Christ’s Power Over Every Need
The Gospel of Mark Sermon Series
“Teaching as Doctrines the Commandments of Men”
Bee keeping suit as a sin suit.
Religious People Focus on Little Things At the Expense of Big Things (vv. 1-5)
Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they 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.) 5 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?”
In Mark chapter 6 we see the feeding of the five thousand, and as the disciples are concluding the day they board a boat with 12 baskets of bread and fish. Chapter seven is the following afternoon, so it stands to reason that the disciples were eating the bread and fish from the day before. “But the objection raised is on ceremonial, not sanitary, grounds.”
There are Pharisees and scribes (religious leaders in the Jewish culture) who were gathering to observe Jesus and his disciples. This is the second time that these teachers of the law had come from Jerusalem to find fault with Jesus’ teaching.
They appear to be an investigating committee and when they investigated “they saw the little things. But they never saw the big things. They saw the violations of their hand washing codes. They did not see Jesus. They never took an open loo so that the true nature of the man and his teaching might come fairly before them.” They are so focused on pots and pans, and how you hold your hands when you wash them, and going through the prescribed motions, they overlook the Savior of the world.
“Not dirty hands” – that was not the point of the objection – but with hands unwashed, not ceremonially purified according to their ideas of necessity. It also says that some “some of his disciples” – Some of the disciples then, had gone through the process of being ceremonially cleaning their hands, and some had not.
Being unclean or impure causes a separation between God and His people and had resulted in the people having to leave the land – The traditions and teachings of the elders were trying to accomplish three things;
“It made the basic requirement that Israel be holy to the Lord something attainable for every Jew in everyday life. The Pharisees never thought that they were voiding the commands of God – only making them more applicable.”
“the tradition of the elders sought to forestall the dominant pagan culture from making inroads into Jewish life (see Lev. 20:1-7). It encouraged the devout to make conscious efforts to set themselves apart from the unwashed hordes destined for destruction. Actions, such as washing hands, were tangible positive gestures that displayed who God’s elect were.” These outward traditions were a way to show who was “in” and who was “out.”
“The tradition of the elders assumes that God created order and that human affairs prosper when things are divinely ordered – even when they seem only to be minor issues.” So for example when discussing hand washing, the elders specified “the quantity of water required, the position of the hands, and the type of vessel to be used.” And they even added what to say while you are washing your hands.
Does living one’s life according to the tradition of the elders keep you from being defiled?
No, because they become a substitute for faith. Superficial preoccupation with ceremonies had supplanted a deeper faith.
In John 17:14 we get the phrase that Christians are to be in the world, but are not to be of the world, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Being set apart, distinctly different from the world around us, is not the ultimate destination; it is beginning of a journey, a purpose. The John 17 passage goes on to say, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
Religious People Replace the Truth With Tradition (vv. 6-13)
6 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; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah, where even during his time, this same thing was occurring. The people’s worship was hollow, vain, worthless – they were going through the traditional motions, with no desire from their heart to draw near to God – because they were “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” These man made commandments became a substitute for genuine heartfelt, God honoring worship.
“Tradition was the ecclesiastical version of the law – the law as it came out of the hands of the great teachers. It was regarded as equally authoritative with the written law itself, and, by some, even more so. It was the very life and mission of the Pharisees to keep the traditional interpretations in full force.”
The Mishna, a collection of Jewish traditions in the Talmud, records, “It is a greater offense to teach anything contrary to the voice of the Rabbis than to contradict Scripture itself.” – the traditions of the elders have become more important than the Word of God itself.
So Jesus came to heal people, cast out demons, and to teach – and this is a bondage that Jesus was intent on freeing people from. The religious leaders covered the law with these traditions, so that the original Word of God was lost, but it also shovels unnecessary weight of rules and traditions that suffocated the spirit of the people.
“They had covered up the Word of God with their oral teaching. Jesus here shows that they care more for the oral teaching of the scribes and elders than for the written law of God.” They are not adding to the Word of God, they have substituted their own traditions in its’ place.
When we “teach[ing] as doctrine[s] the commandments of men” – there is no need for faith, and there is no need for heart. Your actions are not rooted in a love for God, only in wanting to appear and be in your own effort “good.” I am not a sinner, I am a godly person – see what I do!
An Example of this Substitution (vv. 9-12)
9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God) — 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
Jesus has called their teachings, “tradition of men,” “commandments of men,” and in verse 9, “your tradition” with the emphasis on your – thus disowning it himself. Jesus is completely rejecting their teachings because “it does not represent the will of God but can be used to legitimize the breaking of God’s command.”
(v. 11) Corban is the word for “a gift or offering to God.” Once the offering to God was given, it could not be taken back. “The single uttering of the word Corban “sacred gift” over a thing was supposed to set that thing apart from all ordinary uses and give it the character of a consecrated thing.” In the case of property a person could designate it as corban, and continue to use it with the intention of upon the person’s death it would then be used as an offering to God.
So instead of supporting his father and money, a son could say that the money was an offering to God, and then the Pharisees then forbid the son from using it to support his parents (it was a gift to God) and then allowed the son to use the money for himself.
It was a tricky way to keep from following the Word of God (taking care of one’s parents) and then using the money on yourself. Jesus is saying that such a vow is invalid, because it violates God’s command to honor parents.
But these traditions that find their way into the church often times tear churches apart. The author Swift describes in “Gulliver’s voyage to Lilliput, between the party which believed that an egg should be cracked at the big end and the party which believed that it should be cracked at the little end. So the big enders and the little enders fought to the death, to the complete ruin of their country.” Religious people can be incredibly cruel and heartless.
Religious People Think They Are Made Right With God By Outward Actions (vv. 14-23)
Things That Do Not Defile Us (vv.14-19)
14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
Moses’ law teaches not to eat certain types of animals (crustaceans, pork, divided hoof animals, etc.) because by eating these things you break the law and thereby become ceremonially unclean. Jesus says, what makes us ceremonially clean or unclean has nothing to do with what we eat – so is Jesus disagreeing with the law?
Jesus’ teachings “not only takes issue with a major feature of traditional Jewish religious practice but also rescinds a major body of OT material dealing with such ritual laws.” Also, new gentile believers who would be reading Mark’s gospel would be asking, “so should I be following the OT ceremonial teachings?
Matthew 5:17-18 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
The purpose of the law was to show mankind that no matter how hard they sought to keep God’s standard, they couldn’t and were in need of a Savior. The Pharisees and their traditions undercut that intention of the law. They taught you could please God by following their rules – Jesus says that’s impossible. “Jesus’ main point is that uncleaness is moral rather than ritual.”
Things That Do Defile Us (vv. 20-23)
20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
(v. 18) “And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding?” – “They had been trained in Judaism, in which the distinction between clean and unclean is ingrained, and could not understand a statement abrogating this. They had noticed the Pharisees stumbling at the parable of Jesus (Matt. 15:12). They were stumbling themselves and did not know how to answer the Pharisees.” 
This way of thinking was so instilled into their thinking that it was very difficult for them to change their own way of thinking. Tradition has this effect upon us, we stop seeking the higher things, and are content to follow the lower things’ “it’s just how we do things.”
Jesus releases people from the anxiety of thinking they have to follow all these rules and traditions, and the idea that their defilement or uncleanliness comes from something they may touch or eat on the outside. But, He also makes them aware that they are themselves the sources of their own defilement and the law does not give them an escape. “The only defilement worth serious consideration is that caused by the evil which comes out of the heart.”
You can’t clean the heart with a fistful of water in cupped hands. If I am the source of my own defilement – and that uncleanliness causes me to be distanced from God, and I find no hope in the following the law or the traditions of the elders, how then am I made clean, how can I be brought close again to God? What must I do to be saved?
The law was given to help us realize that we have a corrupt and sinful nature, and are in need of a Savior. Jesus came to fulfill the law by being the Savior that mankind needs. Romans 7:6 “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”
 Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume 1 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1930) 321.
 George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 7 (Nashville, Tennessee; Abingdon Press, 1953) 747.
 W. N. Clarke, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, Judson Press, 1950) 97.
 Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 2002) 247.
 Arnold, 248.
 “Blessed is He who has sanctifies us with his commands and commanded us concerning the washing of hands” Arnold, 248.
 Isaiah 29:13
 Clarke, 98.
 Max Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary, Mark (Nashville, Tennessee; Holman Reference, 2000) 117.
 Robertson, 322.
 Exodus 20:12; 21:16
 The religious leaders were backing their teachings on Numbers 30:1-10, where it speaks of keeping a vow made to God. Jesus is rejecting the idea of using one biblical text to negate another biblical text.
 Larry W. Hurtado, New International Biblical Commentary, Mark (Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendrickson Publishing, 2001) 110.
 James A. Brooks, The New American Commentary, Mark (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1991) 117.
 Clarke, 100.
 Robertson, 323.
 Buttrick, 750.
 Mark 7:16 “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear,” “Verse 16 does not appear in NIV, (or ESV) because, though it is present in the majority of the MSS, it does not occur in the important Alexandrian witnesses. It appears to be a scribal gloss.” 680. Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1984) 680.
 Brooks, 119.
 Robertson, 324.
 Alexander Balmain Bruce, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Grand Rapids Book Manufacturers, 1967) 389.