Mark 7:1-23 Defilement Comes From The Heart.
So often what passes for religious activity is nothing but manmade rules concerned only with externals. Human beings make idols out of traditions that blunt the force of conscience within through a misplaced focus on external religious works. This was in no small part what was involved in the Reformation around the 16th century, and the birth of Protestantism. However, even now the so called protestants of today have instituted similar traditions, not unlike Roman Catholicism, where if one will simply perform certain rites, even those of a secular nature, one can be regarded as being right with God. The religious establishment of Jesus day had a pretty easy way of obfuscating the evil that lurked within their hearts and minds – simply wash the externals clean, because all that matters is mere appearances (vv. 1-2).
Jesus’ disciples, on the other hand, were men who actually worked for a living. If you wanted to eat, sometimes there was no time or concern with having some dirt on one’s hands. The hypocrites had a “special way” of washing their hands, which diverted from the corruption within (vv. 3-4). Manmade traditions focus on saying what are regarded as the right things, even as one’s heart is in love with something or someone else. False religious practices are sins of commission first and foremost, deliberately “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition” (vv. 6-9; Is. 29:13 Cf. Mt. 23:13-29). Another example Jesus gave was how they break the command to honour one’s parents by claiming a duty to God (vv. 1-12).
This kind of tradition makes the commands of scripture of no effect, all under the cloak of service to God. Jesus could have given many more examples (v. 13). Jesus wanted to make clear to the people gathered around to hear him teach (v. 14), “there is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those things defile a man” (v. 15). They all might have heard him, just as those following can read what he said, but not everyone will hear in such a way as to understand (v. 16). What enters the mouth goes to the stomach and eventually is converted to energy and waste, but what is in the heart is what indicates the state of an individual, and the first thing of importance in the heart is one’s thoughts, from which flow words and acts which defile (vv. 17-23).