The Text (Mark 7:14-23)
14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”
17 When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. 18 So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” 20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
Jesus has just answered the Pharisees’ criticism of His ministry by pointing out their own religious hypocrisy. Jesus’ disciples did not observe the hand washing traditions of the Pharisees because these rituals were not commanded by Scripture. The Pharisees, however, had been ignoring the clear biblical command to honor their parents and care for them in their old age. Now Christ goes further. He says in today’s verses that even the dietary laws of the Old Testament are not as important as the spiritual principles that they were supposed to teach. The concept of unclean vs. clean foods was given by God to show the people His holiness and their need for His mercy and grace. Even in the Old Testament, God’s concern was always for the hearts of His people. The outward ceremonies were supposed to guide the people to heartfelt repentance and faith. The Law of God, such as commands not to murder, lie, and commit adultery, was not a ladder by which people would earn God’s favor. Instead, the Law was a mirror that would show the people their own sinfulness and tremendous need for God’s forgiveness. What Jesus means in today’s passage is that even if people did perfectly obey all of the Law outwardly, their hearts would still be “defiled” or evil because of their sin nature.
We all fall short of God’s glory and need His mercy and grace. Even on our best days as Christians, we still sin in our thoughts and desires. Our hearts are desperately wicked and corrupt. When we are saved, we receive new spiritual hearts from God. But we still have our old sinful nature, too. The Christian life is a daily battle to die to our own sinful desires and receive godly desires from fellowship with Christ. That’s why reading through books of the Bible, meditating on the meaning of the passages and verses, and responding to what God tells us with our prayers and lives is so important. When we neglect personal Bible study and prayer, we lose sight of God’s perfect standard and how short we fall from achieving it. We start to think that our sin is not that bad, and that we don’t need God that much. We fall out of fellowship with the Lord without realizing it. Praying that as we approach this coming school year, we would all renew our commitment to stay in the Word and on our knees before the Lord. Let’s hide His Word in our hearts so that we do not sin against Him.