Concerning Unwashed Hands
“Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.” – Mark 7:1-8
One of the main reasons for Jesus’ coming was to set aside the ceremonial laws which man had created, adding to God’s law. Man was putting ceremonies and rituals above God’s law.
Once again, we see the Pharisees and scribes (the teachers and leaders of the Jewish people) coming all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee. This was at least 100 miles. It would have been one thing for them to come so far to be taught by Jesus, but they were coming to check up on Jesus and to quarrel with him.
Here in verse 5, we see the religious leaders have picked up on Jesus dismissing his disciples from the obligation of a ritual. They were eating with unwashed hands. (Click here to read more about this ritual.)
- “And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.” – Mark 7:2
- “Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?” – Mark 7:5
If you look closely at their question, you’ll see the Pharisees did not ask, “Why do not thy disciples do as we do?” This was their real meaning, as they considered themselves the standard. Even though it looks like the complaint is against the disciples, it really is directed towards Jesus. They complain to Jesus expecting that he would correct his disciples in order to follow tradition. But knowing the attitude of the religious leaders, Jesus did not take time to explain the matter to them. Instead, he turned the tables on them and focused the attention on a serious violation of Moses’ law by their human traditions. Jesus reproves the Pharisees and for their hypocrisy of pretending to honor God when they had no intentions in their religious observations.
- “He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” – Mark 7:6
This was Isaiah’s prophecy:
- “Wherefore the Lord said, For as much as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:” – Isaiah 29:13.
The word “hypocrite” originally referred to an actor who wore different masks during a play. Here Jesus uses it to show that their lives were inconsistent with their profession. They were being hypocrites, simply acting out a part, while their hearts were far from what was real.
- “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.” – Mark 7:7-8
The very things the Pharisees thought they were doing to make themselves clean was actually hindering them from becoming clean. They were concerned with cleaning the outside of the body while Jesus is concerned with cleaning the heart, the inside of a man. It’s a heart thing.
Concerning the Corban Vow
Next Jesus explains to them how they have broken a specific commandment with their own law. The law of Moses required the Hebrew people to honor their parents; this was the fifth commandment. That term honor did not suggest mere lip service. It included caring for them in their various needs.
- “And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” – Mark 7:9-13
The fifth commandment that God gave to Moses was given to adults. To honor one’s parents, it was the child’s (especially the son’s) duty to take care of their parents when they could not care for themselves on their own. But the religious leaders had concocted a scheme to avoid parental responsibility. A person could designate part of their financial resources as Corban. In Jewish practice, the word Corban had been coined as a sort of vow. According to tradition, one could designate his financial resources as Corban, suggesting that it belongs to God and was not to be used for personal interests.
Jesus was accusing the religious leaders, those who were supposed to be devoted to observing the law, of violating it. By this time, they were probably very angry with Jesus and had all the evidence they needed to march back to Jerusalem and begin planning to publicly accuse and kill him. Where was their heart?
Concerning Kosher Food
Looking at verse 14, it seems Jesus did not get a chance to explain these words to the Pharisees.
- “And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:” – Mark 7:14
Can you see the seriousness of Jesus at this point? He is telling all of the people, “Listen up. Listen carefully. Make sure you understand what I am going to tell you.” He wants to set the record straight.
- “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.” – Mark 7:15
Jesus explains that anything a man eats or drinks simply goes through him, regardless of if he has clean hands or not. But what comes out of the heart, mind, and conscience defiles a man. Our wicked thoughts, affections, words, and actions are what defile us. We must wash our hearts from wickedness. Again, it’s a heart thing.
Notice what happens next in verses 17-20:
- “And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.” – Mark 7:13-20
Jesus has to explain what he was teaching to the disciples because everything he had been teaching was not what they had been taught in the past. Everything they knew about religion was about touching, tasting, rules, regulations, and rituals. Simply put, it doesn’t matter what you eat or drink or whether you fail to wash in the right way. That’s not what makes you unclean. What you eat and drink simply goes through you. What makes you unclean comes from within your own heart.
Finally, looking at verses 21-23,
- “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” – Mark 7:21-23
These verses list twelve categories of sin. The first six are plural describing actions: sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, and wickedness. The second six are singular describing motives: deceit, sensuality (lust), envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. You may say, I’m not capable of doing one or any of these. But remember Romans 3:23,
- “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” – Romans 3:23
And remember Jesus set the bar even higher,
- “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” – Matthew 5:28
Even if you look with evil thoughts, you have sinned. God is not concerned so much with what you do or what you look like on the outside. He is concerned with you heart. If your heart is clean, then your outside will follow.
Jesus is the only one who can overcome an evil heart. Only the person and work of Christ can clean our heart and produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control.
Where is your heart?
JOURNEY: Y – You.
Our hearts are deceptively wicked (Jeremiah 17.9), so we must choose to follow Jesus in order to have the kind of heart and life that He wants us to have. When we choose to allow Him to be our desire and to fill our desires because they are His desires (Colossians 3.1-2; Psalm 37.4), we prove our heart has not only been cleaned, but that it belongs to Jesus.
OPPORTUNITY: Following Jesus is telling the truth about what is a clean heart.
1. Ministry is not about rules, ceremonies, or rituals.
2. Ministry is teaching the truth about a clean heart.
3. Ministry is about having a right heart.
- Learn: Know the truths of what having a clean heart is by studying the word heart in the Bible.
- Live: If you don’t have a clean heart, take the necessary steps to have a clean heart by asking God to help you overcome any of the actions or attitudes Jesus mentions in Mark 7.21-22.
- Love: As you learn to live with a clean heart, do so in love (Colossians 3.14-15) out of thankfulness to God (Colossians 3.23).
- Lead: Share with others the truths about how God has cleaned your heart and that He wishes to do the same for them.