Sermon Text — Mark 7:1-13
Proper 16 — August 23rd, 2015
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s (evening’s) sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account the seventh chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Tradition of Men
The Pharisees claimed that their tradition safeguarded the Law. It was to them like a pious hedge built around the holiness of God. In theory if one could keep the traditions then one could be sure they had not transgressed God’s Law. This morning in our text, the Pharisees take issue with Jesus and His disciples because they did not wash their hands before eating. Don’t misunderstand. Neither the Pharisees nor Jesus and his disciples were concerned about hygiene. The Pharisees weren’t concerned about germs and neither was our Lord. The issue was ritual purity. The issue was being clean – not common, nor unclean – but clean. The tradition of the elders had extended the Levitical requirements for ritual purity to the everyday lives of God’s people. The Pharisees washed, baptized, their hands before they ate just in case any part of the hand or forearm came in contact with a gentile. The Jews were to be a nation of priests before their God. Therefore, in their minds, what was given to those serving in the temple was also given to those in everyday life. They washed, they baptized everything and anything that could make them ritually common. But Jesus and his disciples didn’t. And if Jesus didn’t keep the tradition of the elders then he and his disciples having rubbed elbows with gentiles, having brushed up against hemorrhaging women, having touched dead bodies, could very well be ritually compromised.
You can just imagine all the Jews freaking out because Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands. “Did you see that?” See what? They didn’t wash before eating. Oh, my! God have mercy on their souls! What were they thinking? Don’t they know? Or don’t they care?”
Washing the Outside
When confronted, because the Pharisees just couldn’t sit by and watch this unfold before their eyes, Jesus calls them out. “Well did Isaiah prophesy concerning your hypocrites!” He shines the Light of God’s Law, the very Law which the Pharisees are doing their best to keep, not on their rituals, not on their works, but on their heart! The Pharisees are concerned about washing the outside. Jesus is concerned about the inside. The Pharisees are concerned about their works. Jesus is concerned about their heart. “This people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” The issue for the Pharisees is tradition. The issue for Jesus is hypocrisy. Using the Word like a sharp two-edges scalpel Jesus wields the Word to go straight to the heart, their heart, and your heart.
Like the Jews we are a people concerned about externals. The Pharisees were good people, pious people, religious people! They are the best Old Adam can be – on the outside. But the reality is they are like white-washed tombs. They look clean but they are actually full of dry bones. We are a people more concerned about looking good to others and looking good to God than we are about fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things and serving our neighbor. Under the guise of religious piety we often neglect our vocation. Masking our hypocrisy with praise we offer to God our works. Covering the outside with fig leaves we hope no one actually sees our shame. Pursuing every religious fad that comes out of pop culture we give the impression of spiritual vitality and vigor when in reality we are hungry, thirsty, unclean, weak, and weary because of our sin.
Jesus says, this sort of pious hypocrisy, not only masks the true nature of our hearts, but actually makes it impossible to serve our neighbor. The Jews thought any gift given to the temple was a good work for God when in reality they were neglecting to care for their parents! The good that they thought they were doing for God actually prevented them from doing any good to their neighbor. Thus when our piety takes us away from our vocations they are neither good nor pleasing in God’s eyes and they deny those whom God has placed in our lives the love and care God’s Law actually demands. And where does this sort of hypocrisy manifest itself in our lives? Jesus hits the nail on the head in our text. It begins with the fourth commandment – with families, husbands and wives, moms and dads, children and parents. Everyone tirelessly trying to be something more than what God has called us to be. Dads try to be fun dads – concerned more about spending quality time with families than quantity time spent parenting. Mom’s try to be super moms – concerned more about providing a memorable childhood full of rich and exciting experiences than providing a home. Parents trying to raise well-rounded children at the expense of raising godly children. Husbands working overtime to pay for it all – neglecting both their wives and their children. Wives advancing their careers at the expense of their marriage raising children who never experience a godly home because Mom and Dad are never home, always pursuing what they think it means to be a good parent. The list could go on and on as each of you consider your own chaotic lives. Everyone tries to do their best but few consider what God actually says is best. What’s the result of all this? Exhaustion, hunger for something more meaningful, thirst for something more refreshing, mis-spent lives, wasted time, trivial experiences, and an overall sense of failure. The conscience knows – God desires something more than just outward appearances. What we’ve done no matter our good intentions will not rightly cover our shame.
Jesus is our Corban
Only Jesus can bring order out of chaos. Only Jesus can satisfy the hungry heart. Only Jesus can quench our thirst for life. Only Jesus can cleanse our conscience, redeem our days, and give meaning to our existence and true rest for our souls. It all starts with Jesus. You see beloved, the heart of man always wants to give something to God, whether its works, or praise, or love, or spiritual devotions, or pious lives. That’s Old Adam’s best. But Old Adam’s best isn’t good enough. There is no gift we can give to God that can wash away the stain of our sins. There is no work we can do that can cover our shame. Sin must be washed away, not just the removal of such stains from the flesh, from the outside, but the removal of every spot and blemish on the inside. Jesus goes for the heart, your heart.
To redeem your heart, and thus your whole person, Jesus offers Himself. Jesus is your Corban, your gift to God in your place.
He alone has fulfilled all righteousness.
He alone went about doing good without sin.
He alone loved God and neighbor perfectly.
He alone is the good Son, honoring his parents and God His Father.
He alone is the good Husband, surrendering His life for His bride, sanctifying and cleansing her with the washing of water through the Word.
He alone is the good neighbor, the good Shepherd, the good physician, the good king, our good God. For no one is good but God alone. He is God, the Word, made flesh to redeem you and me.
Therefore, He alone has come to be for you and me the New Adam, the One sent by God to save sinners, to save you. To save you He dies for you for the wages of sin is death. He alone is God’s perfect sacrifice, the Lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world even your sins. His life is ended so that your life is everlasting. His heart is stopped that your heart is reborn. His flesh is broken so that your flesh is atoned for. His body is raised from the dead on the third day so that your body is raised on the last day. Everything not only starts with Jesus but ends with Jesus for in Jesus’ death and resurrection all is tetelestai! It is finished, completed, paid for, nothing more needed, nothing more to give, nothing more demanded. Jesus fulfills God’s demands perfectly and to the fullest for you and for all.
Washing the Inside
His salvation doesn’t begin with you nor does it end with you. Jesus didn’t get the ball rolling and now, like the Greek’s Sisyphus, you have to roll that boulder up the hill on your own. He didn’t start your salvation He is your salvation. His redemption isn’t partial. It lacks nothing. If you have Jesus you have salvation. Salvation isn’t based on your works, the reforming of your ways, your outward appearances. Fig leaves aren’t good enough to stand in God’s presence. No! His salvation doesn’t just wash the outside, but actually cleanses the inside, the heart, your heart. Jesus doesn’t call His followers to reformation but to regeneration. He’s not about reforming the outward man, but renewing the inner person. Jesus goes to the heart, your heart.
This He does by the “washing of renewal and regeneration of the Holy Spirit whom He poured out upon us richly” in the waters baptism. Baptism not just the removal of dirt from the flesh – that’s what the Pharisees were doing over and over and over again. No! Baptism is pledge of a good conscience towards God, a one time event in hia particular place and time, for you! For there is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all!
Who is doing the pledging? Who is doing the baptizing? Jesus. Jesus cleanses His people by the washing of water through the Word. Jesus, the only good God, the only Good person, the New Adam, pledges His conscience to God on your behalf. He stands between you and the Father as your perfection. When the Father looks upon you, His baptized children, He sees Jesus, His righteousness, His death for sin, His resurrection, and His ascension to the right hand of God. This promise is for you and for your children and for all who are afar off for God and their neighbor.
Released for service to our Neighbor
Beloved in the Lord, this washing, this baptism, and our continual living in these waters by faith has set us free from our bondage to pious appearances. We Christians have been baptized into Christ. We are new creations! We have been crucified with Christ and we have been raised with Christ and the life we live is not our own but Christ living in us. With Christ living in us the life we want to live we are given to live in newness of life towards God. How do we do that? We live out our salvation with love toward our neighbor, not for the sake of appearance but for the sake of goodness. And God’s goodness is manifested in family. Husbands loving their wives and wives respecting their husbands. The two, not separate and equal, but one, together in their respective vocation serving one another out of reverence for Christ. One in focus and attention given to those whom God has given each to love and care for. Dads forsaking the pressures to be fun 1 day a week, and fulling their vocation to around everyday. Mom’s surrendering the desire to be super, providing the joys of a godly home. Parents passing on the faith to the next generation and the next generation returning thanks to God by caring for their parents. This, beloved is a life free in Christ, free from the false pieties of the world, free to love as the Lord instructs, free to live in the joy of Jesus. Such a life is nourished with the bread of life and is refreshed with living water. Such a life flows from the cross of Christ through the Word of God to the heart of those who believe and is put into practice with love and good works. This life is what Jesus offers you today, a full life, a rich life, a life abounding with unimaginable joy, a life that begins with the heart and finds its end in the life everlasting in paradise. God grant such a life for each of us today. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!