2020-01-19 – Mark 7:1-23 – ‘Free at Last’
January 19, 2020

2020-01-19 – Mark 7:1-23 – ‘Free at Last’

Passage: Mark 7:1-23

Bible Text: Mark 7:1-23 | Preacher: Pastor Jerry Higdon | Series: Mark | 2020-01-19 – Mark 7.1-23 – ‘Free at Last’
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us today.

We have been going through the New Testament Gospel book of Mark, who was a young associate of the Apostle Peter. We are so fortunate now to enjoy Mark’s Gospel for which we can now study and know the life of Jesus through.

The word Gospel, you should know, is a very precious term for us Christians.
The word Gospel literally means “good news” and occurs 93 times in the New Testament. The Gospel or good news is that God loves us so much that He gave up His one and only Son Jesus to die for our sin on the cross. (John 3:16). The gospel is good news because our salvation and eternal life and home in heaven are now secured and guaranteed through Christ (John 14:1–4). The good news is that “[God] has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” (1 Peter 1:3–4). So in short, the Gospel is the “Good News” that through Jesus Christ we can be saved. Never forget this ladies and gentlemen. It is the key purpose for which we now come together here in this church. Praise the Lord.

Please turn in your Bibles to Mark 7.1, pew Bibles pg. 893 in God’s Inspired, Infallible and Living Word, but let us first start with Prayer.

Today we are going to see in scripture how the traditions of our faith, sometimes get more attention by the members then even God’s holy word. We should look upon this message today as a wise warning to all of us as we endeavor to live out our Christ centered lives together, in what we refer now as this church family of believers. Our church here is over 175 years old, in that there are a number of traditions and things that we hold onto to dearly. It is a delicate balance though to rightly honor the past and traditions, and that of fulfilling our call to be salt and light evangelists to the world at large while we carry out the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. We want to be relevant to the community for which we have been ordained by God to be planted in. But at the same time, hold on tight to all that is good and true in scripture so that we don’t appear to be just a wavering symbol in the choir of what is referred to as “religion”. So let us now read and learn together from God’s word and Jesus’s example that we have here today.
Starting at verse 1 of chapter 7, Mark wrote:

71 The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him. 2 They observed that some of his disciples were eating bread with unclean—that is, unwashed—hands. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, keeping the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they have washed. And there are many other customs they have received and keep, like the washing of cups, pitchers, kettles, and dining couches.) 5 So the Pharisees
and the scribes asked him, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders, instead of eating bread with ceremonially unclean hands?”

Now these Pharisees and scribes came all the way from Jerusalem to the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee near the town of Gennesaret Mark says, where Jesus was at that time and they gathered around Jesus. Now they didn’t gather round him to learn or be blessed, but to look for problems, to look for issues that they could raise as stink about. Kind of like an advanced party of Jews to audit of this new miracle worker Jesus that they had heard about.

What they did here in this verse is they chose one of many different issues and then they started to dissect it in front of Jesus and His followers, trying to make a mockery of Him. This is something akin to the way that political advisories today will dissect a speech or interview and then pull out a line or phrase out of context to blow it up and create problems for the person. We seem to have a lot of that going on these days don’t we.

The problem here that the Pharisees and scribes identified was that some of Jesus disciples were eating with hands that were unwashed. The underlying principle was that in the course of the day, a person who was ceremonially clean might have come into contact with a gentile, who by the very definition of the term was considered unclean. It is possible that you could have touched or been touched by someone who was unclean, and now without a proper washing, you would be defiled too. Funny thing is, you won’t find this “specific instruction” anywhere in the Old Testament. This idea of ceremonial washing of the hands before eating, did not originate in a command from God for His people. Instead it was just something the Jewish leaders thought would be a good thing to do that complimented God’s will. In this, it is very hard to fault them, because we do the same thing ourselves in many different ways.

For instance, No where does it say in the New Testament that we ought to worship specifically on Sundays. But yet we sometimes make it an issue if a “Good Christian” fails to meet on any given Sunday. Other examples might be that nowhere does it say we should be singing 16th century hymns; and no where does it say that should be sitting in pews either. In fact the earliest worship services were held primarily in people’s homes, where Jesus’ followers generally sat or leaned on floor-rugs. Again, traditions are fine, but that is until they become so important to us that they even trump God’s word and/or God’s will. When our religious traditions become more important to us than loving thy neighbor, and carrying out the Great Commission, then it becomes sin.

6 He answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines human commands. 8 Abandoning the command of God, you hold on to human tradition.” 9 He also said to them, “You have a fine way of invalidating God’s command in order to set up your tradition! 10 For Moses said: Honor your father and your mother; and Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death. 11 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or mother: Whatever benefit you might have received from me is corban’” (that is, an offering devoted to God), 12 “you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 You nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many other similar things.”

So again the problem Jesus identified that the traditions of the elders were elevated to being equal to or even greater than the commands of God. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad with having clean hands. As a matter of fact in Psalms 24:3 it says, “He that has clean hands, and a pure heart’ will ascend into God’s hill or stand in His holy place”. However, when we elevate our solutions to the problems of living faithfully in our culture to being divine mandates, then we create idols fashioned by our minds that glorify our own needs and wants. We let go of the things of God for mandates or idols of our own creation. And that’s when it becomes a sin. In this verse Jesus said that the Jewish synagogue leaders ignored the fact that people didn’t honor their mother and father as long as they gave their offerings. In fact they were somehow even supporting the disrespect of the parents which goes against God’s word and so Jesus called them hypocrites.

Their traditions and hypocritical judgmental activities became more important than God’s will. When it came to washing hands their rules were so meticulous that they became too big of a burden for most anyone to follow. For example, before and after every meal they had to wash their hands with somebody else pouring the water. The water had to equal at least the amount of 1 1/2 egg shells, and it had to be poured onto both hands which were lifted up so that the water was dripping down upon the wrist, to make sure that the whole hands and fingers were washed. Furthermore if they came from the marketplace they had to wash their whole body, and this became a legal duty even, and neglecting to do so could be considered a crime unto death. Neglecting to wash after one has eaten was “as bad as a murderer” in some ways. There were also rules about washing the cups, pots, vessels, and even the tables. These traditions were taught as God’s rules by the eminent teachers of Judaism. Volumes of traditions have all been neatly organized into what is called the Talmud which also says “my son, give more heed to the words of the rabbis then to the words of the Law.”

So these official religious Pharisees and scribes came to condemn Jesus, but it was Jesus who condemned them for their man-made rules and traditions. Jesus was so bold and He effectively was arguing that God was not happy with what they were doing, and according to the King James Version He finished by saying to everyone listening, “If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 7:16).

When we elevate and make man’s traditions the criteria for our faithfulness, then we effectively demean God’s word and His commands to us. We must be very careful about this brothers and sisters. Recall what Jesus said, as written in John 8, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”, and also, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”. Praise the Lord!  Verse 14 continues:

14 Summoning the crowd again, he told them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
17 When he went into the house away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, “Are you also as lacking in understanding? Don’t you realize that nothing going into a person from the outside can defile him? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into the stomach and is eliminated”
(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 people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, 22 adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”

This is a powerful Gospel understanding, brothers and sisters. Jesus wants us to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that in Him we are free indeed. Jesus schools the people that day that washing the outside doesn’t necessarily clean your heart. And He also shows that what you eat or drink doesn’t defile your heart either.

Now I have had the privilege of living all around the world during my time in the military and with John Deere. And I am here to tell you, there are things that I had to eat in the company of all those different kinds of people and their ways of life, that I don’t want to know even what it was. So to me, this is a precious proclamation by Jesus indeed, Lol. I love food, most any kind and it shows, Lol.

Let me reiterate brothers and sisters, Jesus is saying here that we no longer live under the Law or these restrictive man-made traditions. We now live in this time of Grace now under Jesus Christ, who more than any person that ever lived, met ALL the requirements under the Law, then became the perfect unblemished sacrificial Lamb for us, and paid for our sins on the cross of Calvary. And Praise the Lord, with that sacrifice comes grace and freedom. I love what Paul wrote in the book of Romans 6:14, “sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace”. We are free now from the burden of sin, Amen?

Coincidently, as we are celebrating tomorrow the Southern Baptist Rev Dr Martin Luther King Day, I will gladly quote him in saying, “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.” Of course he was addressing the idea of slavery and oppression, but that also applies to all other despicable man-made travesties and restrictions. Jesus is our Lord, Savior and King. In Him alone can we have such confidence and such freedom. Jesus is the Author and Creator of all things including our faith and our hope. He is truly the Gospel message incarnate.

As stated earlier, the Gospel is the “Good News” of Jesus Christ that we can be saved. And to be saved, one must accept Jesus as their savior. A simple path to that is what is referred to as the Romans Road. You may have heard of that before, but it is good to go through it together on occasion.

Everyone look at your bulletins. I printed out on the right side the Roman’s Road to salvation. Earlier we introduced again the word Gospel or the Good News. The Romans Road is our Gospel Message. So I thought it would be good for us to read this together.

If you are so inclined, you can cut this out and put it in your Bible, purse or wallet as a quick reference. When somebody asks how they can be saved, or how they can go to heaven when they die. This is something that you could give them, or better yet go through the verses together. And thereupon you both will be blessed in doing so.

Would you please stand and pray with me now.

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