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  • John Bryant

Mark 7: 1-23: Christ has Made His Home in the Profanity of the Human Heart

7 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly,[a] holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash.[b] And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.[c]) 5 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?” 6 And he 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; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 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)[d]— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 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.”[e] 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 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, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”[f] (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”


These are the things I wrote in my journal this week:


Worship is tension


Hearing is a crisis


I wondered at those these lines, and what I meant by them. Why they so often seem to be the theme of my spirituality.


In this passage, Christ says the traditions of man have nullified the Word of God. And that is a striking thing to say.


In that time, the evil and uncleanness was thought to be outside, and there were ways to make sure one was not contaminated by it.


But Christ says the human heart is the beginning of the unholy and the profane.


The heart begins in profanity. The heart begins its life as profanity.



This week, I got a root canal and two cavities filled. There is something so immensely personal about having something that close to you wrong with you. At having the decay in your teeth, the sound of drills in your mouth. Something so inescapably and irreparably intimate about having the decay in your mouth.


The heart is a toothache.


“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.”


The problem is not our day to day moodiness or personality. Not our temptations or desires.


The problem is the long standing traditions of the human heart, the settled intentions of the heart.


The long standing tradition of the human heart is rebellion.


Over and against the long-standing traditions of the human heart, God’s people stand powerless. They were not just helpless in their poverty, helpless in their circumstances.


They were helpless in their rebellion.


If there is one thing that I fear most it is the daily fear I have of being overthrown by the hardness of my own heart.


It is the heart that withholds, the heart that offers.

The heart that gives, and the heart that takes.


For freedom Christ set us free. And not free just from sickness and calamity. Freedom from the long-standing traditions of the human heart. Freedom from the ruthless administration of the human heart. Freedom from slavery to our own hardness of heart.


But Christ has given us a greater fear, himself. We are to fear the one who has shown mercy. The one who is the forgiveness of sin.


When Christ comes he comes to invade. Christ has made his home in the profanity of the human heart.


Why?


Because the heart is what we overturn God with.

And the heart is what we depend on God with.



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