Saturday 1 September 2012

Pentecost 14 September 2nd 2012 Mark 7:1-23 Purity laws

Mark 7:1-23

Have you ever had food poisoning? I have twice and it was terrible. Each time it was fish that caused the trouble. The passage today is about things that defile you-make you unclean. Of course the Jews had long lists of foods you couldnt eat.

Marks gospel has been building the plot and there is growing discontent, the plot as it were has thickened. The religious leaders are described as without understanding
The Pharisees arrived on the seen having been spying on Jesus and seen his disciples.
Pharisees were religious Jews who practiced ritual purification. They refused to eat food from the market because it had been contaminated by unclean hands.Many Christians today feel the same about Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist foods-sacrificed to idols they will say.
The Jews of Jesus day observed many other traditions which included even the washing of beds. There is a difference today between Orthodox Jews who still keep some of the laws and Liberal Jews who dont.
The Pharisees and Scribes question Jesus in order to trap him out. They refer to
"What our ancestors taught us to do!"Jesus sees them as hypocrites, holding onto or grasping the traditions. They get out of laws concerning their parents who they are supposed to honour by deception. The funds, denied to the parent, can be accessed by the son. The Pharisees have given greater weight to their traditions than to God's law-they are legalists.

Jesus then moves his attention from the Pharisees to the crowd, from specific arguments to parables. Spiritual defilement is not caused by contamination from unwashed hands or anything, eg. contact with a dead body, or bodily fluids, foods.... HIV (kissing someone with Aids).
Jesus is not actually demolishing the purity code in Leviticus 15, nor the image of purity required of God's people as illustrated in the food laws etc., but rather the foolish notion that a person can, by the careful observance of external purity law, be declared holy. It's what comes from within that defiles us. The food that you put into your mouth doesn't make you unclean and unfit to worship God.
If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.
A parabolic saying is often a riddle, a dark saying, to draw out those with eyes to see. Taken literally, Jesus could be saying that food doesn't defile, only bodily fluids or a foul mouth defiles. The disciples come to Jesus privately for an explanation of the riddle. In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean. Purity is a matter of the heart/mind.
Evil thoughts - greed, covetousness with a sexual connotation, lust, lewdness, indecency, envy, jealousy, foolishness, stupidity come from within us.

In the following chapters Jesus will engage with Gentiles on the issue of holiness but here Jesus engagement is with Israel's religious elite. It well may be that Mark has the burning issue of table fellowship between Jewish believers and Gentile believers firmly in mind. Table fellowship is not possible where brothers and sisters are judged on the ground of a breach in holiness. Defilement is not a matter of externals, of hand-washing, but of the heart, for it is from a defiled heart that "evil intentions come." This defilement cannot be hidden behind outward performance. It's very easy to be fooled into thinking that the outward performance of the law makes us holy. None is righteous, no not one. Those who have some claim to holiness / righteousness before God are hypocrites, the less refined disciples, "eating with defiled hands", is no less a sinner. For believers, table fellowship rests on a holiness that is graced to us by a merciful God, a holiness that covers the defilement of the human heart, a heart washed clean by the sacrifice of Christ.



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