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Yeshua in Context » Aims of Yeshua, Beginners, Community in Yeshua, Discipleship - Formation, Kingdom Present, Podcasts, Teaching of Yeshua » What Defiles

What Defiles

This is a transcript of a podcast I did today. It is a bit of a sermon, but I think it accurately applies Mark 7 to our context. You can see the podcasts on iTunes or click here to go directly.

Yeshua said in Mark 7:15, “there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.”

I have always thought that this passage was one of the most penetrating, well-phrased, to-the-heart-of-the-matter statements of what Yeshua stood for. It’s actually only part of what Yeshua had to say on the matter. It’s what he said to the crowds, the outsiders, the ones who did not get private instruction as part of the inner circle. Mark 7:15 is rather vague and can be taken in some different directions all by itself.

Yeshua gives further clarification in vss. 17-23. I won’t go into detail about some of the controversial matters here. Many people wonder if Yeshua is nullifying the dietary law. You can find my take on that question in chapter 8 of Yeshua in Context.

What I am interested in in this podcast is the meaning of Yeshua’s ethical teaching here. We’re too quick to make blanket statements and simplistic arguments. I hear all the time, “God hates religion and loves relationship.” You can’t possibly read the Bible with intelligence and believe this. What God hates is not religion, but the kind of things some people make of religion and the kinds of religion the masses tend to settle for. These weak and sometimes evil forms leave people empty, unfulfilled.

Likewise, it’s simplistic to say, “Yeshua is against ritual purity laws.” That’s not the point.

I’m saying Mark 7 cuts through our shoddy notions of religion. It is not simply a rebuke against those scribes back then.

Neither is Mark 7 unique in Yeshua’s teaching. It is a thread that runs throughout it.

In one parable, Yeshua calls his movement a mustard bush. That is, Yeshua’s movement is an annoying weed that pops up in the religious scene which the official gardeners can’t get rid of. It results in sinners and gentiles and the great unwashed coming into the kingdom.

In a famous scene, Yeshua protests the Temple. It is his Father’s house. He has zeal for it, as his disciples testify. Why does he protest it?

The simplistic say, he was against the Temple. Those who look deeper say, he was against what the leaders made the Temple to be. It has become an unjust system, a burden on the people and a source of enrichment for the power-brokers.

His Father made the Temple a place not only of worship but also of feeding the hungry and filling the people with abundance. But the leaders demand the tithes of the people without fulfilling the purpose. They keep as much of the proceeds as they can and use the Temple as much as they can to perpetuate their power. They demand without giving.

Yeshua opposes the Pharisees again and again and modern religion completely misses why. So many modern religious people act just like the Pharisees Yeshua opposed.

They shut people out of the kingdom. All the while they congratulate themselves, “We believe in grace; we are not legalistic Pharisees.” Mark 7 doesn’t allow any of us the luxury of self-congratulation.

In spite of much rhetoric, much modern religion is no more than “come to our meeting so you can have the mark of being one of the saved.” And in order to accommodate the idea of grace, many have made the meeting more like a concert, so that the threshold is lowered and it is not so hard for large numbers of people to attend the meeting and have the mark of the saved. Come as you are. You can wear a T-shirt. But by God, get here. If you don’t, you’re missing God’s healing power and heading to a dangerous place.

No wonder Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke of religionless Christianity as being so needed.

When people reduce the message of Yeshua to something as powerless as having the marks of the saved on you, outward signs like mere attendance, they have missed Yeshua completely.

Belonging to a community of believers is not and never has been, for Yeshua, about having the mark. Yeshua designed his community to be the place that IS and DOES his will.

How about we translate Yeshua’s saying in Mark 7: “Failure to attend meetings and bear the outward marks of faith is not what defiles, but righteousness comes from within, goes out from my followers, and comforts the suffering”?

What are the false notions of impiety in modern religion. They are many. Wrong music. Disinterest in shallow or boring worship services. Failure to apply the right bumper sticker or proclaim Jesus in a T-shirt logo.

Think about what Yeshua is actually saying in Mark 7: “Don’t worry that in the jostling crowds at Walmart you might contact uncleanness. It’s not contact from the outside that defiles. It’s what comes out of you, the wickedness in your heart. Your sense of superiority, I’m better than that woman. Your deceit. Your lust. Your grasping for self-enthronement is what defiles.

But you can get these words wrong too.

It’s not that Yeshua is saying, “Measure up.” Nor is he calling you to be a righteous individual.

First, a focus on measuring up will lead you astray. Don’t look at your shortcomings and feel unshakable shame. Look at all the good you can do and do it. Be a force for love, justice, kindness, goodness, service, help for those hurting.

Second, a focus on being a righteous individual will lead you astray. You were not created to be a solitary paragon of virtue. You made for others, to be with others, to be completed by others. You were made for God’s family.

But, you say, the congregation near me has it all wrong. Well, start somewhere. Yeshua’s generation had it all wrong too.

And no matter where you go, you’ll find people who want love, friendship, encouragement, help, and even to lend a helping hand.

But you will find that evil always pops up, in you and in others. Why be surprised? The power of sin is in perpetuating evil. The power of good is in reclaiming lost ground and advancing the kingdom of God.

While we are waiting for it to fully arrive, the kingdom of God is what we do together. It is what Yeshua taught us to do. Comfort mourners. Fill the hungry. See God. Supply needs. Right wrongs. Promote life.

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Filed under: Aims of Yeshua, Beginners, Community in Yeshua, Discipleship - Formation, Kingdom Present, Podcasts, Teaching of Yeshua

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