The Book of Mark: Chapter 7

In part 6, we’ll explore Mark Chapter 7.  The Lord’s ground breaking teaching on what makes something “clean” versus “unclean”, the incredible faith of the gentile Phonecian woman (she’s the only one in the entire gospel who addressed Him as Lord) , and the healing of a man both deaf and mute are featured.

Transcript

This time our study begins in Mark 7. Those of you who are new here, there are some who haven’t been here before, and you can find on the table over here copies of our previous studies in Mark. They are free for the asking; you can take them and catch yourself up so that you won’t have missed any of our previous what-fore studies in the Book of Mark.

So this is study six; there are five parts previous to this. This is study six in the Book of the Gospel According to Mark. If you get the CDs and listen to them, you’ll learn that Mark is actually writing a Gospel that he developed out of listening to and taking notes on Peter’s sermons.

So Mark was a young man, he followed Peter around and wrote down what he said, and compiled it into his Gospel. And so what you’re getting here is Peter’s account of the Gospel.

So let’s beginthere’s a lot more introduction, but it’s on the CD so feel free to take one. If we run out give Kim your name she’ll get you another one, or we’ll get more, we’ll do whatever it takes so that everybody can be caught up.

These studies also are available in MP3 format on our website GracethruFaith.com and so if you don’t get a CD or would prefer to have the study off the computer go to GracethruFaith.com and you’ll find the studies there in MP3 format you can download them, and again they’re all free there’s no charge for any of that.

Okay so much for the commercial, let’s go to Mark 7:1:

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were unclean, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, according to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

Now don’t confuse this with the cleanliness, acts of cleanliness, that we all do; we have dirty dishes we wash them, we have dirty hands we wash them. This has nothing to do with the cleanliness issue; this is a ceremonial issue that is a spiritual issue rather than a physical one.

And here His disciples were with Jesus, eating without ceremonially preparing themselves. It consisted of just dipping their fingers into some special water and wiping it off, and that’s what they did and they gave a little prayer as they did it, and that was the ceremonial washing.

So, verse 5:

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with unclean hands?”

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites;

You notice His diplomatic manner here.

as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,

    but their hearts are far from me.

  They worship me in vain;

    their teachings are but rules taught by men.’

This is a quote from Isaiah 29:13, by the way. And in it, the Lord was having Isaiah make the same complaint about the Jewish rituals. Seven hundred fifty years earlier, He was saying the same thing about them, that they were more concerned about their traditions that they had built up around their worship of God then they were about the actual worship of God. 

Now in Isaiah 29, let’s go there, Isaiah 29:13 and we’ll read the rest of the story because there’s more to the quote, and it has to do with the Lord Himself. We’ll just go back there real quick, and we’ll read Isaiah 29, and you’ll see that it’s pretty close even though all the New Testament quotes are from the Greek translation of the Old Testament. And our Old Testament comes to us from Hebrew, so you’ll find in many cases, a word here or there that’s different, but here’s what the translation directly from the Hebrew says about Isaiah 29:13:

The Lord says:

“These people come near to me with their mouth

    and honor me with their lips,

    but their hearts are far from me.

Their worship of me

    is based on merely rules taught by men.

That’s pretty close to what the Lord had said. Now listen to verse 14:

Therefore once more I will astound these people

    with wonder upon wonder;

the wisdom of the wise will perish,

    the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

And of course, verse 14, the wonder that the Lord is talking about is, He was going to send the Messiah. And the Messiah would not be accepted, we learned from this prophecy, by the theologians of the time. He would not be accepted by the great experts in the law and in the study of the religion of the time.

He would show people what the word of God really meant, and now we’re going to see a case of that happening. Let’s go back into Mark and in verse 8.

Mark 7:8 says:

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

Let go of the commands of God, holding on to the traditions of men. You see, they had developed rules that were based on God’s Word, and they had actually given their set of rules the same weight as God’s Word, and in some cases, more.

And so sometimes this worked to make their lives more difficult than it should have been. Sometimes this worked to actually get them off the track of what God was really trying to say to them.

Here’s another example; let’s get a little more background. Let’s go to Matthew 5. And in Matthew 5:21, here’s an example.

Verse 21 says:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’

That’s one of the Ten Commandments, thou shalt not kill, right? And of course the real word for “kill” is “murder.” That’s one of the Commandments, and so people had the mistaken idea that as long as they didn’t kill anybody, they didn’t break the Commandment.

Now what the Lord goes on to say here, in 22 He says:

I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.

He’s equating anger with murder, and in doing so, He is saying, It’s not your outward behavior that I’m concerned about. 

Of course you don’t go around killing people, but when you’re angry with someone, it’s as if in your heart you have put him to death. Because, raise your hand if you’ve never done this, raise your hand if you’ve never said or thought, I wish you were dead.

And maybe you didn’t mean it that way, but that expression of anger in the Lord’s mind is every bit as much a violation of the Commandment as if you pulled out a pistol and shot him through the head. And you see, people had the mistaken idea that as long as they didn’t kill people, they were keeping the Commandment.

Now you can take every one of the Commandments and apply that principle to it, and you can see that, first of all, it’s impossible to keep the Commandments and that’s why, second, nobody does. They think they are when they obey the outward appearance, the so-called letter of the law, but the Lord is interested in the spirit of the law.

Skip down to verse 27:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 

And so again people might have been walking around saying, Well I don’t commit adultery, I’m faithful, I don’t cheat on my wife.

But do they ever look at someone with lust in their heart? Well, the Lord says if you have, you’re guilty. Now, raise your hand if you’ve never done that one. Whoa, it’s quiet in here, and no hands are going up, okay.

So He’s going to show them now in this example the same thing He showed in Matthew 5, that the Lord is not fooled by external behavior. It’s the internal attitude of our heart that He is interested in. It doesn’t matter if you obey externallyif your heart is full of rebellion, if it’s full of resentment, if it’s full of pridebecause it’s the matter of the heart with the Lord, and it’s what’s in your heart that matters to Him, not the external appearance.

Okay, so then He goes down; let’s go back to Mark 7, and now we’re in verse 9. And He says:

“You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 

Now He’s going to give them an example. Verse 10 says:

For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother must be put to death.’

This is both the positive and negative application of the fifth Commandment to honor your father and your mother.

11:

But you say that if a man says to his father or mother whatever help you might have otherwise received from me is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

And of course, we all do, and we still do things like that. Now, this Corban law was a tradition that allowed a person to dedicate in advance whatever he had to the temple. It’s kind of like a living will or living trust where you can put your money in trust, that upon your death, it goes to your church, but while you’re alive you get to use it. The money legally belongs to the church; you just get the use of it while you’re still alive. You can’t give it away to somebody else, you can’t do this or that with it, it’s not yours anymore, but you still get to use it.

And you see in those days they were using that principle which by the way is found in Numbers 30:1 or 2, and in Numbers 30 it just says if you make an oath before the Lord you better keep it.

And so what they were doing is they were taking that verse, and they were applying it to this advanced gift which permitted a child who didn’t want to help his or her parents to say to them, Gee, I’d like to help, but I made an oath to the Lord therefore I can’t.

Get the point? 

I’d like to help, but I already promised the money to the Lord and Numbers 30:1 and 2 says if I made an oath to the Lord, I’ve got to keep it. And so, I’d like to help but I can’t.

And of course, they were using that, in many cases, as an excuse not to help. And so here they were keeping one part of Scripture while they were violating another one. Because in order to make the oath stick, they had to violate the Commandment to honor their parents. That’s what He’s saying, He says, You’ve taken this tradition, which is based on Scripture, and you’ve used it to justify disobeying God’s Law.

And yet they thought they were the ultimate in keeping God’s law. And He says, “You do many things like that.”

Now, this is a principle I really want you to get here. If you don’t get some of the other stuff we talked about tonight, that’s okay; you really need to get this. God’s word is not contradictory. It does not say one thing somewhere and something else somewhere else. 

For example, I answer questions from believers all over the world about Biblical subjects on our website, and by far, the running favorite of these kinds of questions has to do with the security of our salvation. 

If we say, “Lord, I accept You as my savior,” and He sends the Holy Spirit to us, we are saved. But are we? Can we lose that? Can we do something to cancel that? Can we do something to nullify that? Can we even change our mind later on and say, “I changed my mind Lord, you can have my salvation back I don’t want it anymore.” Can we do any of that?

Well, the clearest verses in the Bible say that once you have sincerely asked the Lord into your heart to be your savior, and He comes and says, “Yes,” which He always does, you are saved. You are saved forever, because it’s not your behavior that got you saved or keeps you saved, it’s what you believe that gets you saved, and then it’s the Lord who keeps you saved.

Now I can prove this with Bible verses. For example, look at Ephesians 1:13. I’m just going to take a couple of these, because this is, just by way of example, not the central theme of our session tonight.

Ephesians 1:13:

You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

These two verses list four things. You do two and then God does two. What do you do? The first one, verse 13:

You heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.

And the second thing, you believed it. Those are your two jobs. You heard, and you believed. In response, God does two things. He says:

When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance

Now where in that verse is the behavior? Where is the list of things you have to do to qualify or to maintain your salvation?

And, in fact, doesn’t this say that the minute you hear and believe, you’re saved? And doesn’t it say that at that moment God sends you the Holy Spirit seal that guarantees your inheritance, before you’ve done anything as a believer, good or bad?

Doesn’t it say that? Some of you are not sure, so let’s go to 2 Corinthians 1, where Paul follows up this statement and gives us a little more information about it.

2 Corinthians 1:21 says:

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.

Who is responsible now for you? God. When He—well let’s read on and let Him tell you what He did. 

It is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, he set his seal of ownership on us, and he put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Now this says that God did something else, He not only sealed you and guaranteed you, He branded you. He put His mark of ownership on you, so He’s actually done three things now.

Let’s go to 2 Corinthians 5:5, and we’ll get the conclusion of the story.

2 Corinthians 5:5 says:

It is God who made us for this very purpose, and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come

How many times has He said guaranteeing? In each one of these three verses, these are the only three times, by the way, the word “guarantee” appears in the New Testament, and it’s in these three verses. That word “deposit” is a legal term. If you, anybody here in the real estate business, know anything about real estate? Anybody? You ever heard the term “earnest money?” Okay, that’s what this word means.

The Holy Spirit is an earnest money deposit. Now, what does an earnest money deposit do legally? It obligates you to follow through on the purchase.

When you fill out an earnest money agreement to buy a house, your realtor says, “Now be careful because this is a legally binding obligation.” And the next thing they’ll do is you put in something they call “weasel clauses”—these are conditions subject to home inspection, subject to favorable financing, subject to you putting new carpeting in the house, subject to painting the walls.

They’ll have you put some Subject 2s in there so that if the seller doesn’t follow through, or if you can’t get financing, or if the home inspector fails the house, you’re off the hook. Because that’s the only way you can get out of an earnest money agreement, you can be legally compelled to follow through if you don’t put some conditional clauses in there.

Okay, where’s the weasel clauses in these things I’ve just read you? What conditions do you have to meet in order for God to follow through on His end of the deal? None! You believe, you heard the Word, and you believed it, and when that happened God took over and He marked you, He put His seal of ownership on you, He put the Holy Spirit in your heart as a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance and then He took responsibility for keeping you saved.

Are you secure in your salvation? Sounds that way to me. 

But what about all these other verses? 

And listen I’ve got a list of them on the site, they’re 20 or so, that people say, “Well sure I understand that but what about Hebrews 6?” “What about Hebrews 10?” “What about John 3?” “What about Colossians 2?”

What about, what about, what about. 

And in every single one of them, you can see that they aren’t talking about your salvation. As a matter of fact, they can’t be because of these three verses that are the clearest and most easily understood verses governing your salvation to appear anywhere in the Scripture.

The rule of interpretation is this: you use clear verses to interpret obscure ones. It’s not the other way around. You don’t use an obscure verse to nullify a clear one.

This is what He was accusing these Pharisees of doing. They were using a verse that did not apply to honoring your father and mother to nullify the Commandment to honor your father and mother. And that’s what He was complaining to them about, and that’s still going on today.

People are using verses that don’t apply to your salvation to nullify these verses that do, and it is not Biblical, it is not right, and they shouldn’t do it! And there the Lord is telling them that they shouldn’t do it.

Now, as I said, this is not the central point and I don’t want to get derailed on this, although this has become one of my very favorite subjects. I think part of the reason it’s such a popular subject with me is because I have done something that would take away my salvation! And if you’re being honest right now, you have too! In fact, if you’ve ever thought about somebody and being angry with them, or if you’ve ever looked lustfully at anybody, or I could say if you’ve ever envied the possessions or another person, or if you’ve ever done any of 100 things we all do every day that are violations of the Commandments, you’ve lost yours too.

Unless, unless it’s not your behavior, it’s not how you behave, that keeps you saved but what you believe that keeps you saved.

And what you believe is that Jesus died for all of your sins from the first to the last. He took every single one of them to the cross, and when He died up there, He died for every sin of your life so that you could fulfill the purpose for which God created you, which 1 Corinthians 5:5 tells us, was to dwell in Heaven with God forever.

You understand that? Now if you don’t, please give this some more study. Please. And if you ever find a verse in the Bible that you say that you think negates these or nullifies them, please write to me. First of all look on the website because it’s probably already there and we’ve probably already responded to it. But if you find one that you don’t see on the website, all you got to do is go on the website to GracethruFaith.com up in the upper right-hand corner of the home page is a search box, you type in “once saved always saved,” and you’ll get pages of responses to questions people have written in that says, “Yes I understand Ephesians,” and, “I understand 2 Corinthians, but what about this one?” “What about that one?”

All over the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament people send me stuff saying, “What about this?” As if some obscure verse somewhere in the Bible can nullify these clear ones. 

But now because you’ve been here tonight, and because you’ve seen Mark 7, you see the Lord Himself criticizing them for taking passages out of context and using them to nullify God’s law.

You have to be careful with this; it’s all over the place. The latest one coming around, by the way, I’ll warn you about this if you haven’t already seen it, there’s a new idea being promoted around Evangelical Christianity that, even if you get born again, even if you get Raptured, you may not wind up in the Kingdom. You might wind up in the outer darkness for one thousand years because you didn’t behave on Earth. That’s the latest one to come around.

I don’t know how people came to that conclusion. The passages they use don’t even fit, but there are books written on it, I get questions about it frequently.

People teach this, that if you don’t behave—and by the way, there’s no way for you to know whether you have behaved or not because there isn’t any list of dos and don’ts, like the Ten Commandments; that’s a list of dos and don’ts you know whether you’ve broken one of those or not—but these people come up with this idea, but they can’t tell you what you have to do to make sure you’ll be in the Kingdom. You have to wait until you get to the Bema Seat and then you find out after it’s too late, that’s the thought.

To me it’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard and I wouldn’t ever have given it 30 seconds worth of thought if I hadn’t read the books they’ve written and received the questions I’ve got about it. It’s kind of a halfway thing between you can’t lose your salvation, and you can. Their middle position now is no you can’t lose it but it might not do you any good after all when you get there.

So if you hadn’t heard about that before just forget I ever mentioned it. Don’t waste your time on that. But I want you to remember this thing about Mark. What the Lord is telling you here and you should write this on the backs of your eyelids so that every time you blink you see it:

God’s word cannot contradict itself. It cannot say something in one place and something else in another. 

In John 3:16 Jesus said:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.

He didn’t add any list of conditions to that. When in John 6:26-29, the people ask Him:

“What do we have to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: believe in the one he has sent.”

In John 6:38-40 when Jesus said:

My Father’s will is that anyone who looks to the Son and believes in him will have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

And it is my Father’s will, that I shall lose none of those he has given me,

None. Now you and I might not always do our Father’s will but do you suppose Jesus always does the Father’s will? And the Father told Him, Don’t you dare lose anyone.

You got that? All right. I don’t feel strongly about this at all! [laughing] But I wanted you to have the chance to see how He is condemning them for using God’s Word to contradict itself and to justify violating the Commandments.

Now in verse 14 He’s going to answer the question now about the clean and unclean hands:

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them.

You realize what that must have sounded like to them? They have these laws all written all about all this unclean food and unclean hands and unclean clothing, and unclean this and unclean that. But He said nothing outside can make him unclean by coming into him. Rather, it’s what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. 

Verse 17:

After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked.

He’s in a bad mood today I can tell right from the start! I mean His toast wasn’t done right or something, I don’t know what it was! [laughs]

He said:

“Are you so dull? Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him unclean? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. For from within, out of a man’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.

And that’s not the complete list, by the way.

All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.”

He didn’t preface all this by saying, Listen, I’m going to tell you something new here. He didn’t say, Listen, I know what the Old Testament says, but here’s what we’re going to do now. He didn’t even say, Look, I know you’ve misunderstood things in the past and that’s why I’m here to help clarify all this. He didn’t say any of that. He said this as if that’s the way it has always been. 

Well, what about all these laws? What about all these food laws, these dietary restrictions? What about all these cleanliness things? What about all this other stuff? How did that come to be? 

Well, it’s simple. It started with Exodus 15. We’re going to go back there and look because I don’t want you to go away from here thinking that there’s some huge conflict between the Old and the New or anything like that. Because what does Hebrew say? 

God is the same yesterday today and forever. 

He doesn’t change His mind about things. In fact, the only difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament is the cross. They’re on one side, and we’re on the other side, and being that way makes all the difference in the world. The two Testaments are the same; it’s the cross that made the difference.

Exodus 15, we’re going to have to start at verse 22 to get into this because there isn’t really any other way, and so just bear with me, we’ll read 5 or 6 verses here.

Here the Jews are in the wilderness, they’ve come out of Egypt just a short while ago, and they’re wandering around in the desert and then verse 22 says:

Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.)

Marah is Hebrew word that means bitter.

Verse 24:

So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There the Lord

Now this is the part I want you to hear:

There the Lord made a decree and a law for them and there he tested them.

Here’s the test:

He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes,

Not in your eyes, in His eyes:

If you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”

I am the Lord who heals you.

So the first thing He’s telling them is that He’s going to give (He hasn’t given it to them yet), He’s going to give them some instruction. This instruction is going to come in the form of decrees, of laws that He is going to give them. They’re not the Ten, you know in the Old Testament there are 613. The Ten are just the Ten Commandments, but there are a total of 613 Commandments in the Torah; most of them are in the Book of Leviticus. 

And these Commandments are what He is talking about, and He said, If you will obey those Commandments I won’t bring upon you any of the diseases I brought upon the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.

You know what He could have said there? He could have said, Look, I’m going to show you how to live. I’m going to show you how to eat right, I’m going to show you how to stay clean, I’m going to show you how to stay healthy. And if you will do what I’m saying here, you won’t get the diseases that these other peoples get.

This is why when the average Egyptian lived 35 years, the average Jew was living up into the 80s and 90s. The lifespan of Israel was about three times the lifespan of the Egyptians.

Why? Because they followed dietary restrictions, they followed cleanliness restrictions. These are two of the three reasons for these Commandments. The third reason is to give glory to God’s creation because among the laws were things like, don’t get any tattoos. Don’t pierce your body. Don’t cut your hair off. Don’t do any ceremonial cutting and scarring on your body.

And what He was saying to them is, I made you in My image, don’t deface My artwork.

And so the three reasons for all these laws were for their health, to give them long and healthy lives, to keep them mindful of the fact that they were His creation.

And the third one was, they have some funny laws in there like, don’t put a mule and an ox in the same yoke and try to plow with them.

Now that’s kind of obvious. But then it says, don’t use two different kinds of cloth when you make clothes, don’t use two different kinds of cloth.  And He said, Don’t patch your clothing with new cloth when your clothing is old. 

He’s telling them all these things to teach them the third lesson, and that is, stay separate.

Separate yourself from the world. The fact that you don’t put a mule and an ox in the same yoke, in the New Testament, what did that become? Don’t be yoked with an unbeliever, stay separate. Paul said, What does a believer and an unbeliever have in common anyway? You shouldn’t associate with them; you shouldn’t be together with them. You shouldn’t be yoked together in some kind of an arrangement like a marriage or a business or things like that because sooner or later you’re going to have a problem and your worldview is so far from their worldview that there won’t be any solution. So don’t do it, stay separate. But those are the three things. 

Health which includes the spread of disease, Don’t defile My creation and remain separate from the world. And you’ll find that you can put all those laws into those three categories.

That’s why He gave it to them, not to keep them spiritually clean, to keep them healthy. You understand? Now they added to this, the whole mead and milk thing came out of 1 verse in the Bible. It doesn’t even apply to people, and so that’s another whole story.

But what they did was they turned these things into traditions, they added to them, and they kept making them more and more specific and more and more severe until it was absolutely impossible. It so enslaved the people that the Lord was incensed about it when He came. And He said, You missed the whole point. It is not what goes into you that makes you unclean, it is what comes out of you that’s the problem.

You understand? And here again, they had fooled themselves into thinking that if they didn’t meet this, or didn’t wear that, or did this or did that, that they were making points with God and that they were more righteous than everybody else. And He said, No, no. You’re missing the whole point. The point was to keep you alive, keep you healthy keep you strong and vital. That was the point.

There’s a great book out by the way called “None of These Diseases.” It’s written by Dr. McMillen (Thomas McMillen was it?), he’s since died. His son has written an updated copy of “None of These Diseases.”

He makes an excellent point that if we would follow those dietary restrictions even today, if we would follow those dietary restrictions, we’d be a lot healthier. We’d be a lot happier, we’d have a lot more energy, we’d be a lot more vital. I’m not talking about kosher, because that’s a whole different thing, I’m talking about the dietary restrictions from the Bible, and I’m talking about the cleanliness issues.

Do you know back in what was it, some several 100 years ago, there was a big plague in Europe. The bubonic plague wiped out one-quarter of the population in Europe, do you know how they stopped it? They stopped it by going back to the Old Testament, to the Book of Leviticus, and quarantining the people that had the disease and maintaining states of cleanness in people it didn’t. And it stopped the plague.

The procedures in hospitals became safer even though—I don’t know if you know this or not, but the hospital is the second leading cause of death in this country today, and I don’t mean you go in there sick and then you die, I mean you go in there okay and you get sick and die while you’re there. It’s the second leading cause of death in this country because of the fact that it’s a haven for germs. They do a lot of stuff to try to keep it clean, I’m not arguing with what they do, but it’s a haven for germs. 

Okay, so God’s laws were given for man’s benefit. He wasn’t making it tough for them to live, He wasn’t trying to test them to see if they’d obey, it wasn’t some power play of His. 

He said, If you will keep these laws and Commandments I give you, I won’t bring upon you any of the diseases I bring upon the Egyptians.

Okay? Simple. And then Jesus gives the rest of the story when He says, You can’t become unclean by eating something, you become unclean by thinking something!

And see that’s why we need a savior, isn’t it? Because we can’t keep ourselves from thinking these things! We have a sin nature that puts these thoughts in our mind, and we sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we dwell on the thought, and we sometimes accept it, and we turn it into something and bingo! We got a problem.

It’s not because we ate something we shouldn’t have! Although we can have problems when we eat things we shouldn’t; that’s not a spiritual problem, that’s a physical problem. You don’t become spiritually unclean by what you eat, it’s by what you think that makes you that way.

All right. We okay with that? I hope you go away from here tonight feeling a lot freer than you did when you came in, that’s always one of my goals. The Gospel is an emancipation document; it’s a freeing document. It takes away your slavery; you don’t have to be a slave to sin anymore, you don’t have to be slave to the law anymore, you don’t have to be a slave to tradition anymore, you don’t have to be any of those things.

What did Paul say in Colossians 2:8? I think he had one of these, and boy, this is so true today just as it was then. 

Colossians 2:8:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Isn’t that a good one? Don’t be taken captive, but we all have been. We’ve all been taken captive either at one time in our lives or to some degree in our lives, we’re all captive to some thought that really depends more on human tradition than the Word of God.

Okay, that’s the end of that little talk on clean and unclean. This being a Gentile group, you don’t have that same problem that a lot of Jewish groups would have with this passage, but even so.

Now there’s one final point on this. It’s not what we eat that interrupts our fellowship with God; it’s what we think. It’s our sin that does that, not our food. It’s our sin that interrupts our fellowship with God. We’re saved, and we’re saved forever, and our eternity is secure. But between now and then we got this life we’re living here on Earth. And our relationship with God is determined by our life. 

Sin interferes with our fellowship with God, it disrupts it. It’s just like it was with your Earthly parents, sometimes you behaved in a way that strained your relationship with them, and there might have been some of us in here might have gone months or even years without speaking to our parents or without them speaking to us because somebody didn’t approve of what somebody did.

And then one of you got the bright idea to go and say, “Look, I’m sorry, forgive me.” And that made things right again. It’s the same way with God, except you can count on Him forgiving you. I didn’t have that same experience with my Earthly parents; I couldn’t always count on them forgiving me. They might say to me something like, “Well, we’re glad you finally confessed, but it doesn’t change anything.”

But God’s not that way. If you don’t feel close to God like you did once, if you don’t feel like you’re on the wavelength anymore, if you don’t feel like you’re communicating the way you have in the past, maybe it’s because you got a sin problem which you haven’t been either willing to admit or maybe even aware of.

Maybe you’ve done something that displeased God, and you’ve been justifying having done it instead of asking for forgiveness. He did it to me first! God doesn’t care about that; He doesn’t care who did it first. What He cares about is that you come back to Him and say, “Look, I’m sorry. I know that disappointed You.” Or, “I know that embarrassed You in Heaven because I know that even though I did something down here on Earth that is secret on Earth, I know it’s an open scandal in Heaven, because nothing that happens down here goes unseen up there.”

So you may have disappointed Him, you may have embarrassed Him, you may have offended Him by your behavior. Have you ever done that? Do you ever think that some of your behavior might have been offensive to God?

And so that’s when you turn to 1 John 1:9 which says:

When we’re faithful to confess, he is just and faithful to forgive and will purify you from all your unrighteousness.

It doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong; all it matters is, are you willing to confess? I’m sorry Lord, I know I should have done differently, I know I goofed up there please forgive me.

He says, It’s done. And the sin is forgiven. It is also forgotten, and you are once again just as righteous as He is. Because it says, He purifies us from all unrighteousness every time we confess. He purifies us from all unrighteousness. That means, after confession, we’re as righteous as He is again, which is the way He wants to see us.

Confess. You can’t become righteous by no longer sinning, but you can stay righteous by confessing.

All right let’s go back to Mark 7:24:

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.

Now Tyre is a city up in Lebanon; it’s there today. Tyre was a major city in what was then called Phoenicia, but today Phoenicia is called Lebanon, and Tyre is still up there. A little city right beside it called Sidon, Tyre and Sidon are like twin cities in the Bible. In fact, in Matthew’s version of this, it actually says Tyre and Sidon. You’ll find them both if you look at a map of Lebanon today, you’ll find both of them there.

He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.

Now listen, you know where Tyre is? It’s about a three-day walk from the Galilee. He walked for three days to try and find a place where He could get some peace and quiet. And He walked straight north out of Israel into Gentile country, and they still knew about Him. 

Verse 25:

In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia.

Isn’t it funny that in those days, Syria also controlled Phoenicia, just like Syria today controls Lebanon! Some things never change, do they?

She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

You might say, what in the world does that mean? But she caught on, she said:

“Yes Lord, but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Okay, so what did the Lord mean here when He says, “First let the children eat all they want for it’s not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs?”

Let’s go to the Matthew version of this in Matthew 15. You know Matthew was written to the Jews, and so sometimes there’s more information in his account of these, especially when it has to do with things that affect Israel.

Matthew 15:21:

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.

Just like we said.

A Canaanite woman

She’s called here, I should have told you this woman’s a Gentile, and so now she’s, in Matthew, he calls her a Canaanite woman.

from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”

Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

Now here’s what He meant:

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

This is the group of people He refers to in Mark as “the children.” He was sent to Israel.

Now hold on, sounds like something strange, but it isn’t—hold on.

So in the Mark version, the children represent Israel. And Jesus was saying to her, First, let the children eat all they want. He’s saying, Let me take care of Israel first. He said, It’s not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs. 

He called Himself the bread of life, right? He’s saying, You don’t take food meant for the children and give it to their pets, you let the children eat first, and then you give the leftovers to the pets.

And she said to Him, Yes, Lord.

Now remember in Matthew she calls Him the Son of David; she knows who He is. And by the way, the word “Lord” only appears once in the Gospel of Mark, and there it is, spoken by a Gentile woman.

“Yes Lord,” She says, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

What she’s saying is, Focus on Israel. Just like you would give the food to the children, I just want the droppings; I just want the stuff that falls on the floor. You don’t have to give me anything special, just a few crumbs from You is all it’s going to take to heal my daughter. 

Isn’t that something? And that’s why He said, “For a reply such as that, you may go, the demon has left.”

She recognized who He was, she recognized what His mission was, and she says, Lord, all I’m asking for is the crumbs that fall off the table. I don’t even want the leftovers; I just want the crumbs that drop off the table. That’ll be sufficient to handle my problem. That’ll be sufficient to drive this demon out of my little girl.

And she was right.

Okay, now, what’s this about the Lord saying He was only sent to the children of Israel? Israel was promised a Messiah. The Messiah came, Israel did not recognize its Messiah. And so the Messiah went throughout Israel along with His disciples to try and convince them that He was the one they’d been looking for. They didn’t accept Him, and they rejected Him.

Now the rejection didn’t take place at the cross; it took place long before. The rejection took place in Matthew 12 when the Jewish leadership accused Jesus of performing miracles by the power of Satan; that was the rejection. That was after the disciple’s first missionary trip, if you will, and you remember on the first time around Jesus told the twelve, He said, Don’t go in any Gentile cities, just go to the cities of Israelites.

Then they rejected Him, then He sent another group out70 this timeand He said, Go to all the cities, Jew and Gentile. 

Because once Israel had rejected the Messiah, then the door was open to the Gentiles. Was this a surprise? No, God knew this was going to happen all along, but He had promised Israel a Messiah, and before Jesus felt released to go to the Gentiles, Israel had to have a bonafide offer of the Messiah. They rejected it, just like God knew they would, and then the door was opened and the Gentiles were included.

Now, this didn’t happen in the middle of Acts like some people try to tell you, when Paul came along. This happened in Matthew 12 when they officially rejected Him by attributing His work to Satan. A bonafide offer, this is not the first time something like this had happened.

Remember when God gave Abraham the land? And He said, But you can’t have it for 400 years. It’s going to be yours, don’t worry about that. In fact, He said, I want you to take a walk through all of it. Take your time, look at every bit of it. It’s all yours. Start up here, go all the way down there. Go west over to here, go east over to there. It’s all yours, but you don’t get it for 400 years. 

Why? Because the sin of the Amorites is not yet complete. What does that tell us? That tells us that God had given the Amorites time to repent; He had given them 400 years to repent. He knew in advance they weren’t going to do it, but He’s going to give them the 400 years anyway.

So He said to Abraham, You’re going to die; your offspring, your children, and their children will one day be taken down to Egypt and they’ll be enslaved there for 400 years. And then they’ll come back and then you can have the land because then the sin of the Amorites will be complete.

Some people have a hard time with God sending the Jews into Canaan and telling them to kill every man, woman and child, kill the livestock, kill anything that walks. They say boy that’s… what did they ever do? I mean they’re just living in their land, what’s the problem?

Well, the problem was they refused His offer. He waited 400 years for them to accept it; they refused it, and so came time for judgment. 

We’re in the same boat today, aren’t we? He’s been waiting 2,000 years for us, and He’s still waiting. But He isn’t going to wait forever. One day soon the bell is going to ring, the game will be over and then the judgment comes, and then it’ll be too late. It’s happened all through the Scripture.

So what is the point here? The point here is that when Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” It’s because Israel had not yet officially rejected His offer. And that’s why He ignored the Syrophoenician woman, and that’s why they had that conversation, and that’s what it means to take the crumbs off the table.

And she said to Him, I have such faith in You that even that little bit that gets kind of lost by accident, is going to be sufficient to meet my needs. And He said, For that, your little girl is healed, go in peace.

Mark 7:31:

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, 

Which is the city just south of there.

And down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.

Now the Decapolis is a Gentile region as well, around the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. Most of it today is in Jordan, east of the Sea of Galilee.

But the Decapolis did come around, and also was in the northwestern part. In fact, Mary Magdalene was born in a city called Magdala, which is one of the cities of the Decapolis. It’s right on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, and so it was a Gentile area again. He’s still in Gentile country.

Verse 32:

There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.

Aren’t you glad we’re not that way today? 

People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Now these major kinds of miracles and again, like almost every other thing He did, this was a fulfillment of prophecy.

Let’s look at Isaiah 35; one of the key signs of the Messiah is listed here. The way they would know when the Messiah came is listed here in Isaiah 35. We’ll start with verse 3.

Isaiah 35:3. The ultimate fulfillment of this is in the Millennium, and so a lot of chapter 35 is a Kingdom passage, and if you want to see what the Earth is going to look like after the Second Coming, Isaiah 35 is a good place to read it. Now, of course, had the Jews accepted the Lord’s offer to be their Messiah, they would have gone right straight into the Kingdom, and you and I would not be here. But that’s another story.

Isaiah 35:3:

Strengthen the feeble hands,

    steady the knees that give way;

say to those with fearful hearts,

    “Be strong, do not fear;

your God will come,

    he will come with vengeance;

with divine retribution

    he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened

    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

Then will the lame leap like a deer,

    and the mute tongue shout for joy.

Water will gush forth in the wilderness

    and streams in the desert.

And so on. But the thing I wanted you to see is:

The eyes of the blind be opened

    the ears of the deaf unstopped.

and the mute tongue shout for joy.

And these are things that Jesus conspicuously did. Over 300 specific prophecies from the Old Testament were fulfilled. The likelihood of that happening by chance, by coincidence or even by some sort of manipulation or cohesion, is far beyond any of the laws of probability. He was conspicuously fulfilling Old Testament prophecies of His life.

Now it’s remarkable that God became man and came to Earth. It’s remarkable that He chose to die in our place so that we could live with Him—all that’s remarkable. 

But it’s absolutely astonishing that He had His prophets write about it in detail in advance, and still the world doesn’t get it. That is absolutely astonishing to me. 

And that’s probably why, in the New Testament, one of the words for “unbelief” also means disobedience. Because in God’s view, He’s made Himself so plain that nobody could not believe, could innocently not believe. There has to be some rebellion or disobedience behind all that that manifests itself as supposed disbelief. 

Because He said, There’s no way you could not believe in Me. I’ve done too many things that I said I would do, and so if you don’t believe I’m thinking you really don’t want to. I’m thinking it’s not that you can’t, I’m thinking it’s that you don’t want to, so let’s call it what it is, okay? He says, Let’s call it disobedience, forget this unbelief stuff.

But for us, that’s not the case; for us we believe. We may not have the belief of the Syrophoenician woman who said, Just give me the crumbs, Lord, that fall off the table, that’ll be sufficient for me.

We may not have the belief of this man who was deaf and mute and came to the Lord for healing, we may not have the belief of all those who sought Him out and hung on His every word and had their lives forever changed and their diseases forever healed because of their relationship with Him, but we do believe.

And this distinguishes us from the world. This sets us apart; this is one of the ways in which we are in the world but not of the world. 

But not for long, boys and girls, not for long; it could happen any day now. Every morning I wake up surprised. I’ll tell you what, there are so many things happening in the world today, so many signs that we see and they’re getting so much more obvious, it can’t be long. So hang in there. 

Believe in the one He sent because He’s going to call your name any day now, and bingo, you’re going to be gone with the rest of us. Hallelujah.

Let’s have a closing prayer, and then I will take your questions if you have any.