7) The Stain (Mark 7:1-23)

Chap 1: The Dance (Trinity) (Mark 1:9-11): Do you expect others to dance around you?
Chap 2: The Gospel, The Call (Mark 1:14-20): Is your gospel good news or good advice?
Chap 3: The Healing (Mark 2:1-5): Are your sins mainly against God or people (Ps 51:4)?
Chap 4: The Rest (Mark 2:23-3:6): Are you trying to find rest in your efforts for significance?
Chap 5: The Power (Mark 4:35-41): Do you enjoy goodness and calm in a storm?
Chap 6: The Waiting (Mark 5:21-43): Do you have peace when God’s delays?


"We're all trying to cleanse ourselves, or to cover our uncleanness by compensatory good deeds. But it will not work." (Jer 2:22) (80)

"No matter what we do, or how hard we try, external solutions don't deal with the soul." (76)

"Though you're praying and trying your very best to be good, your heart doesn't change." (77)

Like religion, which is trying to be good, "politics is another outside-in approach that does not change the heart." (78)

"To be human is to feel inconsequential." Christina Kelly (78)

Being Clean Before God

The religious leaders accuse Jesus' disciples of not living according to the tradition of the elders, because they ate food with "unclean," that is, unwashed, hands (Mark 7:1-5). This might seem extreme to us, but it was their effort to enable themselves to recognize that they were spiritually and morally unclean, and that they couldn't simply enter the presence of a perfect and holy God, unless there was some kind of spiritual purification. It's like making sure you clean up and are "spotless" before meeting your big date, or before meeting the President.

Why do we Feel Unclean even if we Deny the Existence of Sin?

Jesus agreed that in our natural "unclean" state we're unfit for the presence of God. However, today many dislike moral absolutes, or deny that there are any moral absolutes. Yet, many agonize over feelings of guilt and shame. The brilliant and bizarre Franz Kafka, in his book The Trial recognizes through a fictitious story that though we don't believe in judgment, and we don't believe in sin, yet we still feel that there's something wrong with us. We still have a profound, inescapable sense that if we were examined we'd be rejected. Thus, we still feel that we aren't acceptable, and that we need to prove to ourselves and others that we're worthy, lovable, valuable.

What to Do with Our Uncleanness

Jesus agreed that of course we are unclean, but he completely disagreed about what makes us unclean, about the source of our uncleanness (Mark 7:14-16). Jesus repeats privately to his disciples that it is obviously not what is outside that makes us unclean (Mark 7:17-19). To Jesus, what is really wrong comes out from the inside (Mark 7:20-23). To Jesus, the evils that come from the heart, no matter how seemingly small, are so evil that it requires drastic action (Mark 9:43-48). As you would not ignore a burning pillow even if the rest of the house is not burning, we should not ignore a sin no matter how seemingly "small" the sin is. Why? Because it always leads to separation from God, which results in intense suffering, first in this life, and then in the next. The Bible calls that hell. We must do anything we can to avoid it, including cutting off our hand, our foot, or our eye (Mark 9:43-48).

We can Cut Off Hand, Foot, Eye, but what about the Heart?

Outside-in will never work, because most of what causes our problems works from the inside out. The world can never really be divided between the good and the bad. Why? Given our sin and self-centeredness, we all have a part in what makes the world a miserable, broken place.

Does Religion, Politics, Education, Beauty Change and Improve Human Beings/Hearts?

Religion: How much effort to refrain from evil and to struggle to be good, to repent, to pray, to do good deeds, is good enough?

Politics/Education: Lord David Cecil said after the Holocaust: "The jargon of the philosophy of progress taught us to think that the savage and primitive state of man is behind us... But barbarism is not behind us, it is [within] us."

Beauty: Can making yourself look more beautiful, more chiseled, clean you on the inside?

Can Christian Ministry Change our Hearts?

If we try to find our sense of significance and worth by the outward measures of a successful Christian ministry, we will be no different from non-Christians who are struggling for wealth, fame, popularity, power, success, romance.

Inside-Out Cleansing

Since nothing outside can make us unclean, "Jesus declared all foods clean" (Mark 7:19). What does Mark's editorial comment mean? Jesus did not mean that it was now OK to eat any kind of food, clean or unclean. Rather, Jesus is saying here that the cleanliness laws have been fulfilled--that their purpose, to get you to move toward spiritual purification, has been carried out; they're been fulfilled. How could Jesus say that?

God would clothe Jesus in our sin (2 Cor 5:21; Zech 3:4, 8-9). Jesus would take our penalty, our punishment, so that we we may be clothed with fine linen (Rev 19:7-8). Jesus was crucified outside the gate where bodies are burned--the garbage heap, a place of absolute uncleanliness--so that we can be made clean (Heb 13:12). Through Jesus Christ, at infinite cost to himself, God has clothed us in costly clean garments. It cost him his blood. And it is the only thing that can deal with the problem of your heart.

Question: Are you living with some "uncleanness," some failure, some sense of insignificance?

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