The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” Isaiah 29:13
Mark 7 opens with scribes and Pharisees asking Jesus why His disciples didn’t wash their hands before they ate (v. 2). They weren’t concerned with germs like my mother was when she asked me, “Did you wash your hands?” They were concerned with man-made traditions that also included washing cups and pots.
Jesus 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. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules’” (Mark 7:6-7).
Jesus’ words remind me of the expression “lip service.” Synonyms in the thesaurus include “a hypocrite, a whited sepulcher, a Pharisee.”* Jesus once called the Pharisees “whited sepulchers” (Matthew 23:25-28). Outwardly, their service to God seemed good, but inwardly they were dead and impure like the contents of sepulcher.
In Tyre, a mother humbly fell at Jesus’ feet interceding for her daughter who had an evil spirit (Mark 7:25). “First let the children eat all they want,” He told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” (v. 28).
The woman, however, wasn’t discouraged. “First” to the children (Israel) implied “later” to others. And although dog was usually a derogatory word for Gentile, Jesus used kynarion, which meant “a little dog,” a pet.** “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Touched by her genuine faith and humility, Jesus told her the daughter was freed (v. 29).
Later, in Decapolis, a group of friends brought to Jesus a man who was deaf and spoke only unintelligibly. No one had ever healed such a person, but they had faith that Jesus could do it. He put His fingers into the man’s ears, then spat and touched his tongue. “Be opened!” He said. The man was healed.
Though Jesus commanded the group not to tell anyone, they couldn’t keep silent. Overwhelmed with amazement, they said, “He has done everything well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (vv. 36-37).
Do we serve God with lips that intercede for others and speak of the wonderful things He has done for us, or are our words merely “lip service”?
In Mark 7:6-13 Jesus accuses the Pharisees of a bad man-made tradition: their practice of Corban*** which meant “a gift offered (or to be offered) to God.” Though it sounded like serving God, what did Jesus say about it? What commandment of God did it violate?
Read Mark 7:18-23 which records Jesus’ list of the things that defile us. Pick one and tell how it leads a person from inner to outer defilement.
Mark 7:29-30 was an example of Jesus’ long distance intercessory prayer. Another example is Romans 8:34-39. From what location is Jesus praying in Romans 8? Who’s on your long distance intercessory prayer list?
Nancy J. Baker
*Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1988, 449.
**”Greek Lexicon: G2952 (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 17 Feb 2014.
***”Greek Lexicon: G2878 (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 17 Feb, 2014. http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2878