The Rev. Christopher Craig, pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Sylvan Grove, KS, joins the Rev. Dr. Phil Booe to study Mark 7:1-23.
Tensions erupt as Jesus faces criticism from the Pharisees about his disciples’ failure to observe ritual handwashing before meals. When questioned, Jesus boldly accuses these religious leaders of rank hypocrisy and misplaced priorities. Jesus teaches that external rituals cannot make one spiritually clean. Rather, it is the evil desires and intentions that emerge from within that defile a person.
Beneath the fast-paced action of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel of Mark lies a profound theological message: we are all in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. Though Jesus performs mighty deeds and calls people to repent, they repeatedly fail to understand his true identity and mission. Even his disciples abandon him in his darkest hour. Yet Jesus willingly suffers and dies on the cross as a ransom for many, accomplishing what we could not do ourselves – securing our justification before God. Mark presents Jesus not just as a miracle worker but as the divine Savior whose atoning sacrifice makes salvation possible for lost sinners.
Thy Strong Word, hosted by Rev. Dr. Phil Booe, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church of Luverne, MN, reveals the light of our salvation in Christ through study of God’s Word, breaking our darkness with His redeeming light. Each weekday, two pastors fix our eyes on Jesus by considering Holy Scripture, verse by verse, in order to be strengthened in the Word and be equipped to faithfully serve in our daily vocations.
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Traditions and Commandments
7 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,[a] holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash.[b] And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.[c]) 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?” 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.”
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)[d]— 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.”
What Defiles a Person
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.”[e] 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?”[f] (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 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.”
- Mark 7:3 Greek unless they wash the hands with a fist, probably indicating a kind of ceremonial washing
- Mark 7:4 Greek unless they baptize; some manuscripts unless they purify themselves
- Mark 7:4 Some manuscripts omit and dining couches
- Mark 7:11 Or an offering
- Mark 7:15 Some manuscripts add verse 16: If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear
- Mark 7:19 Greek goes out into the latrine
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. esv.org