Mark 7:6-13 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
What will be the end state when the leaders in a nation have become corrupt? This was the condition within the nation of Israel when Jesus and John the Baptist before Him entered on the scene of world history over two thousand years ago. Their appearance at such a time can give us hope that in spite of the great turmoil and distress in our day, God can yet make His presence known in a powerful way. The Pharisees and scribes were the only people in Israel who could read the Hebrew language. The Jews had lost their language when they returned from exile in Babylon many generations earlier. These leaders were incorrectly teaching the people of Israel. They had distorted and corrupted the Word of God- the means by which Israel could know the voice of God and be a light upon the earth. Without knowing what God revealed in the Bible how could they know God’s plan of salvation and how could they understand the righteous requirements of God’s Law? Without a proper knowledge of God, the nation of Israel would become just like all the other nations upon the earth and would be lost forever.
But the fascinating thing is that when Jesus entered into His public ministry, He did not come to save Israel but rather the whole world! His intentions were not ultimately to reestablish the throne of King David as the Israelites saw it, but rather to set up a global kingdom- the Kingdom of God where Jesus Christ would reign over individuals from every nation upon the earth. He would not rule over everyone from only a single nation but rather from those whom He has called among all the nations who will receive Him and submit to Him. But for those who reject Him (including the Israelites) they will one day in the future be cast into the lake of fire. They will one day be forever removed from the presence of Jesus Christ as the ruler of His perfect eternal kingdom when He creates a new heaven and a new earth following the final judgment.
At this point in Jesus’ ministry, He is demonstrating a formal rejection of the corrupt leadership within Israel as well as (we will see later) an opening up of the Kingdom of God to the Gentiles- to the people on the outside of the surrounding nations to whom the Jews had assumed were lost forever and that only a few of them would ever be saved and only as the were circumcised and as they rejected their national identity and became a part of the nation of Israel. To be saved was to become a Jew but this would no longer be the case as the Church was established. You did not have to forsake your nationality or all of your culture to be saved.
Here Jesus gives very specific examples as to how the Pharisees and scribes were misleading the people as He comes to the core problem in their teaching. He had already shown previously as recorded in the book of Mark that the Pharisees and scribes were teaching the people wrongly in regards to eating with sinners (Mark 2:15), fasting (Mark 2:18-22), and the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28, 3:1-6). And here in Mark 7, He condemns their traditions beginning with ceremonial washing (Mark 7:1-8). Then He exposes their tendency to place their man made laws above the law of God as given to Moses on Mount Sinai.
Jesus describes their laws regarding offerings given to God (through the Temple) in contrast with the fifth commandment. Of the Ten Commandments, the fifth commandment says: “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12). The Pharisees had come up with a man made law that if you devote your property as a gift to God then you do not need to to help your parents in their old age and provide for them. There were no senior centres in the nation of Israel two thousand years ago. The family was expected to support their elderly parents as part of the fifth commandment in honoring their parents. But the Pharisees and scribes taught that their spiritual authority and the needs of the Temple superseded the fifth commandment. You could effectively starve your parents if you donated to the Temple. It was a greater cause in their eyes to pour money into their pockets and in the upkeep of the Temple. But the commandments of God do not work in this way. One commandment does not trump the other but they all work together in perfect harmony as they reflect the perfect character of God. The fact that their man made law conflicted with the commandment to honor their parents showed that it was absolutely false. Their man made law had made void the Word of God. This was just one example of how they were corrupt in their hearts but disguised their desire for wealth in claiming that it was spiritual. By rejecting the fifth commandment they had rejected it all. It is all or nothing.
How often do we do the same? There is a tendency in us all to think that what we believe is the right way but often what we may think is truth contradicts the commandments of God. It is only as we really study and examine what God requires as recorded in the Bible that we will come to see His perfect righteousness. We all desire to make God’s standard less than what it actually is in order to satisfy our own wicked desires. We must submit to the commandments of God in their entirety. They are the only way by which we should live. But how many people even know what God requires of them? How many people claim to be Christians but they have never examined the Scriptures in detail to even determine how they are to live? If we love Him we will want to be obedient to Him. A rebellious child does not show love to their parents and the Pharisees were teaching the people to actively rebel against the commandments of God by claiming their authority in their man made laws was over and above the commandments of God. They had become gods and Jesus rightfully puts them in their place.
Is this how you live? Do you decide what is right and what is wrong? Is the standard by which you live your life based upon the commandments of God or by your own standard? Do you make void the Word of God by the traditions that have been passed down to you or the traditions that you establish? Or do you rejoice in the righteous requirements of God?
Pastor Murray Hack