Their heart is far away from Me
Mark 7:1-23 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
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 comefrom 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?” 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
There are many people who are critical of the church who like to quote portions of scripture, like the one in today’s text, where Jesus is critical of the religious leaders. The text says: 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?” 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. ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” What is missed or is misrepresented by most people who are critical of the church is that Jesus was not critical of their righteousness, but rather He was critical of their sin. Jesus did not challenge the religious leaders and condone the sin of those who were outcasts. While many people frequently refer to portions of scripture like this; they neglect the continuing references Jesus makes regarding sin. He says: “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Many of the things Jesus names specifically are the very things those who criticize the church include in their lives and condone for our society.
There were and are 613 Levitical laws in the Jewish faith, concerning nearly every aspect of life and worship. More familiar, but unfortunately still controversial today are the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God. Jesus broke it all down to two commandments. In Matthew 22:37-40 He says: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and [o]foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” It is not that the other commandments of God are voided by these two. It is that these two, loving God and loving others are the foundation of all the others. In Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus says: “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus fulfilled the law through love. Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God’s love is not demonstrated by His acceptance or tolerance of our sin. It is not demonstrated in the relaxing of His commandments to adjust to our culture. God’s love is demonstrated in that while we were sinners, Jesus died for us. His death fulfilled the law. 1 John 4:19-21 says: We love, because He first loved us.If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. So, the love we have for God to fulfill the first and great commandment is born out of God’s love for us, demonstrated in the cross. In the same way, our love for others is also born out of the same love of God. Jesus says in the second commandment, that we are to love others as we love ourselves. We are to love based on our response to the love of God demonstrated in the cross.
If we return to what Jesus said in today’s text: “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” We need to acknowledge that it is the heart of people that Jesus is concerned with. We are to love God first with all of our heart. If our hearts are completely; wholly given to God, then there is no place for evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. In Jeremiah 17:9-10 God says: “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.” In John 14:15 Jesus says: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” We cannot trust our own deceitful hearts, so again we depend on the fulfillment of Christ. Jesus continues in John 14 saying: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” We cannot trust our own hearts because they are deceitful. They will lead us to accept, tolerate, relax and condone the things which give pleasure to our own flesh. We need to rely on the Holy Spirit. He will guide us in truth. He will cause us not only to remember what Jesus said, but also to keep His commandments. Galatians 5:19-25 says: Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Heavenly Father thank You for Your commandments which are for our good. Thank You for Your love demonstrated in the cross. Lord Jesus Christ thank You for Your words which are truth, light and life. Thank You for the fulfillment of the law and the prophets demonstrated in Your life and Your death and given to us through Your resurrection. Holy Spirit thank You that even though my own heart is deceitful, You are trust worthy. Only as I yield to You can I love God and only as I yield to You can I love others. Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit. Amen.