One Living Hope

The Servant King Shows the Matter of the Heart – Mark 7:1-23


Example, last Friday, after small group…

This chapter…intimidating… it hits directly to the core.

The passage shows us the matters of our heart- what does it mean to be truly clean from the inside out rather than outside in? And it speaks of three very important matters that deals with our hearts: (1) The real condition of our hearts v. 1-5 (2) The devastating diagnosis of ignoring the heart–we have a way of taking matters into our own hands v.6-13 (3) and finally, the only true source for radical cleansing  (purity, the only true cleansing that you can get where it can never, ever defile your heart) v.14-23


  1. The true condition of our hearts [v.1-5]

There was a study that was done by the University of Toronto back in 2006, where they had volunteers to think about all the wrongs that have done in  their lives – things that were immoral or defiled- like- stealing, lying, watching porn and so on- and they were offered an opportunity to wash and clean up their lives, to wash away their guilt of all the wrongs they have committed. The people who retraced all the wrongs that they had done in their lives, they jumped at the offer to get rid of their wrong, their defilement, to relieve the guilt that they were experiencing.; they had a powerful urge to wash themselves because they knew something was wrong, and they were trying hard to scrub away the stain of guilt from their hearts.[1]  

            Now, in these first 5 verses, you have these disciples eating with their hands that were unwashed, defiled, unclean- and these Pharisees were investigating, they came all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee but that begs the question: what is the big deal here? Why are these Pharisees making a big deal out of this? Why the concern? The concern is not for hygienic reasons- it wasn’t about eating with hands that were dirty so please wash up for lunch, no, this was a matter of great significance –for them it wasn’t a matter of hygienic purposes but a religious purpose. These Pharisees & scribes– these people are very conservative, they are very religious; they strictly followed all the laws that God gave the people of Israelites, they strictly kept all the rules, these guys are the moral keepers, the good guys, these guys were theologians – they believed in God, they know everything in the OT, they studied the law, they were very serious about the law of God so they interpreted it, reinterpreted, re-re- reinterpreted it, they applied it, re-applied, re-re-reapplied and became this huge list of regulations –list of dos and don’ts- huge list of what you should do & shouldn’t do.  But I do need to clarify: these disciples were not breaking the Law that God gave to Moses but the later Jewish addition to the law, the re-interpretation and the re-application of the law. The keeping of the tradition of the elders was the big deal;

But these Pharisees and scribes— they think that the real problem is outside of them. And not the inside of their hearts! Or in other words: They are so concerned with the behavior of these disciples that they missed the spiritual condition of their own hearts. It’s like when you wash your cups, you just clean/scrub on the outside but inside there are residues of dry milk, food debris, lipstick- it’s disgusting, you can’t drink out of it. That’s how these Pharisees/scribes saw the problem- the problem was from the outside- in- they will scrub the hands but they bypass the heart.

What these tradition of the elders are (these are later additions to the law that God gave to Moses- man made rules)– they taught that if a person must be washed/rinsed when you touch anything of the world,[2] (people like the Gentiles (non-Jews people), sinners, tax collectors, people in the marketplace, the irreligious, zealots, harlots, robbers, dead animal, or even if you have skin disease like a rash or boils or touch mildew from your cooking utensil –the lists goes on and on and anything & everything. If you rubbed shoulders with these gentiles people, the uncircumcised, those who were unconverted to the Jewish religion you will be contaminated and need to be cleansed cermoninals- need to go through purification.  Even if your utensils like cups, pots, vessels, couches that is touched by anything else and it touches you without proper ceromominal cleansing and it comes in contact with you, then you are contaminated, you are defiled; unclean. It was all externalized religion based upon man-made rules- all of it is a diversion away from your heart. If you touch anything & everything outside of you- you are contaminated, you are defiled, impure, unclean – and as a result, you cannot meet with God, you can’t go up to the temple and worship, because you are unclean- you would need to scrub really hard externally so that you can get accepted by God or even brought into the presence of God. Spiritually, morally, unless you’re clean, you can’t live in the presence of God, a holy God. In order for you to be right with God, for God to come and bless you is that you – do not touch or be defiled by the things that are outside, that is where you will experience acceptance with God.

This was the tradition of elders –this was the ceremonial, ritualistic, legalistic, and cleansing for you to become morally pure, for you to have a right standing with God, for you to be accepted by Him. And this tradition was handed down through generations- but what happened was that these external forms of ritualistic cleansing (belittled) the inner condition of that heart. The Pharisees dressed out really well on the outside, so spiritual, knew how to say things, know what to say, how to conduct their lives but inside dirty, impure, defiled. They are looking at external behaviors as the means for cleansing, to get fellowship with God–Legalism always emphasizes external behavior and ignores the heart. Being a legalist means that “to get God– meaning to get things from God like grace, having a good, comfortable life, or getting things of what you prayed for -getting some sort of favor – or acceptance, I need to do what I am told, I need to maintain some sort of standard, if I stay away from bad people, if I pray, if I read my bible, if I try to be good, if I do all these things, then God will see that I’m good enough, will bless me and fill me with blessings.” What you are doing is really self-cleansing yourself but doesn’t change the heart.

But the true condition of our heart is not really how bad it is, how deprave it really is, how wicked it really is; though that is true and evident– but the true condition of who you really are is when you actually see yourself as morally good – that you are actually convinced that you are not that bad–that’s the problem even in a “gospel-centered” church- you can legalize the gospel and make it all about you because you have proof now of your success- its your legalism, it’s keeping up with the rules, it’s all of your right behavior, your right conduct—all of your self-salvation projects – that’s your resume. When you become concerned with how righteous you are- you are in deep spiritual danger because you are putting your confidence in how well you are keeping up with your tradition/the rules. But take a good look at these Pharisees- it’s true that they are separatists, they know who is really good and who is really bad, clean/unclean/ self-righteous, look down on other, who gave Christ great hostility, stood in opposition with the only Hope of the universe, the very same ones who put Him on the cross – yet you know what they desired- they desired to scrub the stain of sin. To scrub away their sin by self-cleansing – it’s moralistic, legalistic approach to Christianity—they are dealing with it in an utterly wrong way to their moral defilement, of their spiritual uncleannesss- and–just like these Pharisees, we are constantly scrubbing to clean up our lives – by desiring to have God return the favor. For example, when something unexpected happens, you face some sort of struggle – our legalistic mindset springs up; I thought I was living a good life, keeping the rules, reading the bible—modifying behaviors, trying to do good things, trying to maintain the standard BUT we being to think that God actually owes us a good life, something in return, we are entitled to it, we deserve it- it’s like the “all-inclusive package deal that you get at” we want that package deal – and we are putting God in our debt because you believe that you have been morally good that you deserve something better. All of us have a deep, deep sense to be cleansed, to have a clean life, but no form of external behavior or tradition or your right morals can EVER make you clean. That’s when you begin to see your true condition of the heart. – Listen to RM here, powerful,

“I would rather live on the verge of falling and let my security be all-sufficiency of the grace of God than to live in some kind of pietistic illusion of moral excellence—not that I don’t want to be morally excellent, but my faith isn’t in the idea that I am more moral than anybody else. My faith is in the idea that GOD and His Love are GREATER than whatever sins any of us commit.” Legalism chokes out grace. Legalism is living the illusion that you are morally good- just knowing what God requires is not enough. Obeying Him “because it is what we are supposed to do” is not enough. It’s an illusion. But when you believe His love is greater than your sin that you commit today itself, this minute, this second – you will hear, repent, and obey Him out of pleasure and love, simply because you love Him[3], because He has accepted you- you obey.


  1. The devastating diagnosis of ignoring the heart [v. 6-13]

What we have seen so far is seeing that these Pharisees/scribes have investigated (they saw his disciples eating with defiled hands, they came from Jerusalem as some sort of theological “hitmen” to dig up dirt on Jesus because He has become a threat to the tradition of the elders, to the whole man-made religious system and what is so deadly about it is that it clashes with grace, it competes with grace and give it enough time, what will happens is that it will eventually replace grace. You will compete for merit, you will compete to accomplish, compete to be validated, compete for something to give you worth, compete to get what you deserve and that will eventually shrink grace.

And these Pharisees confronted Jesus with a question- in v. 5, not just simply asking, they went head on and asked the question; they wanted to publically expose Jesus Christ, to discredit him because to them, He is seen as unholy because He doesn’t keep the list of their rules. They asked, in v. 5- “why does YOUR disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders”; how could your disciples be real disciples or true disciples when they don’t even keep our laws; by asking these questions, they were not targeting these disciples but they were indirectly targeting Jesus Himself – an indirect yet bold way of saying –  “Jesus you rubbed shoulders with all those sinful people, ate dinner and lunch with prostitutes, tax collectors etc so you are contaminated, you are unholy, you are unclean therefore you are unfit to be religious leader of the people.”

That’s why in verse 6ff – look at how Jesus responds- he doesn’t even answer the question- but he gives a devastating diagnosis (verdict) – you can here the pin drop because you are talking to these good moral, upright, theologian, religious, elite leaders of the society and says, in verse 6- as Jesus quoting Isaiah, not some tradition of elders document, he is heralding the word of God and applies what Isaiah told in his day to that moment, and exposes certain things of who they really are:

In v. 6- Jesus says… Hypocrites [4]– literally means, one who puts on a mask or hides behind a mask– an actor, who can go on a stage put a mask on and become someone who they are really not before an entire audience who are watching them and grading them on their performance. Well did Isaiah prophecy of you hypocrites, in other words, rightly did he prophecy, beautifully, perfectly that he prophecied – that you are a hypocrite – a religious phony, a spiritual actor, the one plays religion, the one who pretends that he is someone or something when in reality he is not and will go to every length to impress other around him or her, than what he really is on the inside. A religious façade of external trapping of religion can totally neglect the heart.

Have you ever thought- why are we so impressed with actors? Why? Think about whom you like as an actor – Mel Gibson, Denzal Washington, Al Pacino, Rober DeNiro- why we do like them as an actor? A professor at the Univ. of Miami[5], a secular guy gave his take on why are we so impressed by someone, why are we so charmed by someone, why are we so easily able to believe in someone else? Because at the root level – as this professor says, they are skilled narcissist – they are not ONLY full of themselves but they are skilled in such a way that makes others follow them on facebook & twitter, make others hit the like button, will makes others believe in him or her with their whole heart- they are skilled, an actor is skilled to not only put on a mask but become someone who they are really not where you are taken away, where you are impressed, where you have a following.

And Jesus looked at squarely in the eyes of these Pharisees and scribes and says– you are that spiritual actor, you are hypocrite, you are a skilled actor (hypocrite) because you are more concerned with the opinion of others rather than what he really is before God. Listen – they have a lot of influence, powerful sect during the times of Jesus’ day- if you are a Pharisee in that age, from that community- people will raise their eyebrows- elite, influential, religious group of people. Yet Jesus charges them —-You can clean the outside of the cup but you neglect the inside, you are very skilled in how you major on the minors and minor on the majors, skilled in keeping people out of entering the gospel of the kingdom, you tithe out of the herbs that you grow in your backyard and pluck little leaf and bring it to the temple, and give it to God and yet you totally, completely neglect the weighty matters of the Law of justice, mercy and faithfulness[6]. That is what you are – a hypocrite; that is what legalism produces. And Jesus further clarifies and expands of what that looks like: v. 6-13 (read)- this people honor me with their lips, giving lip service but your “heart” is far away from me. When you come into the synagogue, come into the temple, come to church, the houses of worship- they talk spiritual, knows the religious vocabulary, sing so well, teach, preach, speak about God, but these people honors the Lord with their lips but their hearts are far away. Your body can be in the church, your body is in the temple, your body is in the worship service, your lips are moving but on the inside, the heart is far away from God.

Whenever you are more concerned with your external correctedness, on how you look on the outside, your morality, then your concern for the gospel diminishes. You elevate the non-essentials but demote the essential. We can live our lives as practical atheists – performing or rehearsing the lines of Scripture from our lips but live as if we do not know God from our hearts. Sinclair Ferguson[7] said this: the lips say one thing; but the hearts speak a different language altogether. [You] can play a public role of being devoted to God, but, through your attitude demonstrate that you don’t really know God at all…the truth of what you really set in the heart is: yourselves. (skilled narcissistic) We do not need to belong to the sect of the Pharisees to share their sin.

And Jesus ties it all together for us in v. 8-13- at the end of the day – the reason why you are so full of yourselves, why you are such a skilled actor, the reason why you are giving lip service is because you have a fine way of leaving or forsaking, or abandoning the commands of God – in order to hold to, to take firm, hold tightly to the tradition of men (teachings that are not rooted in Scripture); skilled (experts) to leave the commands of God, a fine way of rejecting His commands, making empty of God’s word for the tradition of men as Jesus says that 3 times – v. 8, 9, 13. Basically what this is saying – you have the commandment of God – v. 10 Moses said is to love and honor our parents (5th commandment), caring for them as they age in any way is the heart of God- (hospital visits, paying for them, taking care of them) but then v. 11 – “BUT you say,” see the contrast, v. 11- the tradition of the elders came up with the idea – “son, devote all your money and your possessions to the Lord (it’s Corban) (Lev 27), that is the right & good thing to do regardless of anyone who is in need BUT as the parents age or tragedy strikes, and they ask for financial help, you can say, “Sorry mama, dada- CORBAN (I have given it to the Lord). My money/possessions is all devoted to the Lord. I can’t give it to you. I have devoted all I have to the Lord, I can’t help you;” Under the guise of religious faithfulness, or on the surface of being spiritual- you set aside the commands of God in order to hold on to your tradition– That’s what Jesus is saying- you guys are so skillful, so ceremonial, so external, it’s hypocritical- showing off their religious act but they were in effect disobeying God. Their hearts are far away from me-…we can be so religious as well:let me give 2 examples.

I have a friend, whom I love so much, he’s married, but they are having a very, very, difficult time together- they see each other as roommates, marriage is a big mess – we know what God says about marriage, but he deeply wants to go and take care of his parents even when they do have the help, they are not really in need but to him that’s biblical, it’s the right mindset culturally speaking as well; it is the right thing to do. But his religious mindset is willing to leave his wife and neglect the care and love for his wife but willing to go and take care of his parents even when they are not in need, shows religious & a traditional mindset.  A fine way of leaving God’s commands and holding on to tradition;

Or another example; I realized that I could look very busy; preaching/teaching/leading small groups/doing bible studies, going to church, serving, attend church activities and somehow make an impression externally that I have it all together but when I hear my wife tell me that she is being neglected, not making her #1 priority in terms of human relationship, my most important ministry, when she says that she is far away from the Lord… – I attest to my own way of being religious and an “upright” person by things I can do for church, being involved in church activities, to make the appearance that I am spiritual, I can also put an act, and be skillful at it too yet neglect God’s commands to love my wife.

We are far more skillful in leaving the commands of God – to let go and cling to how we look on the outside, our external religious acts has a way of distracting or weakening the principles of God’s commands- we neglect the weightier matters of the law – such as faithfulness, mercy, integrity and so on.


And Finally,

  1. The only true source for radical cleansing [v. 14-23]

What we have seen so far – you can see Jesus meeting these religious leaders head on and tells them straight out- not only you are far away from me but you elevate man-made religious rules with all of your food laws (of what is clean and unclean) to the level of the word of God so that by keeping it, you think you can try to cleanse yourselves. But Jesus says that it will never, ever work. As Jesus states it emphatically- v. 15 & 18, “there is nothing outside going in will ever defile a person or will ever make that person unclean- your scrubbing to have a clean life, all of the food laws and the strict adherence to these man-made additions, and trying really hard to be good is completely useless.

Listen:  your greatest problem is not around you, not the environment, it’s not your neighbor, not anything from the outside in but what is on the inside (heart) out; Touching anything outside will not contaminate you; you are unclean/defiled/contaminated only because of what already exists in your own heart. The totally of man’s inner self is plagued by sin. Look at v. 18,19,20,21,22,23. Radical corruption has permeated the entire human heart – our mind, our emotion and therefore, we are all defiled by sin. Jesus is explaining that the problem of defilement is not an “outside” job that can be dealt with self-improvement, self-help, self-cleansing, self-salvation project – but it is an inside condition that can only be dealt with by radical intervention, cleansing and grace.

It’s not the external form of religion where we try to cleanse ourselves by following the strict laws that we tend to create. True Christianity is always a religion of the heart.  The heart is the center of your personhood. The heart being your seeds of your thoughts, desires, your emotions, motivation and values; that means what rules your heart – rules your life & behavior. What owns your heart—owns your life as well. And Jesus lists that specifically- what is the heart of the matter? He lists in specific details how the human heart is defiled – what is controlling your heart – what is the sin problem? And he lists them in v. 21-22-23: My problem is the murder/slander/malice that already exists in me where if I see a brother or a sister that I particularly can’t stand, and go the other way, or where we tend to categorize people of who is good and who is bad and I associate with those good people or where I can easily put people down with words and do character assassination. My problem is the sexual immorality/adultery/sensuality that when I see a scene from a movie of an attractive woman and google her and see her images- that’s being unfaithful to my spouse, focusing on my sensuality. That’s the problem. My problem is that I’m a thief and envious of others- where I have stolen money, MJ cards from my friend’s lockers, where I have manipulated, distorted & used people and things for my own gain, or where I am resenting some of my close friends for having what I do not. That’s the problem. My problem is the deceiving or misleading others so that I can gain what I am looking for – that is my problem.  My problem is evil thoughts where I have this attitude of self-pity and discontent with so many limitations of my life- where that can lead to anger, irritation, frustration, and dishonesty among other things –that’s the problem. My problem is arrogance, pride where I believe that I am entitled to good things in life – that God would bless me, basically controlling things/people around me, that nobody should tell me what to do, self-centered, wanting to control God, wanting to control others. That’s the problem. These things didn’t come from the outside in but from the inside out. Sin makes us unclean, sin destroys us, it defiles us, makes us dirty, we then are cut off from fellowship with God and others. And we need cleansing.

One of the things that really discouraged me and blessed me at the same time when I was preparing for this message was realizing – man, I have a lot of issues, many, many problems as I stand before you, I stand defiled/unclean/impure; asking the Lord, how in the world am I changing, am I changing, I do sometimes want to run and hide from God Himself, makes me doubt my salvation, am I really saved, otherwise, I wouldn’t be this defiled.  Or it makes me feel unworthy to serve God, I don’t believe sometimes that I can change, I have felt, and will feel dirty, unable to approach God, even sometimes I feel that I am unable to repent, can’t talk to God sometimes about my problems, maybe just faintest whisper. I always feel that I need to get over some of these sins so that God can bless me or accept me or giving me what I’m hoping of. And all of the litany of things that was mentioned in those 23 verses – I do stand before you defiled – not sure if you sensed the guilt and condemnation and a greater awareness of your own defilement- hearts being far away from Him; but this is where I am encouraged and Tim Keller and the Tin Man really helped me to see this a bit more clearly.

And what TK said: all those ritual, cleanliness laws, food laws, they serve as a “visual aid” for people to realize of their own defilement or of their own uncleanliness. No matter how much we try to brush, wash, get rid of the uncleanliness or scrub the stain or blemish- it serves as an awful reminder of our impurity, tells us that we are dirty and shows us our uncleanliness, and our sin. It’s kinda like that Post-It reminder that, YES, our hearts are indeed are far away from Him; without apology- all of our hearts are indeed far- we are prone to leave, to wander but where is the hope- and surprisingly it came from the movie Wizard of Oz? Do you remember the movie the Wizard of Oz? I’m sure that some of us do–but remember the character Tin Man. He was searching for something. His search was to find a heart. And when he finally came face to face with the Wizard- the Wizard warned him by saying that his heart could be broken. And Tin Man’s reply was “But I still want one”; what a powerful picture!

We often think that Christianity is about morals, our performance, how we need to clean up our lives; but the Tin Man desires a broken heart- and that’s the only way you get to Christ. Only He can be your source for radical purity – because a person who can declare clean things- was treated as unclean and impure, was treated as a person who committed adultery, treated as a person filled with pride, treated as a person who was wicked, treated as a person who was completely defiled, dirty, unclean for what – to give you and I a heart. On the cross, He offered a ransom[8]: His pure/clean heart for the impure/defiled heart of his people. He would die for all the wrongs things that we had EVER done, and would do so, completely making us clean for all of our sins. That’s why God will not be satisfied with our words, or our behavior, or our external trappings, or our skilled ways of being moral, or our knowledge, or our public acts of religion – He wants your heart- that’s the hope He offers you! The heart can be broken. But like the Tin Man-can you say:– I still want one- I am tired of doing good and being good for people – all of my self-cleansing, self-salvation projects I still want one because a broken heart is the only place where you can see the good news of the gospel – where His approval, His significance, His security, His freedom, His validation, His love, His righteousness, His rescue is what our broken hearts is longing for and…it is only His shed blood, His blood on the cross is the only thing that can wash away our sin’s stain that is in our hearts. A broken heart- yes; I still want one – only because that’s the best place when all of my morality and where my good external things I have done is stripped off, where I see my sin yet the finished work of Christ gives me a clean heart. #gospel.

[1] “Washing your Hands of Guilt” – The Week (9/26/2006)

[2] Why does your teacher eat with sinners and tax collectors?

[3] Psalm 40:8

[4] Matthew 23:13ff – woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites-


[6] Matthew 23:23

[7] SF: Let’s study Mark

[8] Mark 10:45 & Matthew 20:28


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