Mark 7:14-15 14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
Mark 7:17-23 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (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 the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
At this point in Jesus’ public ministry He is bringing to a head the false and dangerous teaching of the Pharisees. They looked and acted in a very righteous manner. They had added all kinds of rules on top of the 613 Old Testament laws that were given to Moses many generations earlier. One of these rules related to washing your hands before you ate food. They had developed a specific manner in which you had to ceremonially wash your hands in order not to defile yourself. All of their rules and traditions related to outward actions and they were devised in such a manner as to elevate the Pharisees and scribes who were experts in these laws and the only people in the nation of Israel who still knew the Hebrew language and thus could properly interpret the Old Testament scriptures. They were the spiritual elite and everyone knew and believed that they were to be looked up to and highly regarded. But the reality was that they were corrupt at the very core of their being just as everyone else in the nation of Israel by nature. The 613 laws were to show them that they were actually unclean and not clean.
Jesus makes a statement in verse 15 that would have astonished all those who heard: “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” How could this be? There were all kinds of laws related to clean and unclean animals recorded in Leviticus 11. There were laws about leprosy which was a skin disease (Leviticus 13). There were many commands which seemed to indicate that you were defiled by what you touched or ate and the rules the Pharisees had developed related to ceremonial washing only expanded on such teaching. Was Jesus abolishing all of these commands? How confusing it must have been for the Jews to hear Jesus’ words. The Apostle Peter would later have the same struggle and confusion when he saw in a vision all kinds of animals on a sheet descending towards him and he was commanded to eat even the unclean animals (Acts 10). Peter, as a Jew, had never eaten an unclean animal.
There is always the danger that you could grow up going to church or perhaps you were forced to follow rules or commands that are supposedly in the Bible and you think that by doing them you are made holy. You think, perhaps unknowingly, that you are saved by your actions. You think that you will go to heaven when you die because you are clean on the outside. But this is a totally false belief that will only lead to eternal damnation. You are still defiled within.
Jesus, in verses 21-22, gives a synopsis of what is in the heart of every man: 21 “evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” We are all corrupt by nature. We were all born into this world with a sin nature. We are all prone to evil and active rebellion against God. Even if we know the righteous commandments of God we cannot keep them as we are. Any attempt at obedience is only a form of ceremonial washing leaving us with an outward appearance of being clean but inwardly defiled and corrupted. The Pharisees did not understand the purpose of God’s Law.
The purpose of the commandments are not to make us clean but to enable us to see our state of inward corruption and our inability to obey God’s commands perfectly. We do not compare ourselves to others who are trying to live up to God’s standard but to God Himself who gave us the commandments. There must be some other way to actually fulfill God’s commandments. There must be some way in which the inward man can have his corruption removed. If only the Pharisees and scribes had understood this they would have been looking for the Christ to save them. If only they saw their inward depravity, they would have been leading the people to follow Jesus. For only in Jesus of Nazareth was the law perfectly fulfilled because He was inwardly pure and clean. Out of His heart flowed perfect love and not evil because He was not born with a corrupt nature as we were. Jesus obeyed God’s Law perfectly because He was inwardly perfect. He came to this world to save us from our sins by dying on the cross and as we repent and turn to Him in faith and believe in Him, He regenerates our corrupt heart. We receive His perfect heart and in turn can obey God as we should. When we are born again by the Spirit of God, we are actually clean on the inside first and then this becomes evident on the outside. We don’t try to be holy. We are holy because of the amazing change that has happened within us.
But the starting point for anyone who will ever come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is to see the evil within their own heart. It is always easier to see the evil in others. The Jews believed that it was the Gentiles (the foreign nations) who were evil and not themselves. They believed they were saved by obeying the Law but rather it condemned them. Jesus knew this and so as He further expands His teaching of what change is required in the heart in order to enter into this new Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing by next going among the Gentiles as we will see in the Book of Mark. His Kingdom would include Jews and Gentiles.
The scary thing for anyone who is self-righteous is that God will always expose the state of your heart. No matter how hard you try to hide the evil within, it is only a matter of time before God reveals it not just to yourself but to those around you. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you can be right with God apart from a new nature. No matter how hard you try to change, no matter how hard you try to deceive yourself that you are strong enough or good enough, the perfect standard of God condemns you. Your only hope is found in the Son of God who became the Son of Man. Jesus of Nazareth is the answer! Through faith in Him we are born again and the corrupt nature is removed forever! The defilement from within is replaced with the same Spirit that was in the heart of Jesus Christ! Do you know Him? Has this change happened in your heart? Do you know if the Spirit of Christ is within you?
Pastor Murray Hack