Mark 7:1-30 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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Jesus Admires the Faith of a Gentle Woman
Comments for Study 12

Mark 7:1-30
Memory Verse: 29


I. The Tradition of the Elders (1-13)

Jesus' Mid-Ministry Travels

>1. Why did the Pharisees and teachers of the law criticize Jesus' disciples?

Mark 7:1-2 "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 "unclean," that is, unwashed."

* "The Pharisees... had come from Jerusalem" -another delegation of fact-finding religious leaders from Jerusalem (2:16, 3:22) sent to investigate the Galilean activities of Jesus. This was part of their job as elders.

* "gathered around Jesus" -They wanted to discredit Jesus through is work.

* "and saw some of his disciples"-they were around Jesus, but they were not paying attention to him. Instead they were looking for evidence by actions of the people who were with him. We should not make a judgment about Jesus, based solely on his disciples.

* "eating food with hands that were "unclean", that is unwashed" -this does not say that the disciples hands were full of mud. Rather, it refers to the Jewish leader's customs.

>What was the tradition about ceremonial washing to which all the Jews held?

* Mark 7:3-5 "(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.) So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?"

* "The Pharisees and all the Jews" -meaning those of Judea. This excludes the people of Galilee, Sameria, and those scattered amongst the Gentiles.

* "do not eat unless" -they were zealous for keeping the tradition of the elders.

* "a ceremonial washing" -not for cleansing dirt and mud off.

* "tradition of the elders" -considered to be binding.

* "came from the marketplaces...they washed" -this is a place where Jews would come into contact with Gentiles, or with Jews who did not observe the ceremonial law, and thus become ceremonially unclean. They would ceremonially wash to "clean" themselves of what they believed was something "unclean" on such people.

* "And they observed other law" -Their laws, not God's laws. They began to view the tradition of the elders equal to God's law. Each situation had an answer/action according the Pharisees.

* "the Pharisees...asked Jesus" -they did not talk to the disciples about it. Rather they went to the leader, Jesus.

* "why don't your disciples live according to the tradition" -Most common and/or poor people could not live according to all the tradition of the elders because their life was busy and full of hard work. Most of the disciples were such people (i.e. fisherman).

>2. What did Jesus say when they criticized his disciples for not living according to the tradition of the elders?

* Mark 7:6-8 "He replied, "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 but rules taught by men.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."

* Jesus dealt with the fundamental problem of the Pharisees, which was their heart. He did not directly answer their question. He did not defend the disciple's nor critisize the disciples. Rather, he exposed the error in the Pharisees' tradition and the Pharisees hypocrisy.

* "Isaiah...prophesied" -Isaiah roundly denounced the religious leaders of his day (Isa 29:13), and Jesus used a quotation from this prophet to describe the tradition of the elders as "rules taught by men" (7).

* "hypocrites" -Jesus bluntly called them hypocrites which would no doubt offend them for they were proud of themselves, their country, their history, and their traditions.

>Is the tradition of the elders necessarily bad?

* No, as long as it is not used for self righteousness or to replace God's commands and will for our lives.

* Originally, around 400-500 BC when the Jews returned from Babylon captivity they went beyond the Law of Moses and wrote their own traditions so that they would be sure not to break the Law of Moses and to distinguish themselves from the Gentiles and a few returned Israelites who lived in the promised land. The descendants of the people the Jews found in the land when they came back to Judea became the Samaritans.

>When might it have been necessary? (See Lev. 11-15; Num. 19; Neh. 13:30)

* When Israel was in the wilderness there was many ex-slaves. They didn't know nor have a standard of hygiene. They did not know how to be a priestly nation. So God gave them the laws through Moses. (i.e. Food would spoil fast in the desert. This would cause sickness and disease. The Israelites might not have known this.)

* The laws protected the Israelites.

* God wanted to teach them holiness.

* Discipline.

* Means of distinction.

* Respect for God, and his temple.

>3. When and how does tradition become evil? (6,7)

* Mark 7:6-7 "He replied, "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 but rules taught by men.'"

* "honor me with their lips"

* "their hearts are far from me"

* "they worship me in vain"

* "rules taught by men"

* "setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions"

* When it nullifies the word of God.

* When tradition becomes a man's security for salvation. This is hope in his man's work, not in God's grace.

* There is little faith in keeping a tradition.

* When it pulls us from a close relationship with God.

* No true meaning or understanding.

* When it is done for profit or self gain.

* When it takes the place of God in the heart.

* It is easier to live by traditions and habits than it is to live by faith. I've seen and experienced the pulling power of tradition in every church that I have ever attended.

>What example did Jesus give? (9-13)

* Mark 7:9-13 "And he said to them: "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 your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his 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.""

* "Honor your...Anyone..."-Stated in both the negative and positive.

* "Corban"-the transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning "offering". The Jewish children, when older were to help their parents according to the Law of Moses (i.e. "Honor your Father and Mother"). Some irresponsible and selfish children didn't want to. To get around the law they would pronounce their possession "Corban". In doing so they were claiming all their things were devoted to God (i.e. to the temple). However, it didn't necessarily have to go for religious purposes. Then they would say to their parents, "I don't have to give you anything or help you in your old age because all of my thinks are devoted to God."

* It could be said that Num. 30:1-2 supported "Corban".

* "tradition" -Something that we do regularly that has a meaning behind it that is greater than the act itself. A tradition usually has a good purpose, but some are bad. The type depends on the motive behind the tradition; faith, unbelief, rational, irrational, love, hate, revenge, kindness, others, self, etc. This excludes the law (word) of God.

* "taught by men" -God instituted traditions which were good and prophetic. Man creates traditions that are not always good.

* "hyprocrates" -always surrounded by traditions that recognizes and has a form of religion but denies it's power.

>Can you think of any modern examples of people using man-made customs or ideology to nullify the word of God?

* Anything can be changed into a meaningless ritual (i.e. baptism, communion, confession, laying on of the hands, ect.)

* Many Easter and Christmas traditions have nothing or little to do with the word of God. Jews also have traditions that have nothing to do with the law of God and some that at one time might have, but because of the temple it can't be kept now. Yet they invented a way to hang onto the tradition. However good the intention they still are wrong.

* With traditions we can ignorantly act in a wrong way while having good intentions.

* A tradition can be kept by instance occurrence as random, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or any interval.

>4. What is a hypocrite?

* "hypocrite" -A hypocrite is someone who says one thing to someone else, but does not do it himself. Someone who fakes beliefs or feelings he does not have. He is an actor. Outwardly they pretend to be what they are not. Many have no intention of doing what they preach or pretend they do. A hypocrite is very egotistical. Anyone who does not acknowledge the hypocrites perceived greatness immediately becomes their enemy that must be belittled or destroyed.

>How did these Pharisees fulfill Isaiah's prophecy about hypocrites?

* Mark 7:9-13 "And he said to them: "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 your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his 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.""

* Outwardly they were religious. Inside they were far from God. They did things only to impress men.

* "you have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God" -A hidden way.

II. Clean and Unclean (14-23)

>5. How did Jesus challenge the laws about clean and unclean foods?

* Mark 7:14-16 "Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'""

* Acts 10:9-23

* Jesus isn't saying we shouldn't wash what we eat or what we eat with.

>What makes a person clean?

* Mark 7:17-23 "After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")"

* 1 John 1:7 says the blood of Jesus.

* John 15:3 says the word of God.

* Faith that repents.


* Mark 7:20-23 "He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'""

>How can we become clean in our heart?

* Being washed by the blood of Jesus by grace through faith.

III. The Faith of a Phoenician Woman (24-30)

>6. Where is Tyre in relation to Israel?

* Mark 7:24a "Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre."

* "Jesus left that place" -Jesus had been in the region of this hometown (6:1, 6) and then to the other side of the lake (6:32) and back again landing at Gennesaret (6:53). Gennesaret seems to be the place that the Pharisees challenged Jesus. (Mark 7)

* "vicinity of" -not in the city. (Matt. 15:21)

* "Tyre" -In Syria Phoenicia between the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains of Lebanon at the northern border of the Israelite tribe Asher. Joshua could not conquer the city and its northern sister city Sidon. (Joshua 19:28-29; and 2 Sam. 24:7) Baal worship was imported into Israel from this area when King Ahab married Jezebel, a daughter of the area. No Jew lived in this area in Jesus' time and the religious leaders would not go there. Canaanites lived here originally whose daughters some of Jacob's (Israel's) sons married including Judah. (Gen. 9:26-27; 10:6, 15-19; 11:31; 12:5; 13:12; 17:8; 37:1; 38:2; 46:10, 12)

* The Israelites and Jews had been intermarrying with the people of this area for most of their histories.

>Why do you think Jesus went into gentile territory?

* To keep his promise to his disciples about taking some rest. He wanted to teach them alone in quiet solitude. He did not want the religious leaders to interrupt.

* Jews were angry with him in Galilee. They rejected his teachings and wanted to kill him. So he left to let them cool off.

* He wanted to challenge the teachings of unclean people. This would be a teaching lesson to the disciples.

* Like David left Israel to be kept from being killed by Saul.

>Why did he want to keep his presence there a secret?

* Mark 7:24b "He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret."

* So no one would interrupt them as the crowd did on the sea of Galilee (chapter 6) and the Pharisees did in the house (chapter 7).

* Jesus is the savior to the Gentiles as well. However, he often said that he would go to the Jews first.

>Why could he not?

* He was known even there. (25)

>7. Who was the woman who came to him?

* Mark 7:25-26a "In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia."

* Because of the influence of Baal worship and Jezebel's persecution of the prophets the Pharisees did not like this area at all.

* "Greek" -The Greeks of the time was considered wise. There was a lot of famous schools (philosophy, medical, etc.) in Greece at this time. Many historians state that they brought civilization to Europe including the Roman historians.

>What was her problem?

* Mark 7:26b "She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter."

* "daughter" -Could be any age from birth to 13 years old, the age of adulthood and accountability in those days.

>What was her attitude toward Jesus?

* "fell at his feet... begged" -Showed humility, respect, and desperate need.

* She came alone.

* Differences between the two; she a woman and he a man, she a gentile and he a Jew.

>8. How did Jesus respond to her request?

* Mark 7:27 "First let the children eat all they want," he told her, "for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."

* He didn't answer her directly. He presented her with a intellectual challenge of faith, heart, and mind. A humble attitude in her culture would have understood and accept his challenge. Jesus' rhetoric was common in her Greek society.

* Jesus could have been interpreted as being prejudice, discriminatory, proud, negative and rude.

>Who are the "children"?

* "First" -indicating that there would be a time in the future when the blessings of the Messiah would come to the gentiles.

* "children"-Abraham's descendants.

* 'all they want" -Jesus gave to all the Jews who came to him. He did not hold back. He gave to them till they wanted no more.

>The "dogs"?

* "dogs" -Gentiles

* Most saw dogs not as household pets in those days in Palestine as they are now in most of the world. Rather they were seen as wild animals who scavenged scraps and throw aways from man's trash piles.

>What was Jesus' purpose in saying these hard words to this woman?

* "bread" -Blessings given by the Messiah. Jesus said that he is the bread of life. (John 6:32-59)

* To help her think from God's point of view. Gentiles would have to wait until for their turn.

* So she would beg for God's mercy.

* Jesus wasn't saying the Gentiles were excluded. He was just pointing out that he was coming to the Jews first. Later, after his ascension the disciples would go to the gentiles.

>How did the woman take his seeming refusal?

* Mark 7:28 "Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."

* "Yes Lord" -With faith, humility, and respect. She didn't says that what he was saying wasn't true. She accepted his words as truth.

* She never doubted his love.

>What does her response show about her?

* If one is hurt easily by Jesus it was a sign of a lack of faith in his love. The Jewish leaders were hurt by Jesus' words of truth about them. This women was not.

* "crumbs" -She believed that even a small amount of his grace and blessing was great.

>9. What did Jesus say about her reply?

* Mark 7:29 "Then he told her, "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.""

* "For such a reply" -Our words reflect our heart.

>How did he bless her?

* Mark 7:30 "She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone."

* "the demon gone" -Jesus didn't have to be present. His authority is recognized by his enemies even from afar.

>What do you think Jesus admired about this woman's faith?

* Humble, simple, patient, wise, understanding.

>How can you and I learn this kind of faith?

* Don't get defensive by Jesus words and actions.

* Think of the reasons for Jesus' words. Think from the reasons of other's words.

* Don't respond emotionally to an emotional offensive comment.