BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS
The incident here happened in the Galilee, which is well north of Jerusalem. It is an attack over the issue of ceremonial defilement which has been instigated by the religious leaders of the city of Jerusalem. Their representatives have therefore come all the way up to Galilee just for this particular attack. The enemy is always keen to fight on his ground and we must be wary of entering into debates without prayerful preparation, as we don't want to walk into a well laid trap. The Lord of course is in no danger of this, but prayerfulness is our only preparation and path for protection.
It is of interest that the issues involving the issue of defilement are given in more detail, with more explanation, in Mark because the Gospel of Mark is written predominantly to the Romans who would not know what Jesus was talking about in this area, so much further explanation is given than in the Gospel of Matthew, which was written to the Jews who would know very well the cultural and religious background to this event. This again shows how different Gospels were written predominantly to different people groups.
The disciples are not being accused of violating the Law of Moses, as the Law does not demand for the hands to be washed every time prior to the eating of the smallest snack. However from the religious rules that developed in the centuries before the Lord this had become a “badge” of orthodoxy. According to the later Mishnah you could not eat anything unless you first washed your hands in a prescribed “spiritual” way, and this custom continues to this day in Jewish religious circles.
So the conflict is not over the breaking of the Mosaic Law, which they will never be able to accuse Jesus of doing, because He kept it perfectly. Here they are accused of violating the traditions of the rules that will be codified into the Mishnah within another forty years. The Lord very deliberately broke the Mishnah rules because he intended to point out again and again to them that these additions of men were unhelpful – they needed to return to Moses, not build a hedge around the Law of superfluous rules.
They are seeking further charges that they can accuse him of. He has already been called demon possessed, John 8:41-58, and now they accuse him of being a sinner because He violates their traditions. There is no sin in breaking the laws of men however.
Some of the quotes from the Mishnah (codified in the late 70s at Jamnia – but all the traditions recorded there were current in Jesus day) shows how the Pharisees viewed its status
1. He that contradicts his Rabbi is as he who would have contradict the Shekinah and he that speaks against his Rabbi is as he who would speak against God.
2. He that says something that he did not hear from his Rabbi causes the Shekinah, the visible manifestation of the glory of God, to depart from Israel.
3. It is more worthy of punishment to act against the words of the Scribes than those of the Scriptures.
This gives an idea of how the Mishnah was elevated to be of equal and sometimes superior authority to the Scriptures.
1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. 2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
The Pharisees and Scribes who were the religious leaders in Israel came all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee to try and discredit the Lord Jesus Christ. They critically observe some of Jesus’ disciples eating food with ceremonially unclean hands. They did wash their hands for cleanliness before eating, but did not care about the involved ritual washings of the Pharisees. It was not the washing of hands that cleansed from sin, but confession of that sin before the Lord. Psalm 4:4, Proverbs 17:3, 2 Corinthians 13:5, 1 John 1:9-10.
Mark explains for his Gentile readers the meaning of ceremonially unwashed. It was a technical term among Jews denoting whatever was contaminated according to their religious rituals and thus was unfit to be called Holy, or devoted to God. These men believed that by ritual they could purify their hearts and minds before God and be declared righteous. They believed that by means of outwards self disciplined activities the person could cleanse themselves of sin and defilement, and be ready to face God. Jesus rejected such a notion completely, and he attached their legalism as had the prophets before hi and as would the apostles afterwards. Psalm 66:18-20, 103:6-18.
3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. 4 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.
Mark here explains to Gentile readers who lived outside Palestine the common Jewish practice of ceremonial washing. The ritual washings were regulated by the Pharisees and were designed to regulate every aspect of Jewish interactions with the Gentile world, or just the normal contacts within the market place which all “defiled” them in their eyes. It was considered as binding as the written law and was passed on to each generation by legalistic and scrupulous scribes or teachers. In the late 70s of the first century these customs had been written down to form the Mishnah. Their focus was upon the false fact that they were “clean/holy” as Pharisees and any contact with unclean, non-Pharisees was going to contaminate them. The whole thing was based upon arrogance, superiority and externals. Jesus wanted them to see that they were sinners, not by contamination from a touch by others, but from their own evil thoughts. Proverbs 6:16-23.
The most common ritual cleansing was a washing of the hands with a handful of water, a formal practice required before eating food. This was considered to be particularly important after a trip to the marketplace where the legalistic Jew would likely be coming into contact with an unclean Gentile or such things as money or utensils. The washing had a prescribed routine about it, washing from the elbows to the tip of the fingers, but cleanliness wasn't the objective – washing away the defilement of contact with “common” things/people was. For a devout Jew to disregard these regulations was seen as a sin, and to follow them was the principle of goodness and service to God.
5 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?
The religious leaders directed their criticism to Jesus, who was the disciple’s teacher, and so was therefore considered responsible for their conduct. The Jewish leaders thought that the disciple’s failure to observe ritual washing was a symptom of deeper problems. Their concern was that the disciples and Jesus did not live according to the traditions of the elders. Note their criticism, it is not that they break the Law of Moses, but that they break the interpretation of that by the respected scribes and Pharisees of their traditional theological schools. They had built such a theological system around the Law of Moses that they had stopped studying it, except through their own commentaries. They were telling people what to believe about Moses and studying the commentators, rather than the real thing.
6 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. 7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8 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.
Jesus quoted Isaiah 29:13, from the Greek translation of the Septuagint, and applied Isaiah’s description of his contemporaries to these men before him, who he calls hypocrites – play actors with the truth. They were hypocrites because they made an outward profession of worshiping God, but their words were the words of practised actors using a script for their daily “play”. Like the actors in a Greek play, they could legalistically dress up “in character”, and speak from behind the mask of their scrupulosity, but it was a performance, not a reality that reflected the relationship they had with God. Matthew 7:13-23. They offered up towards God no genuine worship from their hearts, for their hearts will filled with their own self importance and pride.
Their worship of God was “in vain” because like the Jews of Isaiah’s day in the 700s BC, they were teaching that the tradition of men were to have equivalent weight to the Scriptures. Consequently Jesus charged them with abandoning the commands of God’s Law and instead adhering to the traditions of men. They had been directly told by Moses not to add or subtract from the Law received from God, but they had added to it all sorts of “traditions”. Deuteronomy 12:32, Proverbs 30:5-6. The path back to fellowship with God is by obedience to the real Law of Moses, not any additions by well meaning men. Isaiah 1:10-20.
9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
Jesus restated his formal charge against them, before the Law of Moses. He charges them that the religious leaders they follow were clever at bypassing God’s Law in order to observe their own traditions. He supported this verdict by citing a striking illustration in verses ten to twelve. They had deliberately ignored the real Law and replaced it with “laws” of their own that were not relevant to spiritual life, just their power structure as a corrupt religious system. It had all happened before and led to the Assyrian Invasions, and the Babylonian Captivity, and if they did not repent it would lead to the final captivity. Isaiah 24:4-6, 29:13-14, Psalm 119:126.
10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: 11 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. 12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;
Jesus cites the commandment from Exodus 20:12, which states that the Jews were to honour father and mother. The statement to honour is more than simple obedience, and implies a need to look after them physically and spiritually as well. The Jews from religious backgrounds were not looking after their parents in this day, as they were using a technique called the “Corban method” of conserving the funds for their own use and ensuring they could inherit all their parent’s earthly goods for their own pride filled plans. Proverbs 20:20-22, 30:15-17, 1 Timothy 5:4-8.
Corban was a method of declaring all your goods as “a gift” to the temple, whilst still allowing yourself access to the asset for use in your life time. Pharisees and others from amongst the religious hierarchy used this technique. This crooked system meant they would be able, if their parents came to see them seeking financial support, to have said that all their wealth was dedicated to the Temple, and therefore not available to assist their parents in their hour of financial need.
The Scribes said, that by declaring their wealth “Corban”, it set aside the requirements of the fifth commandment to honour their father and mother. The scribes emphasized that this vow was unalterable, and held priority over all their family responsibilities. It meant they would leave their parents starving on the streets, but they were eating all the food they wanted, for it was “corban”, and they were “holy” and so they could eat it, but their parents were “other” and so were barred from taking anything for their household into their bodies. It was an evil thing, as Jesus points out.
13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
By their tradition they nullified the application of the Word of God. The word for “making none effect” in the Greek was the same word used in the papyri for annulling contracts. To approve a future religious donation at the expense of violating God’s commandment regarding ones responsibility to parents was to set human tradition above God’s Word. The Corban was only one example of many other things like it, where tradition distorted or obscured the Old Testament. Thee men had in effect defiled the scriptures by their additions. It was raising their law above God’s – the ultimate blasphemy. Jeremiah 8:7-9, Hosea 7:11-14, 8:12-14.
14 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: 15 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. 16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
It is of note that in a number of early versions of the Scriptures verse 16 does not occur, but do not be distracted by this, for it fits in the sequence, and may or may not have been spoken in this context by the Lord, but it certainly was spoken by him at other times. The principle that the Lord teaches here must be understood and applied by all.
Jesus gives a very direct reply to hypocrisy of the Pharisee’s question here. He ignores the Pharisees before him and speaks directly to the crowd first, and gave a general principle applicable to everyone. Then he explained the principle to his disciples in verses 17-23.
Firstly He calls everybody to listen attentively to him as He speaks to the crowd of the true source of defilement. The first principle is that nothing outside a person can make a person spiritually unclean. The spirit is not the same as the body, and to make you unclean the thing/belief/object/person must become part of you to contaminate you. Jesus here spoke in a moral not a hygiene sense; remember it is ceremonial uncleanness that is in view here. Having noted this, the principle here applies in the natural world of bacteria also – the bacteria we walk through do not “defile/disease” us; they do this only if they enter at a vulnerable point and overwhelm us. A person is not defiled morally by what he eats, even if his hands have not been ceremony washed. If he has not practised good hygiene he may become physically ill with dirty hands or food, but morally he/she is untouched by the activities of his ceremonially unwashed hands and arms.
A person is defiled morally by what he thinks, even though he may scrupulously observe outward purity rituals. So Jesus contradicted and directly opposed the teaching of the rabbis, by stating that sin proceeds from within, and not from without. Leviticus 11:41-47, Proverbs 4:23, 6:16-22, Jeremiah 17:9-10. He also demonstrated the true spiritual intent of the Law regarding clean and unclean food. As you ate food that was stated to be unclean in the Mosaic Law you were not defiled by the food but by the disobeying of God’s command. It was the state of your rebellious heart that defiled you!
17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.
After they had left the crowd and come into the house his disciples ask Him for an explanation of the parable given in verse 15. Their failure to understand Jesus’ words and works is emphasized throughout and is traced to their “hardness of heart”. Remember the meaning of that term in its context in their days; they were so hardened into obedience to the traditions in which they had been trained, it was hard for them to think otherwise. Psalm 14:1-7, Isaiah 28:9-12.
18 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; 19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
In verse 18 Jesus says to the disciples, “Why are you so dull?” It showed that they, like the crowd, did not comprehend his teaching despite the instruction that He had given them. They were so filled up with the interpretations of the scribes and Pharisees of their childhood schools that they couldn't think sharply at all. They couldn't ‘cut through” the nonsense they had been trained in! Jesus now reinforces the concept that nothing from the outside of a person can defile them morally. The reason is that the food, or any other item, does not go into the heart which is the area that controls the human personality and thereby affects the moral nature. Rather it enters the stomach and will go into the sewer, but the evil thoughts that they have harboured enter directly into their the structure of their very personality. Psalm 41:6, 53:1-4.
20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
Having concluded that defilement of a person comes from within Jesus now states what terrible evils come from the Old Sin Nature.
1. Evil thoughts - Poneros Dialogismos – Evil is anything that is not in conformity with the plan of God and comprises both sin and concepts of human good.
2. Adulteries - Moicheia – unlawful intercourse with the spouse of another.
3. Fornications - Porneia - illicit sexual activity or any sexual activity other than with your partner.
4. Murders – Phonos – the illegal killing of another person.
5. Thefts – Klope – the illegal acquisition of other people’s property.
6. Covetousness – Pleonexia – Greediness on the basis of desiring to have more [pleon – more, echo – have and hold].
7. Wickedness – Porneria – related to evil - Poneros see above, being involved in the evil plans of the enemy.
8. Deceit – Dolos – acting out of deceit, cunning, guile, the pretence that people put up, hypocrisy.
9. Lasciviousness – Aselgeia – an absence of restraint, indecency, wantonness.
10. Evil eye – Poneros Ophthalmos – envy or jealousy, looking at others in a very lustful manner.
11. Blasphemy - Blasphemia - speaking ill of God or man.
12. Pride – Huperephania – the prime sin of Satan and the one that God most hates, haughtiness.
13. Foolishness – Aphrosune - foolishness, recklessness, acts done without respect of God or man
Jesus concludes with the statement “All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”
Obviously in principle there is nothing wrong with washing your hands before you eat, but it is a health safety principle. The Scribes and the Pharisees however contend that the disciples are contravening the tradition of the elders which was the oral law handed down in Israel from a select few rabbis who were “certified” by each other as “special”. When it was put in writing the tradition of the elders was formed into a document called the Mishnah.
It is noted that the washing of hands before a meal is not a commandment in the Old Testament scriptures but became a very strong part of the Mishna. If it had of been in the Old Testament the religious group would have said “Why do your disciples contravene the Scripture.
While washing of hands before eating is a good practical way of hygienic handling of food the religious group had made it into a sign of spirituality which it is not. They said you are not spiritual unless you wash your hands before meals. Whatever the benefits of sanitation they do not extend into the spiritual realm. Here is a case of religion taking something which is good and making a false issue out of it.
Religion is always looking for any opportunity to criticise people who are looking to be spreading the truth in grace.
It should be noted that good by itself is not spirituality. The tradition of the hand washing is good but it is not spiritual. Just because a thing is good it does not mean it is spiritual or from God. Washing your hands before a meal is good for the health but it is not an issue in spirituality.
The real issue is not washing your hands before meals, the real issue is your relationship with God. The Pharisees have put emphasis on their tradition rather than the Scriptures. We are to be Bible believers and not focus upon traditions.
Stability in family life leads to stability in national life. As goes the families of the nation so goes the nation itself. It is almost national suicide to practice lack of discipline and moral order relating to the family. These men placed their traditions ahead of caring for their families – and this was an evil.
People who will not accept the doctrines of the Word of God are offended by the Word of God as it clashes with their own man made traditions. Religion and legalism rejects doctrine and will fight doctrine. We are to be known by our friends and by our enemies.
The sins of the tongue express the sins of the mental attitude of a person and these are the things which pollute a person.
RELIGION [see page 27]
SIN: JEALOUSY [see page 45]
1. Christianity is not morality but a relationship with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
2. Morality is a by-product of the Spirit filled life. (Ephesians 5:3)
3. Morality has no power. (Galatians 5:16) cf. Rich Young Ruler
4. The power of Christianity is found in the filling of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)
5. Morality is absolutely necessary for the orderly function of the human race. The Roman republic was the most moral nation that ever existed. The Pol Pot regime and Idi Amin rule are examples of immoral governments.
6. Morality is for the whole human race. Unbelievers are capable of great morality. (Matthew 19:18, 20)
7. Morality cannot provide salvation or spirituality. (Galatians 3:2, Titus 3:5)
8. Morality has two main sources, the filling of the Holy Spirit and the area of strength of the sinful nature.
SIN: OLD SIN NATURE
1. We are born with a nature, inherited from Adam, which is against God and prone to sin (Ephesians 2:1, Romans 5:12).
2. The old sin nature is perpetuated in the human race by physical birth (Psalm 51:5, 1 Timothy 2:13, 14).
3. We are therefore considered spiritually dead at the point of physical birth (Romans 5:12).
4. Names for the old sin nature:
a) Flesh - Galatians 5:16
b) Old Man - Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:9
c) Carnal - Romans 7:14
d) Sin - Romans 5:12
e) Heart - Jeremiah 17:9
f) Member - Colossians 3:5.
5. The believer continues to have an old sin nature after salvation (1 John 1:8, 1 Corinthians 3:1).
6. The believer under the control of the old sin nature is called carnal (Romans 7:14, 1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
7. The old sin nature frustrates true production of the Christian life (Romans 7:15).
8. The old sin nature has two tendencies (Romans 6:6)
a) Area of weakness - pushes us towards lawlessness and sins (Hebrews 12:1)
b) Area of strength - pushes us towards asceticism and self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:6).
9. The old sin nature is not found in the resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15:56, Philippians 3:21, 1 Thessalonians 5:23).
10. Victory over the old sin nature is by achieved by considering your old life dead, surrendering to God, confessing sin and relying upon the filling of the Spirit (Romans 6:6,11, Colossians 3:9-10).
SIN: OLD SIN NATURE – THE FRUIT OF
1. The fruit of the old sin nature falls under four categories:
a) fornication – porneia – illicit sexual activity or any sexual activity other than with your partner.
b) uncleanness akatharsia all acts of indecency and uncleanliness that shock people, this includes abnormal sexual acts
c) lasciviousness aselgeia unrestrained lust people who are having sex for their own personal gratification, treating other people as sexual objects for their pleasure. Paul recognises that we are tempted in all these areas. Matthew points out that it is not only the doing of these acts but the thinking of these acts which are sins.
a) idolatry eidoltria worship of things other than God
b) witchcraft pharmakeia this involved magic, astrology, séances and sorcery.
c) hatred echtros this is unrestrained rage without a reason. You get so angry that no one can talk to you at all.
iv) strife eris contentiousness this is argumentation in regard to Bible teaching and spiritual matters.
a) jealousy zelos a bitter hatred towards another person who has something that you want. This is the father of all the other sins.
b) wrath thermos this is getting hot headed or flaring up. I f the person does not control the power of a hot temper they are under the power of the old sin nature and not the Holy Spirit. If you get this type of trouble at a church meeting you turn to the Word of God.
c) seditions this is faction forming
d) heresies this is one step forward from seditions and is a person who wishes to build on the factions. An example would be the KJV group. By separating on the basis of the KJV alone you have fallen into far more evil than is present in variations in the versions.
e) evil this is tied into jealousy eating away at the souls of people who harbour resentment.
a) drunkenness methai drinking alcohol to excess is not a sickness it is a sin. It is an inherited weakness, if your father is an alcoholic you should not touch alcohol at all because it is a weakness in the family. Avoid places where you could be tempted. If you have a weakness towards alcoholism you must deal with it.
b) revellings jomoi which means hell raising, a person who cannot bear silence but has to be drowned in noise all the time. Their life is empty and has no purpose but as long as they party vigorously and run from function to function they do not have to worry about their sin and the pointlessness of their life. When you are tempted to sin think about the Lord. Paul now adds and such like which means that if he has not hit their particular weakness they should fill in the blanks.
6. We all have weaknesses and unless you are on guard you fall every time. You have to ascertain your weakness and set your guard against it. God's way is to walk in the Spirit that is the way to deal with it.