Flashback Episode — Our Food and Our Worship: Mark 7:1-23

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As we’ve moved through this year focusing in on Mark’s gospel, we’ve sped through Jesus’ life and through many of the most significant events so far in Jesus’ ministry. In our passage for this event, Jesus is challenged again because of something His disciples don’t do, and in Jesus’ response, we get the picture He was perhaps a little irritated at these religious leaders, but also that Jesus had a higher opinion of God’s law than these religious leaders.

Let’s read this event and see what we can learn. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 7, and we will read it from the Contemporary English Version. Starting in verse 1, Mark tells us:

Some Pharisees and several teachers of the Law of Moses from Jerusalem came and gathered around Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples ate without first washing their hands.

The Pharisees and many other Jewish people obey the teachings of their ancestors. They always wash their hands in the proper way before eating. None of them will eat anything they buy in the market until it is washed. They also follow a lot of other teachings, such as washing cups, pitchers, and bowls.

The Pharisees and teachers asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples obey what our ancestors taught us to do? Why do they eat without washing their hands?”

Before continuing to discover what Jesus says in response to this, I want to draw our attention onto this question being a spiritual question more than a health question. While the laws given through Moses encompass not only spirituality, but health, legalities, and more, at this point in the Jews history, everything was being given a disproportionate level of spiritual significance.

I will be among the first to say that there is likely spiritual significance in more parts of my life and habits that I even begin to realize. However, with that said, some instructions have less to do with spiritual health directly and more to do with physical health. I don’t know if these disciples did not ever wash their hands, or if these disciples didn’t wash their hands in whatever way was spiritually significant in the minds of these legalistic Jews.

However, Jesus’ answer draws our attention not only on His heart, but also onto a pretty significant spiritual truth as well. Continuing in verse 6:

Jesus replied:

You are nothing but show-offs! The prophet Isaiah was right when he wrote that God had said,

“All of you praise me
    with your words,
but you never really
    think about me.
It is useless for you
    to worship me,
when you teach rules
    made up by humans.”

You disobey God’s commands in order to obey what humans have taught. You are good at rejecting God’s commands so that you can follow your own teachings! 10 Didn’t Moses command you to respect your father and mother? Didn’t he tell you to put to death all who curse their parents? 11 But you let people get by without helping their parents when they should. You let them say that what they own has been offered to God. 12 You won’t let those people help their parents. 13 And you ignore God’s commands in order to follow your own teaching. You do a lot of other things that are just as bad.

14 Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. 15-16 The food that you put into your mouth doesn’t make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.”

17 After Jesus and his disciples had left the crowd and had gone into the house, they asked him what these sayings meant. 18 He answered, “Don’t you know what I am talking about by now? You surely know that the food you put into your mouth cannot make you unclean. 19 It doesn’t go into your heart, but into your stomach, and then out of your body.” By saying this, Jesus meant that all foods were fit to eat.

20 Then Jesus said:

What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. 21 Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, 22 unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. 23 All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.

In this lengthy response to this challenge, Jesus calls out the Pharisees and other religious leaders for placing their own rules above God’s direct instructions. While I’m confident that the religious leaders believed both sets of rules were important, in any place where these rules conflicted, they minimized God’s law in place of their customs. While some of what God has said could be seen as unpopular and potentially illegal in our world today, God didn’t share His laws as optional from an eternal perspective.

However, the biggest portion of Jesus’ response comes in contrasting what makes you fit for worship from what is simply a smart thing to do for your health. However, one phrase in this passage stood out to me as we read it. This phrase is found at the end of verse 19: “By saying this, Jesus meant that all foods were fit to eat.

Reading this translation makes me think that all foods are equal, but some of the other translations we regularly pull from frame this phrase better in my mind. Both the New American Standard Bible translation and the New International Version emphasize Jesus’ declaration here that all foods are clean. I can understand why these translators may have chosen to frame this idea as being fit to eat, but it might have been better to say that Jesus simply reframes all foods as spiritually clean.

However, Mark’s gospel is attributing a meaning to Jesus message that I don’t see. Perhaps the original language has a better connection, but Jesus is focused more on spiritual cleanness and fitness for worship and how our food doesn’t change our status or our fitness in God’s eyes. I don’t see Jesus telling us that all foods are now permissible to eat, because history, logic, and any reasonable dietician will tell you that different foods have different health benefits. Some foods are simply better than others, and some types of food should be avoided.

Jesus’ message is that our food doesn’t affect God’s response to our worship. Jesus does not hint or state that all things that go into our mouths are equal from a health perspective.

Instead, Jesus emphasizes that what comes out of our mouths comes from our hearts, and what comes out of our mouths makes us unclean. The things that come out of our mouths reveal our hearts. We could also say that the things we share on social media reveal our hearts as well. In today’s era, our “voice” extends to both what we say and what we write and share. What we choose to communicate to others reveals our heart.

God doesn’t view our online lives and our offline lives as different. God sees everything we do and Jesus tells us here that what we do is an extension of our hearts.

After leaving the crowd and entering the house with the disciples, Jesus reemphasizes the truth that our hearts affect how fit we are to worship God. This also strongly suggests that our worship to God might not be accepted based on the state of our heart.

While it is true that our food affects our health, and our health will ultimately affect our life, which includes our ability to worship, our food does not affect the spiritual state of our heart or God’s love for each of us when we come to Him in worship.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, continue intentionally seeking God first in your life. Don’t let this passage be a license to ignore what you put into your mouth, but let it be a challenge to be extra aware of what comes out of your mouth, and to be extra aware of what you communicate to others, whether this communication uses your vocal cords, your pen, or even your computer, tablet, or phone. What you say and share with others reveals the state of your heart, and the state of your heart reveals how fit you are to worship God.

Also, continue to pray and study the Bible for yourself. I don’t know of any better way to help clean and restore your heart than through heartfelt prayer, and studying God’s truth in the pages of the Bible. These spiritual habits have given men and women a solid spiritual foundation for centuries, these spiritual habits can strengthen our spiritual lives, and these spiritual habits have the power clean our hearts as well. Don’t simply assume the Bible says something because you heard it from a friend or read it on the internet. Choose to study it out for yourself because if for no other reason than your eternity depends on it!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year in Mark – Episode 17: When challenged by some religious leaders about His disciples’ lack of an action, discover How Jesus viewed our food in relation to our spiritual cleanliness. Discover what our food can and cannot do, and what Jesus tells us is important when we come to God to worship.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

A New Name: John 1:35-51

Focus Passage: John 1:35-51 (CEV)

35 The next day, John was there again, and two of his followers were with him. 36 When he saw Jesus walking by, he said, “Here is the Lamb of God!” 37 John’s two followers heard him, and they went with Jesus.

38 When Jesus turned and saw them, he asked, “What do you want?”

They answered, “Rabbi, where do you live?” The Hebrew word “Rabbi” means “Teacher.”

39 Jesus replied, “Come and see!” It was already about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him and saw where he lived. So they stayed on for the rest of the day.

40 One of the two men who had heard John and had gone with Jesus was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother and tell him, “We have found the Messiah!” The Hebrew word “Messiah” means the same as the Greek word “Christ.”

42 Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. And when Jesus saw him, he said, “Simon son of John, you will be called Cephas.” This name can be translated as “Peter.”

43-44 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. There he met Philip, who was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. Jesus said to Philip, “Come with me.”

45 Philip then found Nathanael and said, “We have found the one that Moses and the Prophets wrote about. He is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

46 Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Philip answered, “Come and see.”

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said, “Here is a true descendant of our ancestor Israel. And he isn’t deceitful.”

48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

49 Nathanael said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God and the King of Israel!”

50 Jesus answered, “Did you believe me just because I said that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see something even greater. 51 I tell you for certain that you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up and coming down on the Son of Man.”

Read John 1:35-51 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

One of the most intriguing things Jesus did in His ministry was giving one of His disciples a new name – and it seems as though Simon, son of John, was the only disciple Jesus “renamed” – though we might simply say Jesus gave him a nickname. This disciple is more famously known as the name Jesus gave him, Peter, and many times both names are used together to form “Simon Peter”.

Not only is giving Simon a new name an interesting thing to do, Jesus does this almost immediately after meeting him. Verse 42 of our passage describes this: “Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. And when Jesus saw him, he said, ‘Simon son of John, you will be called Cephas.’ This name can be translated as ‘Peter.’

Simon Peter was one of Jesus’ first disciples, and while there would be another disciple named Simon in the core group of twelve, this other Simon almost certainly would not have been a follower of Jesus at that time.

So why might Jesus give Simon Peter the new name – immediately after meeting Him?

In my mind, this is because Jesus saw the potential in this Simon, and the name Cephas (i.e. Peter) was a much better name for him knowing what he would become in the future.

While Simon Peter was the only disciples we know of that Jesus gave a new name to, we can take this detail of this event and apply it to our own lives.

Jesus does not see us simply where we are today; He sees us through the eyes of what we will become in the future. If our current name doesn’t fit us, He will give us a new name when He returns – and the name He gives us will fit us perfectly!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Missing the Messiah: John 7:1-13

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As we continue moving through John’s gospel, after John has finished sharing about the crowd Jesus challenged and how almost all of Jesus’ followers left Him, John moves to focusing on Jesus being at home with His brothers and away from His disciples. We don’t have much context for what set the stage for this event, however what John shares in this event is fascinating.

Our passage for this episode comes from John’s gospel, chapter 7, and we will read it from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 1, John tells us that:

1 After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. 2 Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near. 3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him. 6 So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. 8 Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” 9 Having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee.

Pausing reading briefly, I am amazed at this event and at Jesus’ short conversation with His brothers. As I wonder and imagine the details of this scene, I suspect that Jesus’ disciples had already left to go to the feast in Jerusalem, and this is why Jesus was alone with His brothers.

However, the phrase that really jumps off the page at me is a statement Jesus’ brothers tell Him in verse 4: “For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly.” This statement speaks volumes about where the heads and hearts of Jesus’ brothers were. The statement Jesus’ brothers make is completely true, but this statement also entirely misses the direction of Jesus’ life and mission.

When Jesus’ brothers share this statement, it is solid logic: If someone wants to be known and have a following, they won’t hide their lives away. If someone wants to be known by others, they must step into a spotlight, or at least step out in some way. This statement, given in the context of the whole message Jesus’ brothers tell Jesus, lets us know that Jesus’ brothers did not understand Jesus’ mission as the Messiah. In the minds of Jesus’ brothers, the Messiah needed to be very public and the Messiah needed to be focused on attracting followers in order to kick Rome out of the nation.

However, Jesus understands something that His brothers don’t. Jesus understands that fame and popularity are two very bad motivators. What Jesus’ brothers don’t understand is that Jesus is not interested in being known by the world – at least at this point in His ministry. Instead, Jesus is more interested in fulfilling God’s mission for His life, and God’s mission is one that is both incredibly personal, as well as incredibly sacrificial. Jesus’ mission for His life ultimately gives life to those around Him and to those who accept Him.

In contrast, the mission the first century culture had for the messiah was that he would overthrow Rome in their nation, and this mission required lives to be lost in order to succeed. Jesus’ ultimate mission only had one life to be given, and this life was His own.

Because of this, Jesus opts to sit this festival out, because He knows His time has not yet come, and likely because traveling with His disciples or His brothers will draw too much attention onto Himself.

However, after Jesus’ brothers leave for the feast, John continues in verse 10, saying:

10 But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as if, in secret. 11 So the Jews were seeking Him at the feast and were saying, “Where is He?” 12 There was much grumbling among the crowds concerning Him; some were saying, “He is a good man”; others were saying, “No, on the contrary, He leads the people astray.” 13 Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

In this passage, Jesus travels to this festival alone, and as anonymously as possible. At the start of the feast, the Jews were actively looking for Him, but they did not find Him. While this feast was happening, people were talking about Jesus and debating among themselves about how important Jesus really was.

At other places within the gospels, Jesus described how He would divide people. This last part of our passage hints at how Jesus divides people. In all this subtle whispering, we see this division take place. One group describes Jesus as a good man, while other people believed Jesus to be leading the people astray.

However, it is interesting from how John describes these whispered debates that neither one of these two groups understands Jesus’ ultimate mission or goal. Instead, the group that believes Jesus to be a good man might not believe much more about Jesus then this.

In an interesting twist, by this point in John’s gospel, Jesus has amassed a huge crowd of followers and pushed them all away. This detail allows this debate to flourish about Jesus because those who believe Jesus to be a good man can focus on all those Jesus has helped and healed, which is a sizable amount, while those who believe Jesus to be leading people astray can focus on the unbelievable claims Jesus made while teaching. Both sides of this debate have different sets of proof, but neither one appears to take any steps towards believing Jesus to be God’s Messiah.

This is the same in our lives today, except that there are now three groups of people. In our world today, there are people who are actively opposed to Jesus and God, and this includes many who simply claim God doesn’t exist and Jesus is not the same person that the Bible describes. Those who believe this line of thinking make up one group.

The second group of people are those who believe Jesus to be a good man and a good teacher, but that history has exaggerated His life and His ministry. Those in this second group know slivers of Jesus’ life and ministry, but they are not open to letting Jesus or God change their lives.

These first two groups are direct descendants of the two groups debating in our passage in John’s gospel.

To contrast these two groups, we have a third group, and this group believes Jesus to be the Messiah, and that Jesus is the way God stepped into history to show His love for us. This third group, which began with Jesus’ disciples shortly after Jesus returned to heaven, changed the first century world. I am a part of this third group, and if you’re not a part of this group yet, consider yourself invited to join. Those who have placed their hope, faith, trust, and belief in Jesus and His sacrifice for us on the cross can begin a new life with God today, and our lives with God extend forward into eternity!

 As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and choose to place your faith, your hope, your trust, and your belief in Jesus and in what He accomplished for humanity on the cross. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are giving the opportunity of a new life with God, a life that we don’t deserve, but a life that God offers to us as a gift if we are willing to accept it. If you haven’t accepted God’s gift yet, this is a challenge to do so today!

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to personally grow closer to Jesus each and every day. Through personal prayer and study, discover just how much God loves you and how God showed His love for all of us through what Jesus did for us! While some people point to acts of God that sound negative, angry, or hostile, we should filter all the claims through Jesus. Jesus gives us the best picture of God we can know, and because of this, the best place to begin studying is with Jesus!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or deviate away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in John – Episode 16: When challenged by His brothers about being known, Jesus pushes back and decides to go to a Jewish festival anonymously instead of publicly with His brothers or His disciples. Discover why this is and why this matters to us living today!

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Close To Us: Matthew 26:1-5

Focus Passage: Matthew 26:1-5 (NCV)

After Jesus finished saying all these things, he told his followers, “You know that the day after tomorrow is the day of the Passover Feast. On that day the Son of Man will be given to his enemies to be crucified.”

Then the leading priests and the elders had a meeting at the palace of the high priest, named Caiaphas. At the meeting, they planned to set a trap to arrest Jesus and kill him. But they said, “We must not do it during the feast, because the people might cause a riot.”

Read Matthew 26:1-5 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Every so often, a detail that I never noticed before jumps out at me in an unassuming passage. This “conspiracy passage” where the leading priests and elders meet to discuss how to arrest Jesus is no exception.

Depending on the translation used, we find that the high priest lived in a palace. Many translations use this word, while a few simply say home, court, or another similar word. The implication in Matthew’s passage is that the priests (especially the high priest) were getting wealthy off of the people. By living in a luxurious home, the high priest was separating himself from the people with his wealth.

This is not a statement on whether wealth is good or bad. It is more a statement on focus and generosity. As the Jewish nation grew, it would become more prosperous, and as the leader in any area (in this case the spiritual area), the more people you have influence over, the more money would come your way. But as the leader of the spiritual area in culture, the high priest would be a clear representative of God, and living in a palace, separated from the people, is not an accurate representation of God’s character.

Jesus came and changed that. He came to show us that God is not a “distant” God, but that He wants to live with us. God does live in a palace, but He wants us to join Him in it. I’m doubtful if the high priest was all that willing to open their home to anyone/everyone.

The high priest probably was tempted by greed. Greed is an issue for almost all people who live in cultures that have a monetary exchange system. One doesn’t have to have money to be greedy, but when one does have money, the greed is amplified all the more.

Jesus’ presence in culture, and His focus on the people, challenged the priests’ position and the status quo that had placed them on top of both the spiritual and economic ladders. They did not like Jesus’ growing influence, so they plotted against Him.

But even though they plotted Jesus’ death, Jesus still came – and death was at the core of His mission. This is because God does not want to be seen as a distant God, but as a God that reaches out to us, who takes the first step, who wants to restore the broken relationship. This is before we have “done” anything.

God is wealthy. He does live in a palace in heaven. But instead of increasing the distance we would have to travel, He especially wants to be close to us and He bridged the gap that sin caused.

Jesus came and He won.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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