Mark 7:14-37 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 7:14-37

  • Mark 7:14-23
  • 14 Summoning the crowd again, he told them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 When he went into the house away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, “Are you also as lacking in understanding? Don’t you realize that nothing going into a person from the outside can defile him? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into the stomach and is eliminated” (thus he declared all foods clean). 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, 22 adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”
    • When it was first spoken, this passage may have been near the most revolutionary passage in the NT
      • Jesus declares that nothing that goes into a person can possibly cause defilement, for it is received only into the body, which rids itself of it in the normal physical way
      • No Jew ever beloved that, and orthodox Jews do not believe it even now
        • Leviticus 11 has a long list of animals that are unclean and may not be used for food
        • During the Maccabean times (Intertestimental period), the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes was determined to root out the Jewish faith
        • One of the things he demanded was that the Jews should eat pork, but they died in their hundreds rather than do so.
          • “But many in Israel were resolved in their hearts  not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die.” (I Maccabees 1:62-63)
          • Fourth Maccabees tells the story of a wide and her 7 sons. It was demanded that they should eat pork. They refused. The first had his tongue cut our and the ends of his limbs cut off; he was then roasted alive in a pan. The second had his hair and the skin of his skull torn off. One by one they were tortured to death while their aged mother looked on and cheered them on; they died rather than eat meat which to them was unclean
      • Against this, Jesus made His revolutionary statement that nothing that goes into a person can make that person unclean. He was wiping out at one stroke the laws for which Jews had suffered and died. No wonder the disciples were amazed
      • In effect, Jesus was saying that things cannot be either clean or unclean in any real religious sense of the term. Only people can be really defiled by their own actions, which are the product of their own hearts
      • This was a shatteringly new doctrine
      • With one sweeping pronouncement, Jesus declared the whole Jewish system irrelevant and that uncleanness has nothing to do with what people take into their bodies but everything to do with what comes out of their hearts
        • He begins with evil desires
          • Every outward sin is precede by an inward act of choice
          • Therefore, Jesus begins with the evil thought from which evil actions come
        • Next, sexual immoralities
          • This word means every kind of traffic in sexual vice
        • Theft
          • Judas was a thief when he stole from the money bag
          • A thief in this sense of the word is a mean, deceitful, dishonorable thief
        • Murders
        • Adulteries
        • Greed
          • The accursed love of having
          • I’s not the desire for money and things; it includes the desire for power, the insatiable lust of the flesh
          • The lust for having which is in the heart of the person who sees happiness in things instead of in God
        • Evil actions
          • Describes a person or thing which is actively evil
          • The one in whose heart there is the desire to harm
          • This evil not only corrupts the person who has it; it corrupts others too
          • This same Greek word is the also the title of Satan
          • The worst people of all, those who are doing Satan’s work, are those who, being bad themselves, make others as bad as they are
        • Deceit
          • It is crafty, cunning, deceitful, clever treachery
        • Self-indulgence
          • They are lost to decency and to shame. Evil mean and women may hide their sin, but those who have this, sin without a qualm and never hesitate to shock other people
          • Jezebel was the classic instance of this when she built a pagan shrine in Jerusalem
        • Envy
          • Literally, the evil eye, the eye that looks on the success and happiness of another in such a way that it would cast an evil spell upon it if it could
        • Slander
          • Insulting other people or God
        • Pride
          • Showing oneself above
          • It describes an attitude that may never come public
          • It may be that in their heart of hearts these people are always secretly comparing themselves with others
        • Foolishness
          • Moral folly
          • It describes not those who are brainless fools, but those who choose to play the fool
    • It is a terrible list which Jesus cites of the things that come from the human heart. But it should lead us to an honest self-examination
  • Mark 7:24-30
  • 24 He got up and departed from there to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it, but he could not escape notice. 25 Instead, immediately after hearing about him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she was asking him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, because it isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she replied to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he told her, “Because of this reply, you may go. The demon has left your daughter.” 30 When she went back to her home, she found her child lying on the bed, and the demon was gone.
    • When this incident is seen against its background, it becomes one of the most moving and extraordinary in the life of Jesus
    • Tyre and Sidon were cities of Phoenicia, which was a part of Syria
      • It lay between Galilee and the sea coast
      • Tyre was forty miles north-west of Capernaum
        • It’s name means the rock
        • It had two great rocks joined by a 3,000 foot long ridge, that formed a natural breakwater, meaning Tyre was one of the great natural harbors of the ancient world
        • They also formed a great defense; Tyre was not only a great harbor, but also a great fortress
        • It was from Tyre and Sidon that there came the first sailors who navigated by the stars
        • Phoenician sailors circumnavigated the Mediterranean and found their way through the Pillars of Hercules until they came to Britain and the tin mines of Cornwall. It may well be that in their adventuring they had even circumnavigated Africa
      • Sidon was 26 miles north east of Tyre, and 60 miles north of Capernaum
        • It also had a natural harbor and the city was so ancient no one knew who founded it
      • They were part of Syria, but they were all independent, and they were rivals
        • They had their own kings, their own gods, and their own coinage
        • Outwardly they looked to the sea; inland they looked to Damascus, and the ships of the sear and the caravans of many lands flowed into them
    • Jesus is in Gentile territory
      • The previous incident shows Jesus wiping out the distinction between clean and unclean foods
      • In symbol, we have Him wiping out the difference between clean and unclean people
      • It may well be that Jesus is saying by implication that the Gentiles are not unclean but that they also have their place in the Kingdom
      • Jesus must have come north to this region for temporary escape
      • The hour would come when He would face His enemies, but that was not yet. Before it came, He would seek the peace and quiet seclusion, and in that withdrawal from the enmity of the Jews the foundation of the kingdom of the Gentiles was laid
      • It is the forecast of the whole history of Christianity; the Jews’ rejection had become the opportunity of the Gentiles
    • The Phoenician cities were actually a part of the realm of Israel
      • When Joshua portioned the land out, the tribe of Asher was allocated the land as far as Great Sidon, to the fortified city of Tyre. But Asher never did clear the land completely
        • Where the might of arms was helpless, the conquering love of Jesus was victorious 
        • The earthly Israel had failed to gather in the people of Phoenicia; now the true Israel had come upon them
        • It was not into a strange land into which Jesus came; it was a land which long ago God had given Him for His own
    • The story itself must be read with insight
      • The woman came asking Jesus for help for her daughter
      • His answer was that it was not right to take the children’s bread and give it to dogs
        • The dog was not the well-loved companion that it is today; more commonly it was a symbol of dishonor.
        • To the Greek, the word dog meant a shameless and audacious woman; to a Jew, it was equally a term of contempt
        • No matter how you look at it, the term dog is an insult
      • How, then, are we to explain Jesus’ use of it here?
        • He did not use the usual word; he used a diminutive word which described not the wild dogs of the streets, but the little pet lap dogs of the house
        • His tone of voice made all the difference
          • The same word can be a deadly insult and an affectionate address, according to the tone of voice
        • Jesus did not shut the door
          • The children must be fed, but only first; there is meat left for the household pets
          • Israel had the first offer of the gospel, but only the first; there were others still to come
          • The woman was a Greek, and the Greeks had a gift of repartee; and she saw at once that Jesus was speaking with a smile
          • People did not have knives and forks, or table napkins; They ate with their hands; they wiped the soil hands on chunks of bread and then threw the bread away and the dogs ate it
            • I know the children eat first, but can’t I even get the scraps the children throw away?
            • Here was a sunny faith that would not take no for an answer, here was a woman with the tragedy of an ill daughter at home, and there was still light enough in her heart to reply with a smile. Her faith was tested and her faith was real, and her prayer was answered
            • Symbolically, she stands for the Gentile world which so eagerly seized on the bread of heaven which the Jews rejected and threw away
  • Mark 7:31-37
  • 31 Again, leaving the region of Tyre, he went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had difficulty speaking and begged Jesus to lay his hand on him. 33 So he took him away from the crowd in private. After putting his fingers in the man’s ears and spitting, he touched his tongue. 34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”). 35 Immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly. 36 He ordered them to tell no one, but the more he ordered them, the more they proclaimed it. 37 They were extremely astonished and  said, “He has done everything well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
    • Jesus was going from Tyre to the territory around the Sea of Galilee in the south; and He started by going to Sidon; That is to say, He started going due south by going north
      • That would be like going to Jackson by going to Memphis first
      • The journey took no less than eight months
      • It may well be that this long journey is the peace before the storm, a long communion with the disciples before the final tempest breaks
    • When Jesus did arrive back in the region of Galilee, He came to the district of the Decapolis, and there they brought a man who was deaf and who had a speech impediment
    • There is no miracle which so beautifully shows Jesus’ way of treating people
      • He took the man aside from the crowd
        • Jesus showed the most tender consideration for the feelings of a man for whom life was very difficult
      • Throughout the whole miracle, Jesus acted what He was going to do.
        • He put His hands in the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spit
          • In those days, people believed that spit had a curative quality
          • Jesus looked up to heaven to show that it was from God that help was to come
          • Then He spoke the word and the man was healed
    • The whole story shows us most vividly that Jesus did not consider the man merely a case; he was an individual
    • The man had a special need and a special problem, and with the most tender considerateness Jesus dealt with him in a way that spared his feelings and in a way that he could understand
    • When it was completed, the people declared that He had done all things well. That is none other than the verdict of God upon His own creations in the very beginning
      • When Jesus came, bringing healing to broken bodies and salvation to human souls, He had begun the work of creation all over again
      • In the beginning, everything had been good; human sin had spoiled it all; and now Jesus was bringing back the beauty of God to the world which human sin had rendered ugly

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