As we journey through the Witness of Mark, we want to encourage you to first begin with the Daily Reading that will take you through the entire book of Mark. Then, read the First 15 Scripture and Reflection to dive a little deeper into verses from the Daily Reading.
Today's daily reading is: Mark 7:1-23
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
In Mark 7:1-23, Jesus engages in a lengthy and detailed exchange about what constitutes cleanness and defilement. The Pharisees and teachers of the law came to speak with Jesus. The Pharisees were the strict moralists, the people who closely followed the commands and rules found in the law. They were big on “living right.” The teachers of the law were the religious scholars, the seminary professors, the Bible-answer-men of their day.
The religious leaders observed that Jesus’ disciples would eat food with unwashed hands. They were not concerned about public health. Rather, they were worried about law-keeping. In the first century, a tradition was established where Jews would undertake a ceremonial washing of hands before a meal to remove dirt or other impurities that might have been picked up in public. Mark tells us that the Pharisees observed other traditions that involved washing cups, pitchers, and kettles to keep them from being “unclean.”
Jesus has a harsh response. He quotes Isaiah and says the religious leaders honor God with their lips but are far away in heart, observing man-made rules rather than worshipping God. Jesus adds, “you have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men” (Mark 7:8). Jesus goes further, pointing out their various hypocrisies, ways they manipulate the commands to their own benefit, while at the same time severely holding others to a different standard.
In Mark 7:14 Jesus shifts the conversation and invites the crowds to listen in. He declares that nothing outside of a person makes them unclean, rather, what is within a person is what counts. God looks at the heart. The outward observances were meant to remind a person that they must be pure within. It is not only what we do that matters to God, but how and why. Therefore, we need inward renewal from God, change from the inside, out.
Jesus tells his closest associates, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Jesus makes it plain: you need a transformed heart. The evils we do come from the corruption within.
But Jesus came to renew the heart. In Jeremiah 31:33-34, God declares through the prophet, “‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’”
When Jesus later celebrates the Last Supper with his disciples, he takes a cup of wine and declares it symbolic of a new covenant that is enacted through his blood. In that moment, God was bringing his purposes to completion in and through Jesus. Christ would atone for sin on the cross, making forgiveness and new life possible for all who trusted in his work. When we look upon what he has done, we find freedom from the old self, victory over sin, and a renewed heart. Jesus changes us through his love and sacrifice.
Do not trust in outward observances to make you clean. Do not trust in your own works. Going to church, making good choices, being kind, praying, reading the Scriptures, serving--these are all good things. But they are not your salvation. Jesus is your salvation. He cleanses and forgives.
Trust in the completed work of Christ, look to him to renew your heart, to purify your motivations, and to enable you by his grace to live unto God.
Holy Spirit, come and purify my heart. Convict me of sin, and bring to mind wrongdoings I need confess so that I might experience forgiveness, grace, and healing. I’m sorry for ways I fail. Lead me into all truth so that I might make choices that honor you from a right motive. Give me wisdom to know myself, firstly, but please also reveal yourself more fully to me so that my actions, words, and every deed might spring forth from a heart that is completely yours. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.