Reading Mark 7:1–13.
This morning we’re going to talk about the conscience. What we feel bad about, what we feel good about with our behavior.
Our conscience is our internal monitor. Like those alarms some cars have when you drift in your lane—steer right, steer left. Your conscience does that for you.
But consciences aren’t simple things. We can feel bad about doing something that IS NOT BAD. We can feel good about doing something that IS BAD.
A lot of mental disorders are defined by feelings of shame or guilt that are false. Or maybe you inflict shame and guilt on to other people. But again, it’s a false guilt.
This is a big issue in our day. We live in a day of “virtue signalling.” You put up a sign in your yard, a logo on your website. You tell the world what you believe is VIRTUOUS.
You’re trying to affect the CONSCIENCE of other people.
Part of Christian growth is a conscience that more and more reflects God’s truth—it makes you feel bad about things that are wrong, helps you feel good about things that aren’t.
In our passage Mark introduces us to Jesus as the Lord of the Conscience. It’s Jesus who will help us untangle the knot of our conscience.
We’re looking at the Gospel of Mark. Likely the first gospel. Written with a co-author, the apostle Peter, from the city of Rome in the 50s AD. That means just about 20 years after Jesus was resurrected.
In this passage we can a little sense of Mark’s Roman audience, because he’ll explain a lot of the Jewish traditions he mentions.
Because the passage uses the word “DEFILE” a lot, we’ll use that to organize our sermon. But the basic ideas we’ll talk about have to do with our conscience.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, search us. Convict us. Change us.
We don’t have a setting. Chapter 6 ends with Jesus in Gennesaret, a town right next to Capernaum on northwest shore of Sea of Galilee. Capernaum is Jesus’ base of operations at this time.
In this Jewish region, the Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem came (7:1).
These Pharisees and scribes were the religious elite.
Mark calls these “the traditions of the elders” (7:5).
The word Greek word for “tradition” means “something passed down, given over.” It highlights that idea of something received and then passed down. The vocabulary of “traditions” is the vocabulary of receiving and giving. We receive something from one generation. We give it to the next.
In our text, we bump into one of these traditions, WASHING.
A key part of this is that NOWHERE DOES THE OT COMMAND THIS!!!
Here’s what’s interesting about these traditions. They REQUIRE MORE than what God’s Word requires. How could that be bad?
But if you add to God’s Word, you don’t HELP it, you ruin it in people’s eyes.
You hypocrites! — Mark 7:6–7. Quotes Isa 29:13 against them.
A “hypocrite” is Greek for an actor, a pretender. The Pharisees were playing the part, dressed in a costume, saying the right words. But it wasn’t real. It was an act.
They weren’t just fooling an audience.
Then Jesus points out how a TRADITION CAN CONTRADICT GOD’S WORD.
It was a way to feel good about yourself because you gave so much to the Lord—but all the while you weren’t doing what the Bible clearly commands, which is to “honor your father and your mother.”
You honor them by financially helping as they need it and as you’re able.
This was entirely a “tradition that you have handed down” (Mark 7:13)—not something God himself commanded.
Read Mark 7:14–19.
The second part of the passage, Mark 7:14–23, the focus is still on what DEFILES us. The scene has shifted and now Jesus addresses “the people.” “Hear me, all of you, and understand” (7:14).
What actually DEFILES us? He’s going to make two really important points.
First, we’re not DEFILED by something we eat or drink. Something physical we ingest.
His words let us know Jesus was definitely a man. He was not a woman. Mark 7:18–19. The ESV has cleaned up Jesus’ language. I guess they thought it was a little too crass. Jesus says you eat it, it goes in your stomach, and then it goes in the toilet. The ESV, has said “is expelled.” Only a man would mention a toilet in his teaching. Like me, right now.
Jesus says that NO FOOD CAN DEFILE YOU since NO FOOD ENTERS YOUR HEART. It goes in your stomach, not your heart.
Your heart is where UNCLEANNESS lies, and since the food doesn’t go in your heart, the food itself can’t defile you.
To a Jewish audience, this was radical. A whole chapter in Leviticus is dedicated to what a Jew could eat and not eat. What foods were “clean” and what foods were “unclean.”
In this statement, though, Jesus is saying there’s no food that is UNCLEAN. No food that DEFILES.
And just so we don’t miss this bombshell, this change of laws, Mark adds that little comment at the end of Mark 7:19—“Thus he declared all foods clean.”
Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection brought a change to how we read the OT.
The reason? Jesus has permanently and perfectly “CLEANSED” us:
If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
“Cleanses us from all sin….cleanse us from all unrighteousness” — If we’re already clean because of the sacrifice of Jesus, any laws about being clean no longer bind us. Our conscience is completely free from them!
Jesus continues this idea of what DEFILES. Food can’t defile us, because it doesn’t “ENTER” our heart.
It’s our HEARTS that are the problem. They are what DEFILE us. It’s what’s IN HERE that we need to worry about, not a particular food we eat.
What comes out of this nasty heart of mine? A whole slew of nastiness:
Categories of Sin:
Four of these sins are one of the Ten Commandments: theft, murder, adultery, coveting: But again, sins that break the Ten Commandments have one source: YOUR HEART.
It’s your HEART that will defile you. Not eating without washing your hands. Not eating certain foods or avoiding certain foods.
An important teaching:
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)
Solomon points to what we do about it:
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Prov 4:23)
How to “Keep your heart”? Keep bad things out, put good things in.
Jesus is the Lord of the Conscience. Let’s think about how to apply this. 4 things:
One, are you drinking alcohol in a holy way?
Two, remember Jesus is Lord of the conscience—not you, not your boss, not a political party, not the New York Times.
Three, continue to grow in your knowledge of the Bible. It will arm you against false guilt. But it’ll also lead you to a sense of true guilt.
Four, consider whether you need a heart transplant!
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezek 36:25–27)
We are a church built on the Bible, guided and empowered by the Spirit, striving to make disciples, and pursuing holiness in the context of robust biblical relationships.
10am on Sundays
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