Chapter 7:14-23 (ESV) - 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.”
Question to consider: If what defiles us comes from within, what was Jesus saying about our standing before God?
In the gospels, when Jesus spoke to the people about whether a tree produced good or bad fruit, He was mainly speaking about the type of disciples that were created by a rabbi’s teaching. Often we apply it to a person’s work or the teaching itself, but the idea is more about judging the teacher because the teacher was responsible for the actions of his disciples. As James wrote, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1)
The Pharisees accused Jesus of bearing bad fruit because His disciples ate with defiled hands or broke the Sabbath by doing miracles or plucking heads of grain. Jesus declared that He had authority over the Sabbath and over what defiled a man. He in turn rightfully judged the Pharisees for producing bad fruit, for their disciples ignored the true Law of God (Torah) in order to keep their man-made traditions.
Eating with unbaptized hands does not defile a person. Our thoughts and actions are what defile us, for they expose the wickedness which is already in our heart. Thus, we are not able to be saved by our own works but only by the righteous work done for us by Christ. According to Mark, not only does the cleanliness of our hands not defile us, but neither does the type of food we eat. Most likely, this thought came from Peter after he had the vision on the rooftop of Simon the Tanner before meeting Cornelius (Acts 10:9-23). Maybe he had a sudden realization when he was telling this story to Mark that Jesus’ statement actually declared all foods to be clean even though Peter would not have understood it at the time Jesus had this encounter with the Pharisees.
I find it interesting that people proclaim the opposite today. They are deeply concerned with the type of food people put into their body but declare that we are free to express ourselves sexually regardless of our marital vows. Coveting is considered a virtue today, for rich people need to pay their fair share, but we really need to focus on eradicating sugared soda. It’s now just fine to lie as long as it brings about the desired outcome, to murder unborn children if they interfere with our career goals, and to slander a political opponent on social media, but of course, meat is murder.
Dear heavenly father, we confess that we have defiled ourselves in our rebellion against You. Please help us to have ears to hear these words from Jesus today, and please forgive us for going our own way when we know what You have declared is true and holy. Thank You for the hope we have in Christ Jesus to give us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us. Amen.