IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




The Source of Evil

Date: Sep. 15, 2019

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Mark 7:1-23

Key Verse: Mark 7:15

Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.

Is there anybody here a neat-freak or clean-freak? I used to be one, and my mother and mother-in-law are. If you are a neat-freak or clean-freak, then everything has to be done just right. There cannot be any clutter on the tables or floor. There is a place for everything and everything in its place. Dishes are washed immediately, and clothes are washed in a timely manner. You have a schedule for when each part of the house is cleaned and having things amiss can make your skin crawl. Years ago, I was so particular that if a placemat was slightly askew, I would fix it out of habit. My mom cleans the couches multiple times a day because of the amount of dog hair that collects on it. When you clean, you do it because you think that being clean is better than being dirty. When you are clean, you are less likely to have pests and disease. When you are tidy, you have space and things are less likely to be broken. When you are neat, you know where things are. It can feel good, but, then, there are times where you can’t do a great job at cleaning, so you cut corners. You might messily throw objects in a closet or sweep things under the rug. It’s out of the way, and things look clean, but it is not really clean. The mess has just been moved around. In our heads, we might try to fool ourselves into thinking that it is actually clean, but in reality, it’s not. Our own cleansing can be very similar. Now, I don’t mean taking showers and baths, which is still good to do, but the cleanliness of our souls, minds and hearts. There are many times that we cover up the dirt inside us. We feel unclean and unworthy, but we put on the happy face and play the part that we think we need to play. We clean the outside but are just at a loss about what is inside. Today’s passage has us looking at cleanliness and seeing really seeing it for what it is.

Our passage begins, “The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed.” (1-2) This passage is a transitionary one between Jesus’ teaching in Galilee and his travels to the Gentile regions. In the passage, Jesus is still in Galilee, and while there, some Pharisees and teachers of the law came from Jerusalem to see him. Jesus’ fame had reached the ears of the religious leaders in Jerusalem. He had confronted them before, but Jesus had been in Galilee for a while and had not dealt with them as much. The Pharisees decided to send some of their own to keep an eye on Jesus. So, they came and gathered around Jesus. It was mealtime, so everyone sat down to eat. Much to the Pharisees’ surprise, Jesus disciples, just started in without even washing their hands. It was scandalous. Those disciples were eating food with hands that were defiled. They were unwashed. In the Pharisees’ eyes, it was a huge faux pas. Now, this wasn’t like when your mother told you to wash your hands before you ate when you were a kid. This had nothing to do with hygiene. It was all ceremonial.

The passage mentions, in the parenthetical, “The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.” (3-4) It was a part of their tradition to ceremonially wash before eating, especially when coming from the marketplace. Again, none of this washing was for hygienic reasons. The Jews had a number of thoughts on what would make them spiritually unclean. Many people thought that just being around Gentiles would make them unclean, which is why they would ceremonially wash after going to the marketplace. While at the market, the Jews would come into contact with Gentiles and they thought that that would defile them. They thought that those Gentiles were doing all sorts of dirty things. The Gentiles were so far away from God that, if they Jews even were around the Gentiles, they would become unclean. It made a little bit of sense. If you have clean clothes or dishes, touching something dirty will make those clothes or dishes dirty. A clean shirt does not make a dirty kid clean. Now, God, through Moses, did establish a number of laws pertaining to cleanliness. If you had a certain disease, you had to show yourself to the priest upon being cured. A priest in the service of God had to have a certain level of spiritual cleanliness to serve God and they had ceremonial washings as a sign of the seriousness of the cleanliness.

However, over time, the Pharisees and their ilk wanted to be more holy, so they started to follow those rules of ceremonial washing. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but eventually, the Pharisees wanted everyone to follow their rules. Now, I believe at this point in time, the tradition about washing was not as widely known or enforced. Now, for special occasions, people were aware. There were large stone jars the were used for ceremonial washing at the wedding where Jesus turned the water to wine. But I don’t think it was observed all the time because the disciples just went ahead and started eating. The Pharisees were appalled because Jesus was a Rabbi, and in their mind, he should have been teaching his disciples about the traditions that the Pharisees followed. So, the Pharisees looked at Jesus and asked him a question, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” (5) They were curious. It seems obvious to them that the disciples should be following the tradition of the elders in regard to washing.

At this point, Jesus answered them with an open discussion about the merits of ceremonial washing. It was a frank discussion explaining the reasoning behind washing, right? He even set up a little PowerPoint to help make his point, right? No, Jesus answered, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” (6-8) Jesus just kind of lays right into them by calling them hypocrites. Jesus knew their hearts and the real reasons for their question. They weren’t really wanting to honor God by following his commands. They held their own traditions above God’s commands. The Pharisees were supposedly a part of the Jewish religious leaders, but they didn’t really care about following God’s words. They had no real desire to seek God and they only sought to follow their own rules instead.

Jesus then proceeds to give an example of what he means, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” (9-13) One of the Ten Commandments is to honor your father and mother. That is one of the big commands of God. They should be some of the most important commands in a Jew’s life. A little after the commandment, the Bible mentions about anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. This showed the seriousness of the command and how important it was to truly honor your parents, but in the tradition of the elders, there was a loophole, something called Corban. Now, Corban probably had noble roots. To declare something as Corban, is to call it devoted to God. This made it easy to identify what a person wanted to give to God, but the problem is that a person could abuse it. Something could be declared to be devoted to God, but not actually given to God. You could devote it God, but use it for your own purposes, and that was what was happening in Jesus’ time. It became a loophole for honoring your parents. If your parents needed help and you could help them with something that you had, but you didn’t want to help them, all you had to do was say that you have devoted that item to God and you could get out of helping them. If your parents needed help moving and you had a truck, you could say that the truck is devoted to God and shouldn’t be used to move. So, the tradition of Corban could actually nullify the word of God, and Corban was just one example among many where the Pharisees’ tradition was held in higher regard than God’s word.

Jesus, then, went back to the concept of being clean, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” (14-15) Jesus said that nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them, but it is what comes out of a person that defiles them. It is an interesting thought that was completely different than what they thought. You couldn’t become dirty just because you were near a Gentile. You wouldn’t commit a sin just because a prostitute was nearby or a murderer. Someone else’s sin is not infectious to you. You cannot catch cancer because someone sneezed on you. We are defiled because of what is already there within us.

Now, the disciples were confused and, when they were alone, asked Jesus what he meant. “‘Are you so dull?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.’” (18-19) In regard to eating, eating pork would not affect a person’s heart or soul because the pork enters the stomach and heads out the rear when your body is done with it. From a spiritual standpoint, it makes a lot of sense. How could eating certain foods or eating a certain way affect the heart and soul? It is much harder to affect the heart and soul than what you eat or see.

Jesus continued, “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.” (20-23) Jesus said that it is what is already in a person that defiles them. It’s from a person’s heart where our evil thoughts come. Look at that list the Jesus gives, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. Each one of those things starts in a person’s heart. All these evils are already there in our hearts. They are not planted there by the things of the world. Pornography is not a good thing but, let’s not kid ourselves, getting rid of it will not rid us of sexual immorality, because it is already there. Porn just brings out what was already there. We can look at the violence that is in this country and advocate for better gun control, which is good, but we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that will solve the problem. The murder and malice originate from within us. If guns didn’t exist, we would just find another outlet to kill each other. Social media gives an outlet for pretty much the rest of the list. On social media, you see a lot of greed, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly, but abolishing social media would not solve the problem. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat have just made an outlet for what was already in a person. We like to blame external things for our ills, but the source of sin is our own hearts. It is not because we sin that we are sinners, but we are sinners and that is why we sin. We are the source of evil. We cannot be tempted to sin, if the desire were not already there.

We all have this genetic disease that causes us to sin. It is etched into us and we try to find a way to be clean, but we can only clean the outside. The filth will always ooze out of our hearts and dirty our appearance. It is in our nature to be evil, but it is our desire to do good. The apostle Paul wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:15-20) In our own lives, we want to do good, but are unable to. We search for ways to do good and not follow our evil ways, but we inevitably muck it up. Any good that we try to do becomes evil because of the sin living within us.

We might be able to clamp down sexual immorality and murder within us. We may even feel that we can banish it from our hearts, but we become arrogant at our efforts and even more evil because of it. The arrogance within us rises up and makes us even more insufferable. It is like a tar pit within us. The more that we try to push down on it, the more that gets on our hands. We are all sinners. We are all stuck with this tar on our hands. We are filled with its stench and no amount of cleaning with rid us of it. It keeps oozing out. We can clean the outside and put on a fresh coat of paint, but it will never be enough. Our own efforts are hopeless. Paul again, cries out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24)

And he answers, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25) Only Jesus can cleanse us. Only Jesus has the power to clean us from the inside out. The Jews had a sacrifice system to atone for sin, but that was just another outward cleansing. It did nothing for the inside. The Bible says, “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:13-14) Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He took the punishment that was meant for us, and by doing so actually cleansed us and solved our real problems. He found the cure for our genetic disease. He pulled all the tar out. Jesus changes us to be better. He brings us into perfection. The best thing is that all the work is already done. Jesus already went to the cross for us. The hard work is done, all we have to do is accept it and draw near to God. Let us close with one last word from the Bible, from Hebrews 10:22, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

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Luke 3:1-20

Key Verse: 3:4

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

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