And He was saying, "That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.Mark 7:20(NASB)
Jesus was the Son of the Highest Who was sent from heaven, by God. He was to go... only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, for He was the promised Messiah Who came to save His people from their sins. He came to His own people and the mighty signs and miracles He performed, authenticated His Messianic claims for they were prophesied in the Scriptures. He came at God's appointed time to put an end to transgression and sins through the sacrificial offering of Himself on the Cross. He came to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy. He came to Zion's holy hill as Israel's glorious King. He came to set up His kingdom of righteousness on earth but His people refused to listen to His message and they crucified the Lord of glory.
Jesus came to save the souls of lost men and women, but the people were more interested in seeing Him perform mighty signs, wonders, and healing miracles. Wherever He went, they laid those that were sick in the market places and begged that they might simply touch the fringe of His cloak - and as many as touched it were being cured. However, the people were more intrigued by His displays of power. They were more interested in Jesus feeding their bodies with bread and fish than having their souls nourished with the spiritual food from above. They were more concerned about their physical and temporal needs than their spiritual health and eternal salvation.
The peoples' fascination with Jesus caused the Jewish leaders great consternation. They expected the Messiah to be a great warrior Who would overthrow their Roman oppressors, endorse their legalistic religiosity, and participate in their unscriptural traditions and because He did not fit in with their short-sighted perception of a Saviour, they became concerned about His increasing popularity. They determined to put a stop to His ministry and discredit His Messianic ministry by accusing Him of breaking the Law and even blaspheming Moses and God! Jesus did not fit into their paradigm or their plans and so they needed to smear His image, ruin His reputation, and expose Him as a Messianic imposter.
Certain Pharisees and scribes who came from Jerusalem to carry out their nefarious plan, noticed that some of His disciples were eating with unclean hands which offended them because it violated one of their ancient traditions. The religious leaders taught, incorrectly, that ritual washing of one's hands before eating signified godliness, while eating with unwashed hands identified a sinner who was breaking God's Law. This is not what Scripture teaches but was an unscriptural, man-made tradition that violated God's Law.
The proud Pharisees and the sanctimonious scribes asked why Christ's disciples violated their tradition by eating bread with ritually unclean hands, but Jesus knew their nefarious plan. He could read what was in their sin-stained hearts. He knew the evil they were planning in their hearts and said, accusingly, "Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: 'These people honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. They worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men. You disregard the command of God, but keep the tradition of men.'" Yes, Jesus accused these religious leaders of totally invalidating God’s command in order to maintain their unscriptural, man-made traditions.
There were many such traditions that these pious people valued above God's Law, but their teachings were leading the people astray and Jesus summoned the crowd to Himself to explain that nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him, just as religious ritual and Jewish traditions can never cleanse the sin-stained heart of fallen man. The heart of man is evil continuously and can only be cleansed from above - by grace through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Later, the disciples asked Him about His teaching, and gently scolding them, He asked, "Are you also as lacking in understanding? Don’t you realise that nothing going into a man from the outside can defile him? Food doesn’t go into his heart but into the stomach and is eliminated through bodily function." In the same way, the physical washing of one's hands with water can never cleanse the heart spiritually. Purity of heart is only possible through a spiritual cleansing.
Jesus went on to explain that a man's heart is defiled by what comes out through his thoughts, motives, words, and imaginations, Sin is conceived in the human heart, it takes root in the human mind, and is finally put into practice through human action: "For from within the human heart come evil thoughts, which are translated into sexual immoralities; thefts; murders; adulteries; greed; evil actions; deceit; promiscuity; stinginess; blasphemy; pride, and foolishness. These are the evil things that defile a man," - not the failure to wash one's hands!
Throughout His earthly life, the Lord Jesus honoured His Father by doing only those things He heard from Him. He walked in spirit and truth and maintained close communion and sweet fellowship with Him. And Jesus refused to participate in the unscriptural traditions of the elders which laid heavy burdens on the people and violated God's holy Law. We too are to walk the walk that Jesus walked - in spirit and in truth. We are to maintain close fellowship with our Heavenly Father as we confess our sin and walk humbly before Him. We are to be careful that we do not become entangled in the unnecessary traditions of our day and age - and we are to be careful to take every thought, motive, word, and imagination captive to Christ for His greater praise and glory.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the Law and the rules and regulations which together, beautifully point to Jesus and His final fulfilment of the Law. But what a convicting teaching from Jesus, when He declares all foods clean but then proceeds to list all the evils that come from inside our hearts and make us unclean. May I take this teaching to heart and not trample on the freedom and grace I have been given in Christ but choose to live each day in a way that honours Him in my outward actions and inward thoughts. In Jesus' name, AMEN.