This is a serious problem. Your greatest need, my greatest need, is to be acceptable to God. We do so much to try and appear acceptable, but Jesus says that appearances do not matter. What we can not see is more important to Him that what we can see. Jesus explains what He means in verses 14 and 15: ’and when he had called all the people unto Him he said unto them ’hearken unto me every one of you and understand, there is nothing from outside that entering into a man can defile him: but the things that come out of him, those are they that defile a man. If any man hath ears to hear let him hear.’ Jesus is keen for people to hear and understand what He is about to say. He starts of by saying ‘listen,’ then He says ‘understand,’ then He says ‘if anyone hath ears let Him hear.’ Three times he asks for people to listen in such a short period of time, what He is about to say is important. What He says turns the world upside down. It is not what we eat that is the problem. It’s not what we wear, it’s not who we hang out with, it’s not the music we listen to or the tv we watch, although we need to make wise Christian choices all of that stuff. Jesus says that there is a problem inside of us that needs fixing. He says that it is the things that come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
What makes us unacceptable to God? What is inside of us, not what is outside of us. It’s who we are that is the problem, not what we do. What we do is only a problem because it is evidence of who we are. In one sentence Jesus turns the world upside down. In one day He challenges, and changes what everyone things about people and their relationship with God. It wasn’t popular then, and it’s not popular now, but look at what He says. Those things that come out of Him, they are what defile Him. Amazing. And terribly important.
In the Old Testament people thought that God didn’t care about people breaking His law, that as long as they were in the right place at the right time they were acceptable to God. Here in Mark some people tried to keep the law genuinely believing that it would make them acceptable to God. Today, some people think that as long as they’re wearing a tie on a Sunday morning in church it really doesn’t matter what they do the rest of the week. Some people hold to the standards and traditions that we come up with because they genuinely think that God will be pleased with them. Here Jesus makes it clear that they are both wrong. It is the inside that counts.
But why? We need a bit more than that, and, it seems, so did the people with Jesus. We see in verse 17 that when He was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked Him concerning the parable. We see from this that people then were not really happy with the idea that there is something wrong inside of us. They even thought Jesus was telling them a parable rather than just preaching to them. I love Jesus’ response here. ‘are ye so without understanding also?’ He says, basically, guys, if you don’t get this you are really stupid. Don’t you understand what I’m saying? ‘whatsoever thing that enters a man from outside can not defile Him.’ It’s like Jesus is jumping up and down and yelling right now. ‘It’s not the outside that’s the problem it’s the inside.’ We need to get this, just like the disciples did and we need to respond.
So why is the inside the problem? Because that’s where the action happens. Because the inside controls the outside. What does the heart do? It produces, as verse 21 says: evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. Do you see what the problem is that Jesus is addressing? It is these things that make us unacceptable to God, not the food we eat or the clothes we wear. It’s our evil thoughts, our lying, our pride that is the problem. No amount of coat and ties are going to put these things away. These are the things, verse 28 that come from within and defile a man.
What Jesus needed his listeners in mark 7 to understand is that their problem was not outside them, but inside them. That their problems could not be solved by washing their hands, or eating the right food, or wearing the right clothes. It is a tragic thing in the church today that so many people think, and teach, that by wearing certain clothes, by being in the right place at the right time and behaving ourselves we can be made acceptable to God. What a small, unimpressive, puny ‘god’ they have created for themselves.
I started off by asking how we could be acceptable to God. The bad news is that our problem is much worse than we thought, our problem is deep, deep, deep inside of us. The good news, the best news, is that, as we saw last week, Jesus came for people who are sick like we are sick. He came to heal us. He came to save us, to change us the way we need to be changed, from the inside out.
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