March 5, 2017
Servant King – Week 9 – The Heart of the Matter
Servant King – Week 9 – The Heart of the Matter
Last week we looked at the miracle of Jesus walking on the water and we discovered that Jesus definitively revealed to the 1 that not only was He sent by God but that He was in fact God Himself. We revealed that His miracle were always for a purpose and that He always had a greater purpose for what he did.
Let me introduce you to a prospective church member. He will attend every service, including special events. He will go on mission trips with a passion to convert the heathen. He will tithe, sing in the choir, read his Bible daily, and memorize Scripture. He will be happy to pray in corporate worship. He is thoroughly orthodox in his theology. He is an inerrantist and believes in heaven and hell. He never gets drunk, is not addicted to porn, never uses profanity, is a family man, loves his country fervently, weeps on July 4, and votes the right way. His reputation in the community is stellar.
Sounds good doesn’t it? In fact many churches would jump at the chance to have someone like this in their church. This is the kind of person many of us would get along great with. Here’s the problem, this is a great description of what a pharisee would look like in today’s time. It is all about the work and the outward appearance of walk with God. But not necessarily a true understanding of the Gospel. Now before we are so quick to condemn the Pharisees. We need to understand what Jesus’ issue with them was.
This week we switch gears and go back to his dealings with the most powerful religious group of Jesus’ day. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law. This group was one of the most contentious to Jesus and his ministry. But they were also one of the most moral and “righteous” groups of Judaism. They were highly respected among the people as devout followers of God. Today we will see the issue for why Jesus and they did not get along and hopefully we will learn how avoid the same traps they fell into.
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 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.)
Here we see this group called the Pharisees. Now when this group started they were actually known as “sages” they were revered for their understanding and interpretation of the law. In fact they were largely responsible for the continuity of the Jewish faith. You see as the years went by the “Law” was seen as more and more irrelevant to the society they lived in. In a real sense they were the defenders of the faith. They would read the word of God (the old testament) and they would try and apply what God had said to lives of the people that they lived with. Not unlike what I try to do every week as I teach the word of God here. Those applications and lessons were passed down from Rabbi to disciple over the years ad had become “traditions”. The name of Pharisee was in fact a term they earned because of their extreme devotion to God. Kind of like how the term protestant was first used as a term of disdain by the catholic church during the reformation. It was used as a jab and negative term but later the term was embraced but the “sages” as a badge of honor.
We have already dealt with this topic of traditions before but it is important to understand that these were not bad traditions in it of themselves. They were actually good things that were originally put in place to remind them of God. For example the washing before the meal was to make sure that they remembered that they were called to holiness by God their provider. It is kind of like how we pray before our meal. That is not a bad tradition. In fact, if used correctly with the right heart it can be a powerful reminder of who God is. Let me say this clearly, there is nothing wrong with good godly traditions. So what is the problem then? Let’s look at the next verse to see.
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 defiled hands?”
The problem was the fact that the Pharisees were using this simple Godly act to pass judgment on others. They had let the tradition first become something that defined their relationship with God, and second they had let that same tradition define their relationship with others around them.
The word Pharisee means “separated one”. They were separated unto God. But that became something so much worse. They viewed themselves as separated from others. Whom did they view them selves separate from? The general idea is that they separated from the “people of the land”. This was a designation for the illiterate and the unrefined people of the land, the peasants, whose illiteracy kept them from any careful holding to the religious duties such as concerned tithes and cleanness.
The Pharisees viewed themselves as better, “more holy”, more acceptable to God than everyone else. This is what one the modern definition of pharisee points to. They had fallen into a trap the enemy had set for them long ago. Self righteousness, pride, judgmentalism. They thought they had a corner o the market of truth and they were the only ones who were right. Many of you know I grew up baptist. The kind of baptist I grew up with would have felt the same way.
Baptist in Heaven Joke?
The truth is we all can have this tendency if we are not careful. Truth is important! And we stand on the truth of the word of God. But we should never think we are better than someone else because we know the truth and they do not. We should never judge someone else on how well (or not well) they look like a “christian”. When we do that we begin to “separate” ourselves from them and then we loose our ability to share the “Good News” with them. Instead we should see ourselves as fellow people who need the truth of the Gospel to invade our lives as much as they do. Let’s keep going…
6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
Jesus then quotes Isaiah 29:13 and He scathingly tells them that the prophecy was about them. This specific prophecy was extremely harsh to those who say they are following God.
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 human rules they have been taught.
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.”
15 Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord,
who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?”
16 You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it,
“You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?
He condemns them and reveals that they think they are God, by replacing God’s word with their own traditions.
9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
Specifically, Jesus calls them out by giving a concrete example of what they are doing. Instead of caring for there parents, they turn around and hoard their money by claiming that it is set aside to honor God. With all of this focus on the Pharisees it would be easy to miss the point of this passage. it is actually found in when Jesus address the heart of them.
14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” [16 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”]
Jesus then begins to address the crowd, and He once again gives one of His famous sermons. He points them to this simple statement that the things outside of man are not the issue. It is what is inside that is the issue. In other words… The Heart of the issue is the issue of the heart.
Now some versions have verse 16 and some others do not but ultimately this is simply a phrase used to show that Jesus has finished His teaching.
17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples asked Him about this parable.
Once again I appreciate the honesty of the disciples. They don’t get it, and the truth is even as we will see Jesus’ is trying to show them several layers in one small lesson.
18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
I personally don’t care for this translation of vs 18, it sounds almost insulting “Are you so dull?” The word dull here is actually a lack of understanding. The ESV says, And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding?” Then Jesus reveals the issue of the heart. He says anything that goes into the body bypasses the heart and goes to the stomach. Mark is the only one to reference Jesus removing the laws of clean and unclean foods. Remember Peter is the source of Mark’s account and Peter received the vision from God about clean and unclean animals in Acts 10.
20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
Jesus finally reveals the truth of this teaching. Jesus says that all sin is rooted in the heart not in the actions. When Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount he used a common phrase over and over again. You have heard it said … but I say unto you. Jesus always raised the bar when He did this. For example. Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Jesus always raises the standard by dealing with the heart behind the sin. Why does Jesus do this? Because he knew what Solomon knew. Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
So how do we do this? The first is to be aware of what is going on inside us. It is to ask the question what is going on in my heart? And then to preach the Gospel to our selves in that moment. To let the Gospel reveal our weakness and let us fall down on the mercy of God and ask Him to renew us again. Ezek 36:26 says it this way… I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
David said it this way Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then and only then can we begin to deal with the sin and struggles we face. This is work of the Holy Spirit. When we make Him Lord and bow at His feet, and ask Him to change our hearts.
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