Summary: Sermon based on false Jewish traditions which they designed to "earn" God's blessings. Jesus challenges their theology of how to receive forgiveness. Includes a story about "team work in the ministry".
In Jesus Holy Name August 26, 2018
Text: Mark 7:5,7,21,23 Pentecost XIV
“Meaningless Worship=Sins Unforgiven”
Mark records for us today another encounter with the Pharisees. Jesus was constantly being challenged by the Pharisees. They challenged His authority to heal on the Sabbath. They challenged His claim to cast out demons. They challenge His willingness to eat with “sinners” like Matthew and Zacchaeus, both tax collectors, collaborators with Rome. They challenged His claim to be the long expected Messiah, for whom they were waiting. Mark makes 4 points with this encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees.
1. Their man made traditions were replacing the commandments of God.
2. They were expecting to earn salvation by doing good works, keeping the traditions but not realizing that even their evil thoughts which come from a “heart” were breaking God’s commandments.
3. Their worship. Their songs. Their prayers. Their Sunday (Sabbath) attendance was on their lips and visible but their commitment, their worship was not real.
4. Then to demonstrate that God’s salvation is for Gentiles, non Jews, Mark tells us that Jesus went to non Jewish territory of Tyre. He even entered a house there. He healed the daughter of a local woman.
In Jesus’ day the problem was over enthusiasm regarding their Jewish traditions. The Pharisees were men who had a great deal of respect for God’s law. If God said, “thou shalt not do this or that,” the Pharisees took Him very seriously. Indeed, in order to make sure they didn’t do “this or that”, they decided to add their own laws to build a fence around God’s original rules. Then to make doubly and triply sure they had it right, they did it again.
This they did so they could feel safe and secure, so that on Judgment Day they could look God in the face and say: “Hey, Lord, I did good. Excuse me for saying so, but I was pretty near perfect.” (Sermon by Rev. Ken Klaas)
The Pharisees were expecting to enter heaven still carrying their sins. (On Facebook this week a friend shared an Illustration of Jesus carrying suitcases) Jesus is saying to them: “I see your baggage, your suitcases are full of your broken ethics, rules and commandments. Let me carry them for you.”
Now you should know respecting God’s commandments is a good thing. Jesus told the disciples and us that if we want to show God that we love Him. If we want
to show Jesus that we love him….then we would demonstrate our love by obeying His commands.
Jesus said: “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) “Who ever has my commands and obeys them he is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21) What is His command? To obey the ten commandments. To love the lord our God with all our heart soul and mind, and love your neighbor as your self. (Which is exactly what our congregation this year when we supported our mission team to Guatemala. Which is exactly what we did when we supported “Break the Chains”, Rescue the Children, “Kratt elementary, Heart and Hands. And accepting one another though ethnically different.)
Which is not what the Pharisees were doing. When a rich young Jewish lawyer, an expert in the “law” asked Jesus: “What must I do to earn eternal life?” Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus was making the point that you can not earn eternal life… it is God’s free gift by faith in Jesus.
Pastor Ray Stedman, Graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and Pastor of Peninsula Fellowship in Palo Alto, California explains this passage:
“Do not read this text as though these were dirty disciples, as though they never bothered to wash their hands before they ate. This is not a problem of hygiene at all. I’m sure they did wash their hands before they ate. I do not doubt it in the least. But what bothered the Pharisees was that they did not do it in the right way. You see, among the Jews, you could have washed your hands with the finest of soaps, and scrubbed like a doctor preparing for surgery; but if you did not do it a certain way, you were just as unclean, ceremonially as though you had not washed at all.
Here is the Jewish rule: “the hands had to be held out, palms up, hands cupped slightly, and water poured over them. Then the first hand was used to scrub the other, and then the other hand would scrub the first hand. Finally the hands are to be held out, with palms down, and water was poured over them a second time to cleanse away the dirty water the defiled hands had been scrubbed with. Only then would a person’s hands be ceremonially clean.”