Clean and Unclean
This morning we are in Mark chapter 7 on Father’s Day. Just like Jesus went home to Nazareth on Mother’s Day, Jesus addresses a question about Fathers on Father’s Day… More coincidences? I think not.
This year we are answering the question of, “Who do you say I am?” Who is Jesus? We are doing theology. We are working on our faith. Who you believe Jesus to be, may be the most important thing about you. Who you understand Jesus to be; how you see him interacting in his world; what he came here to do; your connection with Jesus; all this, makes a difference in your world. Your faith in who Jesus is directly impacts your life.
In Mark chapter 6… that would be last week’s sermon… We discovered that Mark is advocating that Jesus is YWHW.
--Jesus went up on a mountain to be one with the Father. YWHW on the mountain with Moses.
--Jesus did the YWHW thing of feeding the 5,000 with manna… like God.
--Jesus passed by the disciples revealing his glory like God did to Moses in the cleft of the rock.
--Jesus uses evgw, eivmi I AM… YWHW
--Instead of dividing the Sea… Jesus walked on it!
Mark want us to place our faith in Jesus as YWHW.
Mark chapter 6 makes the connection between Jesus and the Jewish God… YWHW. But Mark is writing, originally, to the Roman Christians in 64 AD. Mark needs to connect Jesus to more than the Jewish God… Mark needs for us to believe in Jesus as the God of everyone.
So, in Mark 7 we are going to see Jesus connect with two non-Jewish people. Jesus is not some old god of the Jewish people. Jesus is the YWHW of all peoples. That’s good news. I need Jesus to be the God of this non-Jewish person. It makes a difference in my life.
That is the good news. But the bad news is we are going to have to do some hard work before we get to Jesus as the YWHW of this guy. Mark needs to fix some bad theology. Bad theology has bad outcomes… and it effects fathers. (Just saying)
Mark 7:1-5 Now when the Pharisees gathered to Jesus, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?"
The Pharisees were upset with Jesus because his disciples did not wash their hands before they ate. This is not a hygiene thing. This is not your mom telling you to wash the germs off your hands before you eat to keep you from getting sick. The Pharisees thing was clean or unclean. Their problem was the disciples did not make their hands ceremonially clean before they ate. The question is one of who is considered clean and who is unclean. Their problem with Jesus was based upon some faulty theology.
Jesus has a rough answer for them.
Mark 7:6-8 And Jesus said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, "' This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men."
Jesus quotes Isaiah to them. Jesus calls them hypocrites. Jesus says their heart is far from YWHW. Theses Pharisees are concerned with the outward regulations instead of a heart that is connected to God. They have mixed up their traditions with the reality of God’s commands.
This is scary. Their wrong beliefs are kept them from experiencing a heart connection with God. Bad theology can keep you from God. Lip theology can get in the way of heart theology. The scary part is that any bad traditions can get in the way of good theology. This can keep us from actual connection with the reality of YWHW. This is scary.
Jesus gives an example of what he is talking about. An example of bad theology leading to a terrible practice. Here is the Father’s Day part.
Mark 7:9-13 And Jesus said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' But you say, 'If a man tells his father or his mother, Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban' (that is, given to God)- then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do."
Like a tax lawyer looking for a loophole to avoid paying taxes, these Pharisees had found a loophole in caring for their parents. “If we give all of our money and possessions to God, then, obviously, we can’t give our money to our parents. Then we will administer God’s money they way we think. All we have to say is Corban… Dedicated!” The loophole violates the 4th commandment to honor your father and mother.”
Their traditions were based on bad theology which led to the terrible practice of violating Father’s Day. This is as bad as it gets… not taking care of your father. Fathers am I right?
Then Jesus explains clean and unclean with a bit more precision.
Mark 7:14-22 And Jesus 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.
It is not the stuff going down the pipe that makes you unclean. It is the stuff coming out that makes you unclean. The stuff that comes out of your mouth, the stuff that your hands do, the unkind words, the lies, the inappropriate actions, the arrogance, the foolishness… all that stuff flows out of a heart that is not connected to the heart of God! Unclean is not based upon the outward. Unclean is based on the inward spewing out.
Jesus changed everything with this teaching. Religion is not what you eat, or what you wear, or the externals. Can you image how radical these words were to the disciples. “What? You mean we can eat pork? You mean we don’t have to have these goofy beards? You mean we don’t have to wear these silly robes? You mean we don’t have to wash our hands? You mean women or the ethnos, the others, the Gentiles and the damaged people are not unclean?” Jesus changed everything about what it means to be clean!
Jesus then takes it to another level… in a demonstration of this radical view of clean and unclean… watch the next two pericopes.
Mark 7:24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden.
Tyre and Sidon are in the Roman province of Syria. They are 40 miles northeast of Capernaum. Jesus arose from the concept of unclean and clean and went away to make his point… Just being in a Gentile area would have made Jesus unclean.
Mark 7:25-30 But immediately a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." And he said to her, "For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter." And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
This woman has three strikes against her… She is a woman in a Roman world. She is an Hellonos, a Greek, a non-Jew, an other, a dog and her daughter is demon possessed. “Let’s see, who could we pick that would most dramatically be the person to make my point? I know a Gentile, Syrophoenician woman with a demon possessed kid.” This woman who the disciples would have thought of as a dog is instead a doggy…what? The Greek word that Jesus uses is “Doggy”; a pet. She is not unclean! She has a right to the blessings of God. She is connected to the heart of YWHW. She is not unclean by status. She is not a dog. Jesus makes his clean, unclean point by healing this woman! Take that Pharisees!
Mark 7:15 “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."
Arrogance, hatred, racial prejudice, those are the things coming out of a person which make them unclean! Jesus is redefining the categories of clean and unclean.
Just to make sure the disciples get it… we are kind of slow… Jesus travels 40 miles in the other direction.
Mark 7:31-35 Then Jesus returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
Jesus goes from one Gentile area to another. From the east to west Jesus includes all Gentiles in his healing. This guy also has three strikes against him; Gentile, deaf and a speech impediment. Is there any group of people who are made more fun of than those who have speech impediments?
To make his clean/unclean point even more dramatic Jesus puts his fingers in the guy’s ears and spits on his tongue. Gross! How unclean can you get?
Jesus fulfills Isaiah!
Isaiah 35:4-6 Say to those who have an anxious heart, "Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you." Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
I don’t think Jesus could have been any clearer. Jesus deals with the bad theology of unclean. Clean or unclean is not caused by what you eat or what you wear or external stuff. Clean and unclean is not a status of your gender or race. Clean and unclean is not a function of your handicaps. Clean and unclean is a function of you heart connection to YWHW. The invasion came into the world to connect us with clean hearts to YWHW.
Bad unclean theology leads to terrible practices of hatred!
Who you believe Jesus to be, may be the most important thing about you. Who you understand Jesus to be; how you see him interacting in his world; what he came here to do; your connection with Jesus; all this, makes a difference in your world. Your faith in who Jesus is directly impacts your life.
Jesus speaks "Ephphatha” to us… Be opened!
June 18, 2017
Los Alamos Church of Christ