Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mark 7 - Inner Purity and Outer Conformity


LINK: Mark 7


BACKGROUND

102. Jesus teaches about inner purity:  Mark 7:1-23, Matthew 15:1-20

News was spreading throughout the land. The religious leaders came from Jerusalem to Gennesaret (#6 on the map) to interrogate this upstart named Jesus who violated the Jewish rabbinical traditions.  

Mosaic traditions came from God through Moses. The hundreds of rabbinical laws were added over the centuries after the Jews' returned from Babylon. Jesus' disciples were breaking one of them by not properly washing. 

Jesus replied to their challenge with a question to get at the motive of the religious leaders' hearts, but what does the fifth commandment to honor one's mother and father have to do with ceremonial washing?  Everything!

The vow of Corban (literally means "offering") was a rabbinical tradition that required money be dedicated to God's temple, but it became a religiously acceptable way to neglect one's parents! 

Jesus knew everything about the uncleanness of the hearts of these blind guides and turned their interrogation into an object lesson for the crowd. God is more concerned with the cleanness of your heart than external following of laws in order to appear clean on the outside. 

Jesus quoted a prophecy from Isaiah that said this would be so (29:13). 

The following event starts the third year of Jesus' public ministry A.D. 29-30.

103. Jesus sends a demon out of a girl: Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-30

Jesus withdrew to Tyre and Sidon (8 & 9 on the map) to get away from the pesky religious leaders and encountered a pagan Gentile woman from the Canaanites. The Canaanites were the original inhabitants of Palestine. They caused many men of Israel to stumble as they disobeyed God by marrying the idol worshiping Canaanites (Numbers 13:29). They were despised by the Israelites and referred to as "dogs."  Matthew's Jewish audience would have understood what a persistent act of faith it was for this woman to approach a Jewish rabbi! Mark's Gentile audience would have been in wonder and thanksgiving!

The woman's faith was great because she understood that even Jesus' leftover "crumbs" had the power to deliver her daughter from demon possession! This story is significant in that even though Jesus' focus was the Jews, He also cared about Gentiles who exercised faith. You will remember that Jesus only commended Gentiles for their great faith, here and the story of the Roman officer's son (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10, Event #68). 

104. Jesus heals many people: Matthew 15:29-31, Mark 7:31-37

Jesus went 20 miles north to Sidon on the coast and then southeast, avoiding Galilee, to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee called Decapolis (#10 on the map). Commentators believe this out of the way route was to guard His time with His disciples as He gave final teachings. This also explains why He gave orders not to tell anyone about the healing of the man. 

The Mark account gives details about the deaf man who had trouble speaking. Jesus said, "Ephphatha!" Some commentators believe that this indicates that the man was not a Gentile because Aramaic was spoken by the Jews. 

REFLECTION

Jesus always turns thing on their head, cutting to the heart of the matter. Recently, I read King Lear by Shakespeare. In the beginning, Cordelia answers her father truthfully from the heart while her two sisters conform to convention on the outside. The story progresses to show the inner blackness of the sisters' hearts manifesting the characteristics on the "evil list" in this portion of Scripture (Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:21-22)!

Cordelia, in the end, honored her parent from the purity of her heart, while her two sisters did not. Cordelia is the hero in this story while her sister reveal their inner depravity. 

Sometimes our hearts are so encrusted over with conformity that we cannot get to it. I am working with a woman right now that is just beginning to understand the motives of her heart. She was raised in a Christian home where her family "cleaned the outside of the cup" for Sunday mornings but never cleaned the inside of the cup behind closed doors in their home.

Repentance has never been a regular part of her prayer life. Slowly, through this daily practice, God is getting to the heart of the matter with her, and we are all benefiting from the sweet transformation. 

APPLICATION

Can you get to the heart of the matter with God? Don't forget repentance in your prayer time with Him. 

Confession is a very important part of any personal prayer time. I pray regularly through a series of Morning Affirmations in the book Face to Face: Praying the Scriptures for Intimate Worship by Kenneth Boa. I love the “Examination” and “Identity in Christ” sections of those affirmations. God’s love and forgiveness does free us! I will close in our prayer time with those sections from the book.

PRAYER

Try reading this prayer from Face to Face: Praying the Scriptures for Intimate Worship (pp. 4-5) out loud as a verbal affirmation:
Examination 
Holy Spirit, search my heart and reveal to me any unconfessed sin you find in me: 
Search me, O God, and know my heart; 
Test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
See if there is any offensive way in me, 
And lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24) 
Lord, I thank you for the forgiveness you promised when you said: 
Come now, let us reason together: 
Though your sins are like scarlet, 
They shall be as white as snow; 
Though they are red as crimson, 
They shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18) 
My Identity in Christ 
I rejoice, Lord Jesus, in the identity I have in You: 
I have been crucified with You and it is no longer I who live, but You who live in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in You, the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Yourself up for me. (Galatians 2:20) 
I have forgiveness from the penalty of sin because You died for me: 
But You, O God, demonstrate Your own love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) 
I have freedom from the power of sin because I died with You: 
In You, O Christ, I was circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by Your circumcision, having been buried with You in baptism and raised with You through faith in the working of God, who raised You from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12)
I have fulfillment for this day because You live in me: 
I eagerly expect and hope that I will no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always You, Jesus Christ, will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is You, Jesus Christ, means everything and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21) 
By faith, I will allow You, O Christ, to manifest Your life through me: 
Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in You and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of You. (2 Corinthians 2:14)
All the "Morning Affirmations" can be found HERE.
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