Today, let’s dig deeper into Mark Chapter 7 and see the beauty and need for the stain-removing gospel of Jesus Christ.
Before we dig in, let me clarify our problem.
Our problem is we are defiled. Defiled: to be unclean, dirty, stained, foul, polluted.
The Bible says that because of our sin (our breaking of His holy law, our rebellion against God, our pursuit of self-salvation and self-glory), we are defiled. We are wicked, stained, unclean, and impure.
If you think that somehow you have figured out a way to avoid this sin thing and that you might be good enough, the Bible says otherwise:
all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).
And If you think that you might be able figure out a way back to good standing with God, the Bible says the following:
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot (Romans 8:7).
The very real truth is we do not measure up to our holy God because of our vile sin. And we CANNOT clean ourselves up in order to restore ourselves to a right standing with God.
So, we are dirty but unable to clean ourselves up. This leaves us with a big problem!
The reality is something that is defiled needs to be cleansed.
The opening part of Chapter 7 deals with the failed way man seeks to be cleansed.
Read Mark 7:1-23.
Two things to highlight here:
1. Hypocritical worship of God
Jesus addresses His questioners by first quoting Isaiah 29:13, and then He applies Isaiah's description of the hypocrites in his day to the religious elite whom Jesus called hypocrites.
They were "hypocrites" because they made an outward profession of worshiping God but gave Him no genuine worship from their hearts, thoughts, or choices.
We, too, can be guilty of hypocritically worshiping God out of hearts that do not truly enjoy or love Him but instead are acting or praising out of obligation.
God doesn’t want worship that is out of obligation or religious mandate.
This weekend, hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children around this world will attend a Sunday church service, giving their time and money and singing songs to God, not because they are joy-filled about God, but because they think they have to make God happy or to meet some kind of moral standard.
Jesus is pointing out here that these people are more focused on their outside actions then their hearts. They’re busy keeping up with the rules of the kingdom instead of falling in love with the King. Jesus tells us rule keeping will not produce authentic worship with God; it will produce hypocritical devotion.
Jesus is saying, “The only way your worship will be honest and real is if it is out of a heart that is made new, cleansed from its impurity, and revived.” It is a heart issue--not an actions issue.
For these Pharisees, their worship of God was in vain because like the Jews of Isaiah's day, they were teaching the rules of men as authoritative teachings over God’s living word, and they were focused on their self-made transformation instead of the transformation the gospel of Jesus brings about in one’s life.
This brings us to the second failure we see here:
2. Man-made traditions being followed more than the authority of God’s word
In this interaction, Jesus charged the religious elite with abandoning the commands of God, His Law, and adhering instead to the traditions of men.
Traditions of Men = man-made laws or rituals that become more prioritized and authoritative than God’s word.
The example we read about here is ritual cleansing.
Ritual cleansing was the required washing of one's hands with a handful of water before eating food.
This was especially important after a trip to the marketplace where a Jew would likely come in contact with an "unclean" Gentile or such things as money or utensils.
The loyal Jews believed disregarding these kind of regulations was a sin; to follow them was the essence of goodness and service to God.
Now, for those of you who are thinking, “That’s great, but we don’t have rules or rituals like that today,” oh, how mistaken you are!
A quick modern example is praying before we eat. It is believed by many Christians that one is to bless the food before you eat, or you are in some way guilty or sinning against God.
Now, is it good to pray when you eat? Yes! It is good to thank God for our food.
But if this is the only thing during the day you are regularly thanking God for because it has become a ritual or tradition, you might be doing it out of religious obligation and not out of heart-felt thanks.
When we thank God throughout the day, our prayer at meals is likely an authentic prayer.
But if you only dial Him up at the religious handbook moments, (meals, hardship and bed time), it’s most likely not authentic but ritualistic devotion.
If you pray the same thing at each prayer, it is also probably a sign you do not mean what you are saying and have not really thought much about it. It most likely just means you are good at reciting religious mantra prayers because it is your duty--not because it is your JOY!
Is it good to pause and thank God for His provisions? Yes, but we should do this in all things!
We have to see what Jesus is stressing here: We are defiled because our hearts are wicked and sinful.
It is not because we are simply not living out a certain moral lifestyle.
The reality is we are sinners at birth in our very nature, so when we sin, the action to sin is not causing us to be sinners, but the action to sin is proof that we already are sinners.
A sinner is someone whose heart is defiled, and as a result they practice sin.
We do not stumble into sin and therefore become a sinner.
If the latter is true, the religious zealots are right! And all I need to do to be cleansed is to not do the wrong thing.
Out of this mindset, religious people work really hard to live a righteous life and do the right things.
But in the end, they will always be let down because we CAN’T do all the right things--our hearts are defiled!
Later, Jesus says cleaning the outside of the cup doesn’t make the cup clean.
The inside of the cup must be cleansed if you are going to use it. It is our hearts that must be purified!
Our defiling is not due to a bad diet, but instead due to a diseased heart.
No amount of self-scrubbing on the outside will help cure the rampant diseases on the inside.
The absolute truth is we need to be healed and restored from the inside out.
So, the question then is this:
Do we have any hope to be cleansed form the inside out? To be healed and restored?
Skip to verse 31 and look with me at the good news of Jesus.
Read again Mark 7:31-37
Took the man aside
Put His fingers in his ears
Touched his tongue and then placed it on the man’s tongue
Drew the eyes of the man heavenward
Sighs (we’ll come back to this in a moment)
Calls out His command of healing
And it is done… The man can hear and speak clearly.
What makes this healing act of Jesus unique is the way He goes about it.
Now at first, this looks like the rituals of a miracle worker.
Doing a dance, pulling out random objects and placing them on the table, saying some crazy words.
In all of the healings we have seen form Jesus so far, He doesn’t do any arm waving or say any mumbo jumbo.
This tells us the rituals are not where the power comes from.
They are not needed to heal or restore people.
So we must ask, why does Jesus do it here? The answer: He is meeting the man where he is!
The man is deaf. How do you communicate with a deaf man? Sign language!
Jesus is showing him compassion and using a form of sign language.
Let’s look at what Jesus does and interpret it through the lens of sign language:
Jesus takes hold of the man and takes him aside = “Let’s go over here.”
Jesus puts His fingers in the man’s ears = “I am going to heal your deafness.”
Touches His own tongue and then places it on the man’s tongue = “I am healing your speech.”
Draws the eyes of the man heavenward = “Look with me to God and realize He is the One worthy of all praise.”
The good news is you don’t have to come to Jesus and go through a certain rigmarole to get saved.
He comes to you and meets you where you are, and He is the one who does the opening of the ears and the healing of the heart and the restoring of your life.
What this means is people get saved in a wide variety of situations and ways.
If we were to go out to all the places this morning’s devotion is being read and ask, “By what circumstances did God give you saving faith?” we would hear a wide variety of answers. For some it was alone, for others it was in a crowd; for some it was a long process, and for others it was like a strike of lighting; for some it was in the middle of great hardship, and for others it was in the normal stride of daily life.
All are saved by hearing and understanding the gospel, but the gospel is taken into one’s soul in so many ways! Some are moved while driving, some while listening to the radio or watching a movie, some while experiencing a sacrificial act of another, some when a basic need is met by an unobligated person who helped, some when a spoken word, and some by terrifying experience.
→ The point is Jesus will meet you where you when it is His time to give you new life and saving faith.
This is good news because God is not leveling us with a certain combination that must be discovered and then dialed in order for God to work saving grace into our lives.
We are so plagued with rituals that the church even makes getting saved a ritual that for some must be done a certain way. Walk here, say this, do that, and you’re in!
Praise God that He is a compassionate God who meets us where we are.
Did you notice when healing the man Jesus sighs before He calls out His command of healing?
This is so easy to miss. The word “sigh” signifies some kind of relationship to pain.
What pain is Jesus feeling in this moment?
Back up in verse 32, Mark uses a Greek word only used in one other part of the Bible found in Isaiah.
The word is “Mogilalos.”
The use of this rare word would have meant Mark had in mind the prophetic words of Isaiah as he wrote about this particular interaction between Jesus and this deaf man.
Here is the passage from Isaiah where we see this same word used: Isaiah 35:3-6 “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
Jesus sighed because He would take on our pain. He would meet us where we are at… literally.
We were dead in our sin and deplorable before God.
Jesus would take on our blindness and deafness--our disease, our hardship--so that we could live, and see, and sing songs of joy for the King of all.
God has come to save us. Jesus Christ is God who has come to save us. Jesus is the KING!
We are the deaf, who in Christ have our ears uncovered; and we are the blind, who in Christ can now see; we are the mute, who in Christ are now shouting for joy!
In Isaiah, it says God will come with divine “vengeance,” but Jesus isn’t going around smiting people with justified vengeance. He is not killing people; He is the one to be killed. He is not hurting people; He was the one hurt. So what does this mean?
It means Jesus is not bringing divine vengeance; He is going to bear the divine vengeance on our behalf. With the recompense of God. He becomes the victim, and we get the recompense-- the reward!
The question is what is your response to the gospel of Jesus? To what He has done in the place of sinners?
To really drive home your response, I want to close by looking at the testimony we skipped in verse 24-30.
Read again Mark 7:24-30.
Tyre was a Gentile region. In this time, Jesus was looking to get away from the Jewish masses that were smothering him. Even though this woman was a Phoenician Gentile pagan, she would have known enough of the Jewish customs to know that she had none of the religious, moral, or cultural credentials to approach a Jewish rabbi.
But she does it anyway, probably because she is a mom and her daughter is suffering, and she is willing to do anything to help--even if there are repercussions.
Now, when we read this, Jesus’ response seems demeaning. She asks for help to heal her daughter, “And he said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’”
All Jesus is referring to here is the order of his ministry focus. First, He would minster to the Jewish people and then the Gentiles.
In an astounding response, she understands Jesus’ priority and humbly wants what He is offering.
Not because she deserves His grace but because she gets that it is grace. Listen again:
“But she answered him, ‘Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’”
The woman’s response is the very response we MUST have to the gospel.
We must recognize we are not worthy on any level; in fact, we are more wicked and sinful than we even understand.
But, at the same time, Jesus came to love us with grace and to heal us when we didn’t deserve it.
She doesn’t say in pride. “How dare you for calling me a dog,” like we often do when confronted with the fullness of our sin. Neither does she overreact and cower in the corner with her tail between we legs in self-loathing like others tend to do, thinking, “I am too wretched for even God to save.”
Instead, she sees her sin and disgust and at the same time takes hold of Jesus’ saving grace.
We need this kind of faith. We need to have this response to the gospel we are hearing today.
We need this kind of humble and yet bold approach to God’s offer of grace and life.
Look at how Jesus responds:
“And he said to her, ‘For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.’ And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.”
This is the gospel:
The child of God was cast away from the table without a crumb so that those who were dogs could be brought in and adopted as children of God!
The child of God (Jesus) was cast away from the table without a crumb (the Cross) so that those who were dogs ( you and me) could be brought in and adopted as children of God (be saved)!
This morning, don’t believe the lies of man who convince you to stay isolated.
You are not beyond healing when Jesus is involved.
Don’t believe the priorities of man who tries to convince you to make your own way to the top.
Instead, hear the gospel, which rightly proclaims your unworthiness but then does the unthinkable and imparts love and grace so you can be healed and satisfied by the living God!