Jesus Followed God’s Commands to Save Your Fallen Heart!

September 2, 2018

Pastor Gunnar Ledermann

7 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.)

 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?”

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.”

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.”

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.”

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been doing something like digging a hole to plant a tree, cutting onions for soup, getting coals ready to grill or putting an outfit together for an event, and someone has come up to me and said, “What are you doing?” And I usually reply with something like, “What do you mean?” And, that is when the truth comes out. The person was not asking, “What are you doing,” as if they have never seen someone doing what I’m doing. Instead, the person really means to say, “Why aren’t you doing that thing you are doing the way I would do it?” It’s a familiar scenario that we all run into, both as the person being asked, “What are you doing,” and the person asking, “What are you doing?” It happens because we all believe that we know the best way to do almost everything, whether we are fifteen or fifty. Our problem as human beings with this idea that we know everything is so strong and wrong that even when God came into this world, people asked Jesus, “What are you doing?” In our gospel lesson from Mark 7, we are reminded that it is not our rules for doing things that save us. Instead, we are saved because Jesus followed God’s commands to save your fallen heart.

The best part of any good Western movie is the showdown. No matter how many Westerns they come out with, the showdown will always be a vital part of the story, just like anytime the Pharisees and Jesus were together. In Mark 7, the Pharisees came up from Jerusalem to have a showdown with Jesus. This particular time, the Pharisees found out that Jesus’ disciples hadn’t washed their hands before eating, not like with soap and water, but in the proper ceremonial way, according to the tradition of the elders. When the Pharisees saw them eating like this, they asked Jesus,

“Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

The Pharisees’ asked the question because the traditions of the elders were what they believed as their means to enter heaven. These traditions dominated their live and epitomized their devotion to God, but God had a very different opinion of those traditions.

As the showdown between the Pharisees and Jesus progressed, it was clear that the Pharisees were no match for Jesus. After asking Jesus a classic, “What are you doing?” question,

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.’

In this section from Isaiah 29, God condemned Israel for their lack of faith and understanding of his Word. Just before the words Jesus quoted, Isaiah wrote,

“For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll.”

For unbelieving Israel, all of the words God gave them through his prophets were nothing but words; they were meaningless and powerless in the hearts of unbelief. And, the same was true of the Pharisees, who had the Word of God, but left it behind as Jesus said,

8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.

The Pharisees’ lack of faith hardened their hearts toward God and left them holding on to the useless traditions of man.

As believers, we are different from the Pharisees and faithless hypocrites of Isaiah’s day. As believers, we hold on to the commands of God and all of his Word as good, but the question still must be asked of us, “What are you doing?” It can happen in two ways. First, with things that Christians are free to do. For example, a friend or someone from work sees you, a Christian, drinking a beer and since they have been told that Christians are not allowed to drink beer, the person asks you, “What are you doing?” At that point, you get to explain that the Bible does forbid drunkenness, but having an alcoholic beverage without losing control of your senses is well within what God allows.

On the other hand, a person may see you, a Christian, doing something that goes beyond what God allows, leading them to ask you, “What are you doing?” At that point, when you fall back into something sinful as Jesus listed in Mark 7,

sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly,

then we as Christians need to stop. When we are caught in a sin as Christians, it is very dangerous because if we continue to let temptation and sin grow in our hearts, it can eventually crowd out our faith. If we take God’s grace for granted that he will forgive us for choosing to indulge in a sinful thing or even go so far as to call that sinful thing a good thing, then we run the risk of losing our faith. We also run the risk of losing our love for God and replacing it with love for sin.

As Jesus spoke to the crowds watching the showdown between him and the Pharisees, he revealed that our sinful hearts cause the problems with what we are doing.

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.”

When Jesus said this, he revealed that something like washing your hands was neither good nor bad, rather it is the heart behind the action. Now, there were requirements for washing in the Old Testament for the Israelites, but the Pharisees had taken them too far. They lost sight of the fact that all of the washing and purification God required of them was to show them that they are unclean, sinful people whose only hope was that God would take away their sins. The only hope any of us has to be free from our sinful hearts that can even turn something as simple as washing hands into a sinful, prideful display of unbelief is God’s deliverance.

Jesus had proved himself to be the promised Savior who would deliver the world from sin through his miracles and preaching. His disciples trusted in him as their Savior and were trusting him to show them what it meant to

let go of the human traditions and hold on to the commands of God.

The Pharisees could not understand the freedom the disciples enjoyed as believers confident in Jesus’ deliverance, rather than dependent on their own good deeds. When the temptation to follow their own sinful hearts, rather than God came, they were powerless. And, for us as believers, we know the fight has already been won to save us from our sins.

Our fight against sin is like a boxing match. When temptation comes, the devil is your opponent and his two arms are the flashy lies that tempt us into thinking sin is good and the horrible guilt that follows us after we fall into sin. On our own, this is too much for us because our own determination or standards of right and wrong aren’t strong enough to fight back temptation or make up for sins with good works. Instead, as Christians, we let Jesus fight for us. When temptation and sin attack, Jesus stands in our place with the arms of his perfect, good and sinless life and the death he died that swallowed up all the punishment for sin. Through our Savior Jesus, our fight against sin is a victory.

Jesus’ deliverance allows us to struggle against sin, not surrender to it. Jesus deliverance from our sins frees us to live as God’s people. This means we will follow his commands in thankfulness and shine as lights in this dark world. And when the unbelieving world, stuck in their traditions, losing their battle against sin and guilt see what we have, they will ask us, “What are you doing?” And you get to say, “It’s not what I’m doing, but what has been done for me.” And as we point more people to Christ, the Holy Spirit will work out what we heard in our Old Testament lesson from Deuteronomy, “for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”

If you do things differently than other people, you’ve probably been asked, “What are you doing?” As Christians, we get asked that a lot because we no longer follow the ways of the sinful world. We no longer believe we know it all, instead we believe in the one who saved us all. Our hearts still face the struggle against sin in this world, but as we hold on to Jesus, we no longer have to fear that we are not good enough for heaven. Instead, you can be confident that Jesus followed God’s commands to save your fallen heart. Amen.

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