of Israel. In chapter 35 he says:
The wilderness and the desert will be glad,
And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom;
Like the crocus
2 It will blossom profusely
And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
The majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see the glory of the Lord,
The majesty of our God.
3 Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
4 Say to those with anxious heart,
“Take courage, fear not.
Behold, your God will come with vengeance;
The recompense of God will come,
But He will save you.”
5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
The people had been waiting for signs that God was fulfilling his promise to save and to restore them. One of those signs was deaf ears being opened. So when the people see Jesus demonstrating this power it really gets their attention.
In fact, when John the Baptist was in prison, he started to wonder whether Jesus was truly the Messiah, even though he had called Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.
In Luke 7:19-22 we see this:
Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” 20 When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’”21 At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. 22 And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.
The miracles that he performed were one of the greatest proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God.
Here’s an interesting passage, because it compares John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus with the testimony of his miracles – It’s found in John Chapter 5, verses 33-36, where Jesus is answering those who were questioning whether he was the true Messiah:
33 You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. 34 But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
36 But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.
Yes, John had proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah, the Lamb of God, but that was just the testimony of a man. The true testimony of Jesus was found in the miracles that he was working by the power of God – those were the ultimate proof that he had been sent by the Father!
Think about it this way – what is the true proof in each of our lives that Jesus is who he claimed to be? Isn’t it the miraculous power that has changed our lives? Isn’t that the ultimate reality of who Jesus is? If it were not for his power to save us and change us, where would our lives be today? Thank God for the miracle-working power of Jesus!