Summary: A sermon on Mark 7:1-23 on the teachings and traditions of the Pharisees (Material and outline taken from Dave Swavely's book, Who Are You to Judge?, chapter 7, Jesus and Legalism; HoHum from:

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Isn't this a beautiful apple? The skin is so red and shiny. Just look how smooth it is. It has a beautiful shape and I don't see any spots that look like the bugs or worms have eaten into it. Yes, this is a really good apple.

Oh, you might be thinking, "You can't tell if an apple is good by looking at the outside. You have to look on the inside to know if it is a good apple. Well, perhaps you are right.

One day, while walking through an orchard, a man stopped under an apple tree. It was loaded with big beautiful apples just waiting to be eaten. The man picked what he thought looked like the best apple on the tree. He couldn't wait to eat it. He took out his pocket knife and cut it open for a taste. To his surprise, the apple was rotten to the core.

Unfortunately it is sometimes the same with people. Some people go to church every Sunday. They carry their Bibles, they bring their offering, they sing every hymn, they listen to every word the preacher says, but it doesn't change anything in their heart. They look good on the outside, but their goodness is only skin deep. This isn't anything new. Jesus faced the same problem.


Read 1 Corinthians 4:3-7

What does Paul know about this issue, going beyond what is written? Before Paul became a Christian, “according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.” Acts 26:5.

Jesus often had run ins with the Pharisees over this particular issue. This problem is so prevalent in the gospels. God knew that all Christians in all times would face this. God allowed Jesus to confront it and respond to it to learn how to face it in our day.

The Pharisees were known for their zeal for God and devotion to His law. They were highly respected members of society, considered by most to be the “really committed Christians.”

But Robert Coleman talks about where they went wrong: “The Pharisees had so much respect for the original set of scriptures and wanted to protect them so desperately that they started adding to them. Then, after a while, it not only seemed helpful to make additions but absolutely essential. For instance, if God said we could not work on the Sabbath, then don’t even pick grain to eat, just to play it safe. Don’t even heal people because that might be a borderline case. These traditions and additions accumulated into hundreds over the years. Soon it became apparent that they far from optional. These laws became every inch as important as the scriptural laws and in some instances more crucial. The Pharisees also saw their mission as creating new laws as the times changed. If they felt the Scriptures contained no moral laws to control something modern, then they would manufacture a law and announce that it was binding on man and God. New situations could not be ignored, and if there were gaps in the Scriptures, someone had to fill them. Jesus found it very difficult to appreciate anyone changing God’s laws. For him, it was fine if the Pharisees wanted to fast twice a week. They could go to it with great pleasure. The flak came when they said, “We instituted this new law, and God expects you to keep it.” At this point Jesus balked and told them to back off.”

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