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Reading Mark 22 – Dirty and Clean

26 April 2020 | by Emyr James | Mark 7

22 – Dirty and Clean

Mark 7:1-23

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)—then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Difficult words

  • Elders: Those in authority in the Old Testament church
  • Hypocrites: People who say one thing, but do something else
  • Defile: Damage the purity of something

Question 1

What do you think makes a person dirty?

Question 2

Can a person look clean on the outside and still be dirty inside?

  Have you ever had the experience of picking up a shiny apple, only to bite into it and find the middle has gone bad? It doesn’t matter how the outside looks, if the inside has decayed. We have come across the Pharisees several times already, and now we are getting to the root of their problem.

  All that mattered to these people was the way that they looked on the outside. They followed the law in detail and even added to what the law said you had to do to be clean, because they wanted everyone to see how good they were. But they had lost sight of the fact that the reason God had given the law in the first place was to show that they were not clean inside. In order to show this, Jesus gives them an example. It appears that these men, rather than helping their poor parents, tried to look good by giving money to the temple. But whilst giving the impression that they were pleasing God, they were breaking the law which said they needed to honour their father and mother.

  What Jesus is saying is that the external things like the rules of food and hygiene are not the problem. Isn’t this obvious? The things which we eat go through our bodies, without affecting the heart. The heart is the problem which causes us to do things which don’t please God and makes us dirty in his sight. If their hearts were right, they would be able to follow the other rules for the right reasons.

Question 3

What had the Pharisees misunderstood?

Question 4

If it is a person’s heart which makes them dirty, what do you think needs to happen?


that God will change your heart, so that you can do things that please him.