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Apr 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Meditations in Mark – chapter 7 04/23/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to our RefleXion Community!          Peace be with you!

All my photos from my phone are saved “in the cloud” at Amazon, and every day I have the opportunity to look at my photos from “this date” in past years.  Do you ever do that?  This year I noticed a real difference in nature between this year and last year.  This year the trees outside my window are just barely beginning to get their leaves.  Last year they were full of foliage. In past years I had Monarch butterfly caterpillars already hanging in their chrysalises on this date.  This year I haven’t even seen a butterfly, let alone eggs and caterpillars.  Every season is different and has its own ways and timing. 

Don’t you wish we could look at our own souls from this day in past seasons?  If there was an audio message attached, I’ll bet it would say, “Look how far you’ve come!”  In any case, let’s be encouraged that there are seasons and reasons for our souls.  And we don’t have to judge or compare ours with others. 

Last week, Chuck reminded us that on the church calendar we are still in the “Easter” season, the season of resurrection. Can we look out our window and say to ourselves, “It is new season, that is all.  If I am in Jesus, I am still in the season of resurrection.  I’m being made new.” From Romans 8:38, “And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love.  Neither death or life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”

Will you pray with me:
Lord, thank You for Your promises.  Let this be the season where we take hold of them, and You, where we let go of old ways, where we let things be that aren’t ours.  Give us, we pray, resurrection power to grow in You, to be made new for Kingdom life.  We welcome You, Lord, as we welcome each other in Your name.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, the do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” Mark 7:1-5

Intro: I have been blessed with a number of extraordinary friends

One of them was incredibly creative
– he could hardly complete a project, because he was constantly distracted by new idea
• sometimes I would call him when feeling depressed
• his creativity was so inspiring, it changed my outlook
– he agreed to fill-in for me as a guest speaker
• it took him awhile to come up with a title for his talk, but eventually emailed it to me:
“Don’t Be the Kind of Christian There Are Already Too Many Of”
• Jesus gave talks on that same topic
◦ he said that regarding charity, prayer, or fasting, you must not be like the hypocrites (Mt. 6:5)
and in chapter 23, he tells his disciples,
The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat [to teach], so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For the preach, but do not practice (Mt. 23:2-3)
◦ he follows that statement with a long list of the wrong things they did

In my meditations that I’ll share with you today, I used the word “religion”

When we hear that word, we may think of a specific institution
– like the Roman Catholic Church or Southern Baptist Convention
• we may think of an organization built around a set of beliefs and practices
• religion is the visible expression of devotion to a deity or supernatural concept
◦ if we get no closer to God than external religion,
◦ we have an empty, lifeless container without the contents
– religion can bring out the best in people and the worst
• it can liberate people or oppress them
◦ it can be a blessing to a community or a curse
◦ it can make peace or it can make war
• all of my past meditations on this chapter focused on the dark side of religion
◦ in this passage, religion’s traditions turned people into self-righteous fault-finders

Jesus had little conflict with anyone other than religious people

The Pharisees and scribes imagined themselves to be in charge of religion
– it seems they felt they had to take control of religion and use it to control the actions of others
Gerald May, “I have to say again . . . that there is no ‘how to’ in [spirituality]. If we are willing for it, if we are open and awake to its possibility, it just happens. It is given. My religious faith explains it thus: God is endlessly, irrepressibly and unconditionally loving, always calling us home. But in that love, God leaves us always free to accept or decline the invitation. God treats us with absolute respect. God may beckon us gently or challenge us fiercely, but God will not make us puppets and pull our strings. . . . Love does not control. Love frees.”
• buried beneath the Pharisee’s and scribes’ complaint was a genuine concern
– in 2011, when reading Mark, I was also reading in Leviticus (roughly, chapters 11-15) — I wrote:
“The world of Leviticus was full of potential contamination that could pollute the soul. The list included things that could be ingested (ch. 11), touched (ch. 12), or issue from the human body (chs. 12 and 15). Every layer of human covering could be rendered ‘unclean,’ ‘impure,’ ‘defiled’; from one’s own skin, to their clothing, to their home (chs. 13-14).
“The infected person was excluded from the community of God’s people until they went through a cleansing ritual. The ritual of reinstatement occurred in stages that included inspection, a “sin offering” and bathing.”
• I have never fully understood this invisible pollution
◦ it wasn’t presented as a health concern (people then were unaware of germs or bacteria)
◦ it was more like a taboo that released dark energy
• the problem created by the religious people was how they interpreted those purity regulations
◦ their interpretation is presented here as
the tradition of the elders (v. 3) and . . . there are many such traditions that they observe (v. 4)

There is an element of their worldview that I find tragic

First, to them unwashed hands were not just dirty, but “defiled”
– they believed religious impurity could enter body and infect the soul
• there is another layer to this situation
◦ “defiled” translates the Greek word koynos, which translated literally means common
(the division in the purity code was between holiness and everything else)
◦ common or profane refers to everything that is shared by all people and everyday encounters
• normal human activities and interactions made people impure
◦ if you were someone susceptible to excess guilt, can you imagine what that thinking would do to you?
◦ every sensitive person would have an obsessive-compulsive disorder
– in verse 4, “wash” translates the Greek word for baptism
• this cleansing was a ritual purification and not a matter of hygiene
• I was invited to speak at a large Pentecostal church
◦ after service, pastor and assistant used disinfectant wipes to clean their hands
◦ it was probably wise, but I remember being bothered by it,
like they were wiping off the physical contact they had with “normal” people

Jesus did not defend his disciples directly

Instead, he pointed out what was wrong with the Pharisee’s and scribes religion

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men. Mark 7:6-8

– the quote from Isaiah knocks the wind out of every believer
• I have to ask myself, when I pray and worship, where’s my heart?
• the heart will be the central theme of Jesus’ rebuttal
– what Jesus stresses from the quote is a mistake they’ve made
• and it’s a very common mistake among many Christians
◦ they did not distinguish between human traditions and God’s commandments
◦ they assumed they were the same thing
Chuck Kraft, “The Scriptures are inspired; our interpretations are not.”
• frequently we have failed to make this distinction
◦ it is one of the short-comings of the religious mind

As we read in verse 4, and there are many other traditions that they observe
– it boggles the mind how many things get tacked onto the basics
• in the book of Acts, there were Christian advocates who insisted,
◦ that though we are saved by grace, it is grace plus circumcision (Acts 15:1, 5)
• religion is always adding to the list – we are saved by grace plus something else

I have imagined a pause between verses 8 and 9

Jesus waited for a response from them, but they remained silent
– maybe they were stunned
• it never occurred to them this quote could apply to them (as Jesus claimed it was written of them)
◦ they could hardly believe that, given all their religious commitments,
◦ they weren’t really honoring God
• perhaps they never thought about this: whether their hearts were in the right place
– while they were mulling this over, Jesus gave them an example
You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! – and he finishes with, And many such things you do (v. 9)
• they created as many loopholes for the serious stuff,
◦ as they did commandments for the mundane things
• traditions can be used to avoid keeping the commandments
◦ interpretations can be used to avoid doing as Jesus taught
◦ religion is often used to keep us at safe distance from God

In verses 14-23, Jesus turns religion in the right direction

There are spiritual toxins that can defile a person
– and those toxins are produced in the human heart
• no germ that enters us can makes us a thief, or murderer, or adulterer
◦ but what’s in our heart can turn us those directions
• purity does matter, but its source is internal
◦ it works from the inside out, not the outside in
◦ no purifying action is effective that doesn’t reach the heart
– it is the heart that has to be purified
• it’s a lot easier to wash our hands than to wash our hearts

Friday I was reading in 1 Chronicles – King David’s last words
– instructions to Solomon and his prayer for the people
• listen to what he says about the heart
And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart, for the LORD searches the hearts and understands every thought and plan (1 Chr. 28:9)
I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. . . . O LORD . . . keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments (1 Chr. 29:17-19)
• what we see is the heart is of central concern to God
◦ and that having a good and true heart is a cooperative effort
◦ God willingly works with us to make our hearts whole
– I always feel the need to work on my own divided heart
• it is encouraging to know God joins me — and he goes beyond anything I can manage
◦ he performs “heart surgery to remove stuff and to mend torn tissue
◦ he prescribe exercises to strengthen my heart
◦ and if necessary, God replaces my heart with a new heart (Eze. 36:26)

Conclusion: The remainder of the chapter is intriguing

Jesus travels to Tyre and Sidon, then Decapolis
Gentile territory, where the risk of contact with impurity was everywhere
In particular, he encounters a Gentile woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit
But, of course, Jesus was not defiled by his Gentile environment or contacts
He continued to do what he had always done
What he does for us today
He forgave, purified, healed, and brought God to people
Jesus doesn’t spread religion–he shares himself

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