06 February 2016
“There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” (v. 15)
Psalm: Psalm 31:9-24
Today's passage follows directly on from the controversy with the scribes and
Pharisees and shows Jesus seeking to explain just why he
is challenging their teaching. He begins by addressing the crowds
who have gathered (verse 14) and explaining that it is not the
things which go into a person from outside which can defile, but
rather the things that come out from inside.
But this is followed by a further discussion when Jesus has
entered a house with the disciples and they ask him to explain
further the "parable" (v. 17). This is a pattern that has already
emerged in Mark's Gospel, where Jesus goes on to offer further
teaching to the disciples about his message. Here Jesus enlarges on
what he has already said to the crowd; that it is not what enters
the body from outside which defiles, since this all this flows
through the stomach into the sewer (verse 19). Rather it is those
impure emotions and intentions within (the heart) which give rise
to evil actions (fornication, theft, murder, adultery etc) outside
which are the real source of impurity. "All these evils things come
from within, and they defile a person,", says Jesus (v. 21).
"Thus he declared all foods clean" (v. 19)
and the implications for this new teaching are going to be profound
both for Jesus and his disciples, and for the early Christian
community which would meet in Jesus' name and whose worship and
fellowship would centre on a shared meal together. For as we shall
discover in the letters of Paul, the challenge of bringing together
Jewish and Gentile Christians (eg Galatians 3:27-29), and the issue as to how far
Jewish ritual purity laws still apply (eg 1
Corinthians 8), are going to be major issues for the emerging
Church to address in subsequent generations.
- To what extent do we really appreciate the significance of
'eating together' in today's world?
- Is it the case that all food is clean? Or should we exercise
ethical concern over what we eat? Why?
- Jesus says that 'It is what comes out of a person that
defiles'; is it really possible to separate what a person thinks
(within) from how a person behaves (on the outside)?
Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Stephen
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