Christians are supposed to be good people – right?
· In your mind doesn’t Christian mean – virtuous, upright, noble, decent, law-abiding
o Don’t people use “Christian” as an adjective as in He’s a good Christian man…
o I’ve even heard it used as an adverb…Your acting real Christian
· Much of the time the word really has nothing to do with Jesus and has everything to do with a person’s respectability.
· So is that cool? Is it OK to use our nickname to imply something about a person’s character?
· Are Christians by their very nature supposed to be good people? Does Christian = virtuous?
This summer we’re trying to figure out who we are now that our nickname has lost its meaning in a tangle of social confusion and political maneuvering.
We’ve been taking a deep dive into the Gospel of Mark …paying careful attention to the story of Jesus to discover our DNA? What , in fact, did Jesus expect of us…
Today specifically, here’s our question: Does Christian mean a decent virtuous woman or man? Does Jesus want his followers to be good people?
And my answer is Yes…but…I have a huge qualifier to that answer.
A follower of Jesus should strive to be virtuous but from the inside out.
· You should be a good person
· You should be an example of nobility and decency
· You should set a standard of virtuosity
But…not because you follow some laws or prescribe to some standard but because you have been transformed internally by the power of the Holy spirit. Your decency should come from a changed heart.
Mark 7: 1 page 835
1 One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus.
· There’s something ominous in these opening words:
· Read between the lines and “Arrived” = spoiling for a fight or likely coming to confront
o Pharisees were powerful influencing political party and religious sect in Jerusalem
o Teachers of the law - Scribes were a division that were specialists in the law…
§ Librarians of the law – copyists…experts
o They were by their name “Pharisee” = separated ones
§ Set apart from the world and the riff raff
§ They took HUGE pride in their name and their charter or mission…to be separate and take everybody with us!
o They saw themselves as the goodest people on the planet!
2 They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating. 3 (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions. 4 Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”
· At first blush…it seems we should be on the Pharisees side:
o First reaction is heck yeah…why aren’t they washing their hands?
o Have you ever been in the bathroom and someone leaves without washing their hand…gross!
o “Employees must wash hands before returning to work”
o IL – Subway and person took money then made my sandwich plunging their hand into pickles
But…that’s not necessarily what this was about. This may have been somewhat about hygiene but likely more about religious legalistic obsession and outside/in morality. Like a religious OCD.
Let me explain: (stay with me here…it’s going to get technical)
To the Pharisees the most important thing in the world was…The law: as housed in the Torah (1st 5 books)
· Given by God to Moses to the people at Sinai
o Moral training wheels
o Now that you are out of Egypt this is how I want you to live.
Some of those laws to us seem are weird or odd…for instance the dietary laws, or fabric laws, rules for fighting, farming and cursing and such…
So why? Why such bizarre rules? The dietary laws for instance…
1. No reasons for them. God says it. Period.
2. There’s a reason but we’ll never understand
3. Health and hygiene – toxic
4. Ethical – this food makes you do bad stuff or unhealthy stuff
5. Aesthetic – pigs are disgusting
6. Ecological – this will protect the planet
7. Cultural identity – this will make you distinct from other people and practices
8. Holiness – this will make you closer to God.
It’s these last two reasons for the law that the Pharisees jumped all over.
· Pharisees were utterly committed to fulfilling the laws completely so that they would be set apart from the world and holy!
· They were so crazed about never violating the law and never cross the line into bad people territory that they made an arbitrary fence around the law so they would not go near…or even have a chance of violating it.
o They came up with interpretations and applications of the law and taught them orally to all who would listen: Eventually wrote them down: Mishnah…sometimes called The traditions
Example – Let’s say that God said you are to never have oranges. The Pharisees would make am oral law that said then: Thou shalt never go within 25 ft of the fruit juice aisle or…thou shalt never go to Florida.
So…back to our story in Mark 7 - These ceremonial hand washing traditions were the fence to keep you from breaking God’s law.
· They turned hand washing into an obsession…and not just before eating
· They were obsessed with purity.
o Contact with Gentile – hand wash
o Samaritans – hand wash
o And idol – hand wash
o Scripture interpreted in something other than Hebrew – hand wash
o Any receptacle that wasn’t flat – wash it
· 25% of the Mishnah (Oral tradition) was dedicated to purity
They were always trying to be seen as good, decent, virtuous people…the most moral people on the planet.
But here’s a problem: What do you call a person who seems to do all the right things yet in their heart is corrupt. What do you call a person who on the outside puts on a good show but on the inside they’re living in sin? A hypocrite.
6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ 8 For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” 9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition.
· Hypocrite = lit. to be under a mask
o A theatre actor
o A pretender
Then he gives them an illustration of their hypocrisy:
10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”
· He mentions a REAL law of God – one of the 10 Commandments
· And one of their traditions or interpretations of the law. A law that if you made a vow of contribution (I will give God $1000)…you have to keep it but you retain control over it until it was given and could buy it back.
o Situation was – poor parents that you could help with that money (honoring them) you refuse because you made this vow.
· This is a rather obscure law but the principle was…they purposely made a show of being morally good when in reality they were corrupt internally.
Let me give you examples today:
· Person who makes a marriage vow (before God) and wears a wedding ring
o Or flirts – plays around
o Or dives into pornography
o Or commits adultery
· Person who makes a show of coming to church and gives the impression of being a good Christian yet:
o Is a racist
o Or treats his wife horribly
o Or verbally abuses her children
o Or is a serial liar
· The dude who sings worship songs or prays gets in the car and is road rage waiting to happen
There is but one word for that person – hypocrite
I can imagine this was a tense standoff but Jesus sees this as a great teaching moment…
14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.” 17
· All of you listen = a solemn pronouncement!
· Some manuscripts add a Verse 16 - “anyone who has ears to hear let him hear”
· What makes you bad is what’s in your heart not some ridiculous law you break.
Ironically Jesus and Pharisees wanted the same thing:
· To not be defiled
o To be holy
o To be good
o To be righteous
o Pharisees from the outside in
o Jesus – from the inside out
He went further with his followers…
Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. 18 “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.) 20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” Mark 7:17-23
“Don’t you understand” = why are you so dull?
Morality is not something that you can create by putting up fences and then faking it but through a honest, humble change of heart.
Pay attention to this: This is exactly why Jesus emphasizes being born again
I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God. Jesus in John 3:3
· Living under the reign and rule of God begins with a “do-over” … a house cleaning…a re-engineering…a “let’s back this up and take it from the top”
· Inside – out morality.
· Being born again starts you on the road to goodness.
All you hypocrites listen up. You’re kidding yourself. And you’re not getting away with it.
· Everybody is on to you. Especially God.
So, look, there’s no shame in this. Admit you’ve tried to construct an image of yourself that isn’t real…and confess it, and repent and surrender to Jesus…and get cleaned from the inside out!
A follower of Jesus should strive to be virtuous but from the inside out.
You should be a good person but only because you were and are being transformed by the Holy Spirit.