April 11, 2015.
Daily Reading: Mark 7-8.
Background: Mark 5-6.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Traditions of men: Jesus has had many run ins with the Pharisees, and this instance is not all that dissimilar to the other disputes they have had with Him. In this case, they attack His disciples for not washing their hands before they ate, which was a tradition that the elders had bound on the people. This was not the only tradition that they were binding on the people, as Mark records several other traditions of the elders that were common during that time. It is obvious that the Pharisees and the scribes held the traditions as law and assumed that Jesus would too. This was going to be their way of discounting Jesus, or at least catching Him in a bind and showing people that He was not who He was claiming to be. But Jesus answers their question in a way that they were likely not expecting, for He turned it around on them. The Pharisees and the scribes were honoring God with their lips, but their hearts were far from God because they bound the traditions they held as law on the people (see Isaiah 29:13). Only God (and those that God has given it to) has the authority to bind commandments on mankind. If God did not bind it, then the Pharisees had no authority whatsoever to bind it as a command. However, they thought that their position and continuing traditions allowed them this authority. Perhaps they just thought this was a better way. After all, most of what the Pharisees bound beyond the law was stricter than the law, in order not to even get close to breaking the law. There is nothing inherently wrong with washing your hands before you eat, however, when the Pharisees started binding this on other people is when they crossed over the line. Sometimes we have this very problem today, especially when we think our way of doing something better fulfills the will of God, or is the “safer” option. It is good to have conviction, however, just as was the case with the Pharisees, as soon as we start binding our convictions on other people when the word of God has not done so, then we have crossed the same line the Pharisees had crossed.
2. Heart problems: After dealing with the foolishness of the Pharisees, Jesus calls the people to teach on a topic that was similar to the problem the Pharisees were having. Often we see unrighteousness through outward sin. We see a person caught in adultery, sexual immorality, drunkenness, ect., but we forget that these outward sins are all symptoms of a deeper issue. Each of these sins stem from a heart problem, for they all start with unrighteous thoughts in the heart. Once an evil seed is planted, however small it may be, it is very hard to keep it from growing and eventually causing the outward signs of sin. Jesus calls His disciples here to teach and warn against the evil thoughts of the heart, because this is the root of the problem. It is not what goes in that defiles a person (such as a physical food that the Jews considered unclean), but what is already within and subsequently comes out. Let us work to nip the problem in the bud, treating the underlying disease rather than just the symptoms on the surface.
3. Healings: Towards the end of this chapter we read of two accounts of healing, one of a gentile woman’s daughter who had an unclean spirit and the other of a deaf and mute man. In both accounts there was a considerable amount of persuasion (perhaps to exhibit their faith) that was needed before Jesus preformed the miracle. With the case of the woman who’s daughter had an unclean spirit, Jesus did not heal the daughter immediately because she was not of the children of Israel, the chosen people of God, through whom the Christ was sent and for whom He was sent. However, because of her great faith and understanding of who she was in relation to God, Jesus healed her daughter. It was imperative that Jesus first be sent to the Jews, for it was they who had received the promise of the Messiah. However, when they rejected Him (just as prophecy said that they would), He would be brought to the gentiles, all the nations of the world, that they too might receive that hope of salvation.
The second case of healing in this chapter is that of a deaf and mute man who had been brought to Jesus. Those who brought him were begging Jesus to heal him. Taking him aside, Jesus goes through a short process that culminates in the man receiving the ability to hear and speak (the word “Ephphatha” is Aramaic, which is generally accepted as the language that Jesus and His disciples spoke). He charged the man, as we have seen in previous chapters, not to tell of what He had done. However, the more He charged the people not to tell of His great miracles, the more His name and reputation spread. They seemed to not be able to contain the wonderful works that they had seen. Why is it (or so it seems in many cases) that we have somehow gained that ability today?
1. Missing the big picture: By this time, Jesus had spent a considerable amount of time in the field, so to speak, in doing all kinds of miracles and great signs, and teaching about the kingdom of heaven. People (specifically those who were closest to Him and those who were His biggest opponents) had had ample opportunity to see these signs and understand what they meant. However, it seems that just about everybody had missed the big picture. When Jesus once again had compassion on the crowd that He was speaking to, He told His disciples to feed them, just as He had done in times past (see Mark 6:30-44). But the disciples did not know where they would get the food from. They had already forgotten who Jesus was and what He had done to feed the five thousand before this time. He does the same to feed the four thousand here, and one would like to assume that the disciples finally understood who He was. This assumption would seem to be incorrect, however, as later on in this very chapter they once again forget who He is, as they discuss what they are going to eat on the boat, for they had forgotten to bring food (they only had one loaf). If Jesus could feed four thousand people with only seven loaves of bread, surly He could feed the disciples with one. How soon they had forgotten, or maybe they just didn’t grasp it fully in the first place (in their defense, Jesus Christ is the Son of God- it was probably a bit much to grasp fully). It is ironic that the next recorded miracle that Jesus preforms is the healing of a blind man. The disciples weren’t the only one who were missing the picture, however, as the Pharisees too demanded a sign from Jesus, even though He had openly done many signs. They were not seeking truth, but rather they were seeking a way to not believe in Jesus, and in so doing they had missed Jesus. They had missed the big picture. Let us not do the same.
2. The good confession and the coming crucifixion/resurrection: After the accounts of His healing, Jesus is having a discussion with His disciples, in which the question is raised of who the people think Jesus is. There is a multiplicity of ideas as to who He is, but when Jesus asks the disciples directly who they say He is, Peter gives the good confession that Jesus is the Christ (compare with Matthew 16:16). It is interesting that just a few verses after making this confession, Jesus refers to Peter as Satan (metaphorically speaking) after Peter rebuked Him for saying that He was going to suffer and die at the hands of man. Jesus was plainly telling His disciples what was going to happen to Him, both of His death through suffering and His resurrection on the third day. When His hour would come, He did not want His disciples to be blind sighted by what was going got happen. Their faith was already going to be rocked enough. Ironically, Jesus then begins teaching that anyone who would follow Him must take up their cross and follow Him. This seems to be even more foreshadowing of the mechanism of His death, along with a clear teaching that the path in His footsteps would not be easy. However, it would be worth it, for there is nothing more valuable than a man’s soul. There is nothing in this world, though even if we gained it in its entirety, that would be good enough to exchange for following Christ. There is nothing that can compare to eternal salvation. Let us always remember this as we strive to walk the straight and narrow daily.
Tomorrow’s Reading: II Corinthians 1-3.
Keep your eyes on Christ.