Scripture: Mark 7:1-23


Today in Mark chapter 7, a group of religious leaders seek out Jesus looking to discredit Him and his teaching with accusing his disciples of disregarding the traditions of the elders.

Jesus responded by pointing out the problems caused by people focusing more on outward actions than on their hearts.

We will see how religious people following traditions with the wrong motives can become hypocrites.

Jesus, the Son of God, has authority to interpret and declare the fulfillment of God’s OT laws.

We will see why we can’t make ourselves clean, now matter how hard we try.

AND most importantly, God’s Word reveals that only Jesus can clean our hearts.


We are continuing our series: The Crown & The Cross. Mark’s Gospel shows Jesus as a man of decisive action with a clear message and mission, and the reader is called to actively response to the message.

Mark divides Jesus’ life into two parts: his identity as Messiah and King over all things in the first 8 chapters (the crown) and then in the last 8 chapters we see Him fulfilling His life’s purpose in suffering and dying on the cross.

Pharisees’ Accusation (vv 1-5)

The Pharisees and Scribes were the religious leaders of the day. They must have been hearing more and more about Jesus, because this is the second time Mark records them making the long trek from Jerusalem to check out this man from Nazareth, claiming to be Messiah, with all of these miracle accounts being told and retold.

Origins of Netilat Yadayim  from

God’s only actual commands for washing hands before eating applied to the priests and Levites who wash before serving in the tabernacle or temple. It was to make them clean physically and to symbolize God’s holiness and no dirt or sin being allowed in his presence.

So this conflict was not only between God’s truth and man’s tradition, but also between two divergent views of sin and holiness.

The rabbis and pharisees appear to have added these extra man-made rules to become the experts in the law and to further distance themselves from the rest of the people. Pride, control, and superiority seem to be their motivations rather than personal holiness and pleasing God. This seems evident in the way Jesus responded.

Jesus’ Condemnation (vv 6-13)

Rather than directly answering their question, as usual, Jesus turns it back to them with some serious accusations and a clear example to back it up.

When Jesus called the Pharisees  “hypocrites,” he took a term from the theater meaning to play a part on stage. Especially in Greek theater, actors wore various masks according to the roles they impersonated. The word “hypocrite,” accordingly, comes to mean someone who acts a role without sincerity – a pretender.

v. 13 ends with – and many such things you do! In other words, this is just one example of many more hypocritical rules.

Jesus defended His disciples actions and exposed the hypocrisy of their accusers. They were not breaking God’s law, they were ignoring the manmade traditions.

Authoritative Declaration (vv. 14–16)

Jesus announced to the whole crowd that the source of honoring God with holy living is from within, not from the outside. It’s what is in your heart that matters to God, not just your outward words or actions.

Jesus was speaking on God’s behalf. He told them what it meant to obey God’s laws and truly please or glorify God. And he declared the religious leaders had twisted all around to their advantage, making themselves look better than everyone else.

But this left the disciples totally confused. How could the religious leaders be so wrong?

Jesus’ Explanation (vv 7–23)

The human heart is sinful and produces all manner of evil desires, thoughts, and actions, everything from murder to envy.

Jesus said it’s not what’s on the outside that defiles or contaminates you with sin. Your sin is deep inside you. It’s in your heart or the center of your spiritual being.

v. 21 Jesus gives a list of sins that come from our own hearts.

The first six terms are all evil actions we do with our bodies

The last six terms are all evil attitudes in our hearts

This is another example of Jesus’ authority as the Son of God. He came proclaiming God’s kingdom with a new standard of worshiping God in spirit and in truth.

– Jesus’ authority was equal with God’s

– over Sabbath, over food laws, washing, etc.

– The Law was fulfilled in Jesus

Our sin makes us unclean and unrighteous before a holy God whether we believe in Him or recognize the one true God.


Only Jesus’ blood and forgiveness can wash us and make us whiter than snow. Only confessing my sin and trusting in Jesus’ righteousness makes me acceptable to God. Nothing I do changes my value in God’s eyes.

I like the way Warren Wiersbe outlines the difference between man’s traditions and God’s truth.

Man’s traditions

  • Outward forms—bondage
  • Trifling rules – specific to one situation
  • Outward piety
  • Neglects or replaces God’s Word with man’s rules

God’s truth

  • Inward faith—liberty
  • Fundamental principles – apply to all of life
  • True inward holiness
  • Exalts the Word of God – it’s our authority
source: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary

Salvation from sin and the gift of eternal life are where we find true freedom and unspeakable joy!

Take Aways

Don’t focus on outward actions to make you right with God. – Maybe you grew up in a church where the focus was on following rules and doing everything just right so God would accept you. Most religions (man-made) are all about the rules. Even God’s people, the Jews took what God gave them and added a bunch of their own traditions that ignore God’s original intentions.
Repent and find forgiveness in Jesus. Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is not a man-made religion. It’s a personal relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus.
Everyone of us is born needing a heart-transplant. It won’t show up on pre-natal ultrasounds or x-rays, but you need a new heart! Trying to clean up your by habits won’t do it. Education and culture can’t do it. Social reform won’t do it. The right political party won’t do it. Going to church and following the rules won’t do it. The only way is a new birth. Jesus called that being born again. Not physically, but spiritually. A new heart, a new life in Jesus Christ. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God 2 Cor 5:21
Allow the Holy Spirit to keep working on you – from the inside out. The Apostle Paul said ” I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 ESV
If you have already been forgiven and saved by Jesus, don’t become a religious person who places following rules ahead of loving people and bringing them to meet Jesus.
Rules like no running or talking too loud in church. No coffee in church. Don’t use the good plates. That room or those supplies are only for our meetings. Make sure you’re dressed right. Don’t ask too many questions. Don’t question anything we say. Legalism and following rules is no better than hypocrisy.
We can only be truly clean when we confess our sins to God. Because He is faithful and just and promises to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.