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Mark’s first-century biography – page 21

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. 

Because the people of Gennesaret knew who he was, they ran everywhere to bring to him their sick. The word Mark used includes the miserable as well as the ill. Wherever he went, whatever the misery, he made all well. 

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 

The “heaven on earth” instant wellness for people which Jesus brought to Gennesaret was of deep concern to the religious Pharisees because it didn’t seem to them that Jesus’ disciples were sufficiently “clean” to be acceptable to God in the light of the traditions passed down from their elders.

And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 

Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees was that it was they who had the real, true problem. They were hypocrites – play-actors. They washed so as to pretend that they were clean – when they weren’t.

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” 

Jesus gives the Pharisees a specific instance of their hypocrisy. They allowed a man to declare that all his assets were in trust for God. Given that charitable trust, the man could not spend anything on his own mother and father. After the man’s parents died, they allowed him to revoke the trust. And the religious leaders did many similar things. It was they who were unclean.

And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 

What’s more, Jesus informed the people of Gennesaret that uncleanness was not something to do with what people actually did – but came from within them and caused them to do what they were doing.

And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 

He taught his disciples that food intake cannot corrupt anyone.

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Every day we see (if we have eyes to see) evidence in Jersey of what makes people defiled and corrupted. They are all from within.

Sinner Syvret

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