MARK 7:1-23

Please turn in your Bibles to Mark chapter 7, as we continue our study through the Gospel According to Mark, and we are going to begin in verse 1.



1. At this point we are well into the second half of Jesus’s ministry. And still the Jewish religious leaders were after Jesus. And once again they sent a official group of religious leaders after Jesus, traveling some 80 miles from Jerusalem, to find some fault in Him. They weren’t interested in what He had to say, only to discredit Jesus, to bring Him down.

2. And who was Mark righting to? The Romans, the gentiles, who were not aware of Jewish Law, and that is why Mark was explaining these traditions. If He was writing to the Jewish people, they would have been clearly aware of these things for they were taught them from a very young age. And this hand washing these religious leaders were upset about had nothing to do with their hands being dirty. These boys did not come in from a hard days work and eat with hands that were filthy.

Then what was all this fuss about? The disciples of Jesus did not go through this elaborate hand washing that came from the tradition of the elders, it was not found in the word of God. They were watching these guys closely. Now these traditions they believed was

"the fence of the Law." You see, it was not the Law of God that protected the tradition, but the tradition that protected the Law. Let me explain and you will see how foolish this was, and still is.

The Scribes, who came into being around 4 or 5 BC, copied the Word of God, and they became the legal experts of the Law of God, which was contained in the first 5 books of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy, also called the Torah. They then began to define the principles of how these things should be carried out in our daily lives, which became the oral Law and then the traditions of the elders.

Then, around 3 or 4 AD, this was all written down in a book called the Mishna. In it you will find all the rules and regulations that were developed from just the simple statements made by God. And there is no way you could keep these, and I will give you just a couple of examples to show you how ridiculous they are, and not at all what God intended. In fact, the Mishna says "It is a greater offense to teach anything contrary to the voice of the Rabbis then to contradict Scripture itself." You see, the oral Law, the tradition of the elders, became more important than the Word of God itself!

You could spit on the ground on the Sabbath but not on the dirt because you could step on it and then you would be irrigating the soil, that was work, and that was then a sin! There are a few pages in the Bible that speak on how we are to cleanse ourselves, mostly related to the priests, but not entirely. And the idea that God was showing was that we are unclean before God and He was the only one who could truly cleanse us. The Mishna contains 186 pages on how you can work and keep yourself clean, which of course is impossible to keep, and God never intended us to keep those things, they are not in His Word, only the traditions of men.

It was so bad that the Mishna contained 35 pages on how to wash your pots and pans so they would be clean, making you clean before God, or so they thought and taught. And this was not only taught and kept by the religious leaders, but also the common people. If that is how you approach God, with the keeping of rules and regulations, you will never experience the joy God has for you. He wants a relationship with you, and they were approaching God by doing all the externals, God wanted their hearts!

3. And as these religious leaders came to Jesus, their complaint was the disciples of Jesus were not following the traditions of the elders. And this was not just the way they washed their hands, but how they cleansed their pots and pans, and-so-on. Plus many of the other rules and regulations they were not following. And these religious leaders were setting Jesus up for the kill, or so they thought.


1. When these religious leaders came, I’m sure the crowds took a step back. These were the big shots, and now it looks like Jesus is in trouble. And I’m sure things got very quiet as they waited to hear the response of Jesus to this question. And understand this, the question they asked Jesus was not a question of faith, but of tradition!

2. Tradition can be good, but for the most part it is not. It can become just a habit, something you do, without any substance. It can just be a form of legalism, which Christ has set us free from. Praying before meals is good, unless it becomes an empty tradition. And as we are going to see, Jesus does not support tradition because, for the most part, it was not of God.


1. Jesus hits these guys hard and He doesn’t even address their question but exposes their heart. They were talking tradition, Jesus was speaking forth the Words of God. He takes them to Isaiah 29:13 and is telling them their actions are empty, their heart is far from God. And Jesus starts out by saying "Well done" or "Beautifully did Isaiah" speak about you, he hit the nail on the head regarding you guys. In fact, Jesus calls them hypocrites or a person who puts on a mask. They had all the externals down for looking spiritual, but their hearts were far from God. You might say that Jesus was not politically correct in the words He used, nor did He know how to win friends and influence people, but He did know how to get to the heart of the matter!


1. These traditions were not of God, but of men. And yet they made them into doctrines of God and were forcing the people to obey them. And Jesus is telling them this kind of worship is empty, it is worthless! Do you really think God cares how many times you wash your hands? Of course not! Do you really think God cares how long your hair is? Of course not! Do you really think God cares if you wear a 3 piece suit, or a dress to church or jeans and a shirt? Of course not! God wants your heart!


1. Notice what Jesus is saying here. To obey the traditions of men they have to disobey the Words of God, and Jesus says they are doing it beautifully! God has shown us the way to life through Jesus Christ, and man has now attached to that free gift all kinds of rules and regulations to follow, and that is keeping people away from a true relationship with God.


1. Jesus takes them back to the Word of God. God said that we are to honor our parents and the penalty for not honoring them was death. And this is not just to obey your parents, but to bring them honor, to care for them, provide for them, help them when they needed help.

VERSES 11-12

1. That was the Law, but now here is the tradition, their interpretation of the Law. If you didn’t want to care for your parents you could say "Corban" which meant all that you had was given over to God. Your parents would get nothing, but you would keep it all. It was hypocrisy, self-satisfying, and not of God. But, because it was the tradition of the elders, it was gospel truth, or so they taught. Now Jesus hits them with the reality of their actions.


1. By following this tradition they were negating the Words of God, and they did this with hundreds of things.


1. Remember, when these religious leaders came, the crowds took a step back, but now Jesus is calling them back, He wants them to understand the truths of God and not be deceived by the traditions of men.

VERSES 15-16

1. It is not what you eat or how you eat that defiles you, but what comes out of your heart that does. You were born in sin and you need help, and only God can help you with this problem. He alone can give you a heart transplant!

2. In Matthew we get a little more information, and in Matthew 15:12 we are told, "Then His disciples came and said to Him, ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" They were worried that Jesus hurt their feelings, but notice how Jesus responds. Beginning in verse 13 we read "But He answered and said, ‘Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch." Matthew 15:13-14. Yes they were offended because Jesus came against their traditions. He also tells us to stay away from people like that. Those that are more interested in external rituals than a relationship with Jesus, because they are blind, and if you follow them you too will end up in the pit with them.


1. Was this a parable? Of course not! A parable was a earthly illustration with a heavenly point. This was the truth and they did not get it.

VERSES 18-19

1. He was telling His disciples, "Don’t you get it?" Taking certain foods into your body may affect you physically, like eating jalapeno peppers! But it does nothing for you spiritually, it doesn’t affect your heart.

VERSES 20-23

1. From the heart comes sin. It has nothing to do with what you ate, how you washed your hands, the society you come from, the parents you had, and-so-on. Man is born with a sin nature. That is our problem and Jesus gives us 13 statements that show what is in the heart of man. The first seven are pleural and deal with our wicked behavior. The last six are singular and deal with the attitude of the person. Lets look at these a little closer:

A. EVIL THOUGHTS - Wicked thinking.

B. ADULTERIES - Unfaithfulness in marriage.

C. FORNICATIONS - General sexual sin.

D. MURDERS - Speaks of the slaughtering of someone.

E. THEFTS - To steal.

F. COVETOUSNESS - Greed, to want more or to want what someone else has.

G. WICKEDNESS - Evil intentions, a desire to hurt others.

H. DECEIT - A fishing term that speaks of baiting a hook, or snaring someone.

I. LICENTIOUSNESS - Unbridled lust, not caring what others think of what you are doing.

J. EVIL EYE - You hate it when others succeed.

K. BLASPHEMY - To slander or speak evil of another person.

L. PRIDE - Arrogance that is only interested in self.

M. FOOLISHNESS - To be senseless, clueless, both to moral and spiritual things.

This is what comes out of the heart of sin. Man is not basically good, he is wicked. And God is not interested in religious traditions, the traditions of the elders. What does He want? In John 6:29 we read "...‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." Why? So He can give you a new heart! Paul said in II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." That is what God wants to do in you!

Let me leave you with this contrast between the traditions of men and God’s truth:






It is your choice in who and what you want to follow. One leads to death, the other to life, abundant life!