Summary: The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.
Where Bad Stuff Comes From
Rev. Brian Bill
July 30-31, 2016
Haddon Robinson, who arguably has written the best book on preaching called, Biblical Preaching, once told a group of young preachers, “When you stand up to preach, people are bored…and they expect you to make it worse.”
I don’t ever want to bore people when I’m preaching but I’m sure I’ve delivered more than a few snoozer sermons. That reminds me of some bulletin bloopers I’ve collected over the years. Thankfully these didn’t appear in our bulletins but as far as I know they are real announcements.
• The Rev. Merriwether spoke briefly, much to the delight of the congregation.
• Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Nelson’s sermons.
• During the absence of our pastor, we enjoyed the rare privilege of hearing a good sermon when J.F. Stubbs supplied our pulpit.
This morning we get the privilege of hearing a great sermon delivered by Jesus himself. When I first studied Mark 7:14-23 I struggled to find the key to unlock it. I did my exegetical work and tried outlining it to no avail. I read about 25 commentaries and listened to several sermons on this section of Scripture and I still couldn’t figure it out. I then decided to wake up real early on Thursday morning so I could meditate and marinate on the verses. I kept poring over the passage until finally it clicked that this is a brief sermon preached by Jesus.
I wrote down 8 elements that Jesus included in His sermon. If you get bored, it will be your own fault and you’ll have to take it up with Him.
1. Jesus uses an attention-getting introduction. As we learned last week, Jesus condemned and corrected the religious leaders for focusing on outward hypocrisy instead of inward holiness. The religious leaders were adamant about having clean hands; Jesus was all about having a clean heart.
Look at verse 14: “And He called the people to Him again and said to them, ‘Hear me, all of you, and understand.’” The crowds may have stepped back a bit when Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders so now Jesus bids them to come closer because He has something to say to them. The word for “hear” means to “listen or hearken” and “understand” has the idea of comprehending. Both words are in the imperative tense, meaning they are commands. Actually, they’re the only commands in the passage. In short, they were to listen and learn because what He is about to say is extremely important. I’m reminded of Psalm 49:1: “Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all inhabitants of the world.”
What Jesus is about to say is going to blow their gaskets and crush their categories. This is a monumental moment and He doesn’t want them to miss it. Bible Commentator William Barclay suggests that this is “the most revolutionary passage in the entire New Testament.”
2. He states a provocative proposition. The sermon proposition is the summary of the sermon in one sentence. It’s the theme, the big idea, or the main point. The preaching proposition last weekend from Mark 7 was this: The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.
Jesus is about to say something shocking to people who have been taught their whole lives about the importance of keeping the outside looking good. Many today believe something similar. His preaching proposition is so radical that He’s going to repeat it several times. Check out verse 15: “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.” The word “defile” is used twice in this verse and is used three more times in the passage. It refers to corruption, pollution and being “unclean.”
This statement actually answers the question from the religious leaders back in verse 5. Nothing external can contaminate because the contamination is already on the inside. The word “nothing” means that there is not even one thing. The word “can” refers to “being able” and is in the passive voice, meaning that nothing done to you or outside of you can defile you. Notice that the word “things” is plural, meaning that there are multiple gross things that come gushing out.
This is radical because the religious thinking at that time was that if you could just stay far enough away from all defiling agents, you’d be good before God. They had concluded that sin came about from external stuff like things you eat, touch and wear. Jesus blows this up by showing that we’re spiritually defiled because we are sinfully depraved.
My fundamental problem is not my environment or education or my upbringing. My problem is sin and it resides in my heart. The heart of my problem is the problem of my heart. That’s why outward things like education, politics, self-help programs, social reform and even religious practices are powerless to change the human heart.