Mark
1-5 The Traditions of the Elder 6-13 Setting Aside the Commandment of God 14-23 Education About Defilement 24-30 The Syrophoenician Woman 31-37 A Deaf and Difficult Speaking Man Healed
The Traditions of the Elder

1The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, 2and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. 3(For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, [thus] observing the traditions of the elders; 4and [when they come] from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) 5The Pharisees and the scribes *asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?”

In this chapter we see how the Lord acts against the religious leaders and passes His judgment on them. In their self-confidence and pride, they dare to sue His disciples, and with them Him. The work of grace arouses the opposition of the religious man because he is filled with his own importance. The disciples are taught how to see persons who are religious only in appearance. The Lord wants to show them the true character of these people.

When people gather around Him, there is always a reason and a consequence. They come to Him because they need Him in their need, or they come to Him to sue Him. The result is always that He reveals His glory, either in grace or in judgment.

The Pharisees and scribes who come here to Him possess the highest authority as far as the earth is concerned. They come from the holy city of Jerusalem, the city of the ancient religion. Both their position as religious leaders and the place where they come from, the religious center of Jerusalem, gives them prestige. They are, as it were, adorned with the law of God and with the authority that provides them with it.

These people perceive that some of the Lord’s disciples eat bread in a way that does not conform to their prescription. This has nothing to do with inner spiritual life or man’s relationship to God. They only judge others according to the outer form, a form that they themselves have laid down. There is no room for grace in what people fix in forms. On top of that - and perhaps even more so is the lesson - by adhering to tradition, the true impurity of the heart is concealed and remains hidden.

God has arranged all public and personal obligations in family, society, religion, and politics, but they have made many more commandments. As a result, God’s commandments are no longer carried out, for they place the people under the authority of the tradition of the elders, which are their own traditions.

Traditions contain it in themselves to make man important. If traditions become habitual acts without being tested against Scripture, traditions can turn against Scripture. As soon as we do something, just because our fathers have always done so, there is a danger that Scripture will be replaced by tradition. We need to know what we are doing and why we are doing it, with Scripture as the basis, not tradition. The Lord Jesus strongly opposes the replacement of Scripture by tradition.

Public life takes place in the marketplace. The Pharisees and the Jews take part in it, but think they are defiled by it. They must first cleanse themselves of this impurity by thoroughly washing their hands. They believe that by such an outward cleansing they clean themselves of their sinful commercial transactions on the markets.

Perhaps on the couches (Darby translation) they bought on the market the sick people had been laid to rest (Mk 6:5656Wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured.)! So the couches have to be cleansed before they can lie on them themselves. They also cleanse cups and pitchers because they might have been touched by strangers. They care about the cleansing of them, but not about the cleansing of their hearts.

What the disciples do, they find contrary to their traditions and therefore wrong. Surely they will have derived their traditions from the Word of God. In it there is talk of washings, for example of the sacrifices and at  the performance of the priestly service. Then it seems a reasonable conclusion to impose this commandment on the whole people and that for the life of every day. But it is an addition to what God has said! It is the very nature of man, if God has not said something explicitly, to make a law himself and to impose it on others. Tradition comes from man, not from God.


Setting Aside the Commandment of God

?” 6And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
7‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’
8Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” 9He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10For Moses said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER’; and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH’; 11but you say, ‘If a man says to [his] father or [his] mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given [to God]),’ 12you no longer permit him to do anything for [his] father or [his] mother; 13[thus] invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

In His answer the Lord is not going to discuss the or origin of the tradition, nor to prove its uselessness. He directly demonstrates the influence of tradition on obedience to God. For this He quotes the Word of God through Isaiah. He calls them hypocrites because of the insincerity of their striving. The Pharisees and the scribes are concerned with people’s honor and the feeling of self-satisfaction. Outwardly, they strive for perfection, while their hearts are far from God and cold.

If people’s teachings become the basis for worshipping God, that worship will remain empty and fruitless. It is completely useless to Him, no matter how much man himself enjoys and is content with it. He who gives up what comes from God falls into the hands of men. Keeping people’s tradition instead of obeying God’s commandment brings about a dramatic reversal in the relationship between people. Tradition not only causes disobedience to what God has said, an ignoring of His Word, but also sets aside God’s Word. Traditions reveal itself as enemies of God’s commandment.

The Lord Jesus illustrates His words with the commandment that God gave to His people through Moses regarding the respect He demands for their father and mother. He presents this commandment to them in a positive sense (honoring) and in a negative sense (speaking evil). It is a clear commandment and not open to two interpretations.

The leaders had invented something that allowed them to circumvent God’s commandment to honor the parents. If the parents were poor, the children had a duty to take care of them. But because of this, money was lost in the eyes of these depraved people that they could take. In their wickedness, they had designed a program to secure possession for religious purposes, while at the same time appeasing people’s conscience toward God. The Israelite, who had to help his needy father or mother with his money, simply had to pronounce the word ‘corban’ over that money.

The word ‘corban’ determined that they had given their money and good to God. God is higher than father or mother. So their money and good fell to the religious leaders and the parents remained without help from the children. With hypocritical piety the money was consecrated to God and withheld from the parents, while it disappeared into the pockets of the Pharisees and the scribes. What diabolical manipulation lies in their invention of pronouncing the word ‘corban’ over money or goods with which people should help their parents.

Here we see tradition opposed to Scripture. The Lord here treats the tradition of saying ‘corban’ not merely as something wrong with parents, but as a rebellious act against an explicit commandment of God, depriving it of its power. And this is just one example. The Lord could have added so many more. He does not do so, for if this example does not convince, none of the other demonstrable cases will do so, nor will all the cases taken together convince them. Their hearts are too hardened for this.


Education About Defilement

14After He called the crowd to Him again, He [began] saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: 15there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. 16<If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”> 17When he had left the crowd [and] entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. 18And He *said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, 19because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” ([Thus He] declared all foods clean.) 20And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22deeds of coveting [and] wickedness, [as well as] deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride [and] foolishness. 23All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

The Lord wants to warn the crowd of the depraved teaching of the Pharisees and scribes. He calls them again to Him. With power of attorney, He says: “Listen to Me, all of you.” When He speaks, man must listen. Wise is the one who listens attentively and wants to understand the meaning of what He says. This teaching is extremely important. It is about the difference between the Word of God and the teachings of men. This difference must be brought out clearly with all its might, as a clear warning against the pitfall of tradition.

Everything a man eats comes from God and cannot defile him. Man may enjoy it - with the exception of blood and what is strangled (Acts 15:20,2920but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.29that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”
). Man without God uses it in the wrong way. He does not think of God and therefore does not thank Him for that food (cf. 1Tim 4:33[men] who forbid marriage [and advocate] abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.). When he eats, he thinks only of his own needs. This selfishness and covetousness is what comes out of man and that defiles him.

The Lord concludes His speech with a call to each of His listeners personally to take His words to heart.

After He has taught the crowd, He comes into the house. The house represents the familiar atmosphere of His dealings with His disciples. There He teaches them further. The disciples ask Him what they have seen as a parable. Because He has spoken in clear words, without using pictures, He reproaches them because of their lack of understanding. Surely they should understand that man cannot be defiled if he eats what God has given. It comes to him from outside.

The food is for the belly and the belly is for the food (1Cor 6:1313Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.). This is how God instituted it in the creation of man. He has also regulated the digestion in the body, whereby all excess in the toilet can leave the body again. With this statement the Lord Jesus declares in a general sense that all food is clean. It is about making it clear to Him that evil is not in food, but in man.

This is a harsh word, both for man who thinks he is doing everything with good intentions and for the hypocrite who can think of nothing but outer cleanness. The cause is in the suspicious heart of man. He does not know his own heart, but the Lord knows it completely (Jer 17:9-109“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
10“I, the LORD, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds.
). Here speaks the Knower of the heart.

He knows that all evil begins with “evil thoughts”. This makes man fully responsible for all subsequent acts, of which the Lord first mentions “fornication”. All these evil deeds cause enormous damage to others and also to man himself who does them. Above all, they are sins against God Who wants man to serve Him with all his heart. But it turns out that in man’s evil heart there is nothing for Him. The things the Lord mentions contain both mind and deeds, for those evil deeds have their origin in the heart.

He calls all the things He has called “evil things. There is nothing good in these things, nothing that connects with God, nothing that comes from Him. Because of these evil things, man becomes unclean. This means that a man without God is unclean and that the believer who does one of these evil things becomes unclean because of it. Only confession of it makes man clean, for he may know that the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin (1Jn 1:77but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.).


The Syrophoenician Woman

24Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know [of it]; yet He could not escape notice. 25But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28But she answered and *said to Him, “Yes, Lord, [but] even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.” 29And He said to her, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.

In the previous section the Lord Jesus, with the Divine perfect understanding that is His own, shows the heart of man. God wants to show His own heart in return. He does this in Christ to those who feel a need for Him and come to Him in faith, acknowledging His perfect goodness and resting in it.

To show His own heart the Lord goes to regions outside the territory of Israel. As a true Servant He does not want to be known, but for those who seek the grace of God, He cannot remain hidden. He cannot deny His nature of love for those who need Him in their need. It is through them that He is found.

A woman arrives with Him who seeks healing for her possessed child like a real mother. She hears of Him and does not hesitate for a moment to go to Him. She falls at His feet. There is a complete surrender to Him of the need she carries with her. As an extra peculiarity, Markus mentions that the woman belongs to a gentile race. She is not a member of God’s chosen people. She is free of tradition and hypocrisy and has no hardened heart, but a heart yearning for grace.

She makes her request to the Lord from her humble attitude. Then He gives her an answer that every righteous Jew must have sounded like music to their ears. There is no one who needs to ask for an explanation of the parable used by the Lord. The picture is too clear. The children are God’s people and the dogs are the Gentiles.

This would have been a crushing answer for the woman if the feeling of her need and of the goodness of God hadn’t gone beyond that and driven out every other thought. When the Lord speaks these words, He has something completely different in mind than flattering the superior feelings of the proud Jew. His words are a challenge to the faith of women. He does not say that the children do not want the bread. He has distributed it but the children reject Him as the true bread.

The faith of the woman is expressed in a sublime way. With the words “yes, Lord” she acknowledges the sovereignty of God. She is indeed only a dog of the nations. At the same time, she sees that the goodness of God is so great that there is even bread left for the dogs, even if only crumbs. She makes no claim to any rights. The poor woman relies only on grace.

Her faith, with a God-given insight, lays its hand on the grace that goes beyond the promises made to Israel. She does not belong to God’s people, but that does not diminish God’s goodness and grace. She penetrates the heart of the God of love as He is revealed in Christ, and she enjoys the fruit of it.

The word the woman has spoken comes from a heart that believes. The outward word reflects the mind of her heart. Here, any hypocrisy is absent. The Lord rewards her confession with the healing of her daughter. The woman does not ask Him to go with her. She does not doubt His word and goes home. When she comes home, she sees that her faith has been answered. She has been given to her faith.


A Deaf and Difficult Speaking Man Healed

31Again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. 32They *brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they *implored Him to lay His hand on him. 33Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue [with the saliva]; 34and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He *said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” 35And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he [began] speaking plainly. 36And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. 37They were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

The Lord goes further north from Tyre and passes through Sidon, and then goes south again to the Sea of Galilee. Before that, He passes through the area of Decapolis, the area where the demon possessed who was delivered by Him testified of Him (Mk 5:2020And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.).

When He comes there, a deaf man is brought to Him. Bringing people in need to the Lord is a work any believer can do. The man has no ears to hear, he cannot receive the fruit of the Word of God. As a result, he cannot communicate his need to Him and praise Him even less. This is the situation of God’s people, who are deaf to the voice of the good Shepherd and incapable of praising God.

The Lord performs a total of seven acts to heal the man. In proportion He performs many more acts than He speaks words. This is characteristic of the Servant.
1. He separates him from the crowd. Every need a man has can only be taken away by Him when He is alone with someone.
2. He puts His fingers in the ears of the deaf man. He points the ailment as it were, but it is with fingers of healing power and not with a raised finger. The finger of God is a finger that makes God’s power visible and can be recognized both by believers and unbelievers (Exo 8:1919Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.; 31:1818When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.; Psa 8:44What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
; Dan 5:5-285Suddenly the fingers of a man’s hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing.6Then the king’s face grew pale and his thoughts alarmed him, and his hip joints went slack and his knees began knocking together.7The king called aloud to bring in the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners. The king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, “Any man who can read this inscription and explain its interpretation to me shall be clothed with purple and [have] a necklace of gold around his neck, and have authority as third [ruler] in the kingdom.”8Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the inscription or make known its interpretation to the king.9Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, his face grew [even] paler, and his nobles were perplexed.10The queen entered the banquet hall because of the words of the king and his nobles; the queen spoke and said, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts alarm you or your face be pale.11There is a man in your kingdom in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father, illumination, insight and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him. And King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king, appointed him chief of the magicians, conjurers, Chaldeans [and] diviners.12[This was] because an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas and solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Let Daniel now be summoned and he will declare the interpretation.”13Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel who is one of the exiles from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah?14Now I have heard about you that a spirit of the gods is in you, and that illumination, insight and extraordinary wisdom have been found in you.15Just now the wise men [and] the conjurers were brought in before me that they might read this inscription and make its interpretation known to me, but they could not declare the interpretation of the message.16But I personally have heard about you, that you are able to give interpretations and solve difficult problems. Now if you are able to read the inscription and make its interpretation known to me, you will be clothed with purple and [wear] a necklace of gold around your neck, and you will have authority as the third [ruler] in the kingdom.”17Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription to the king and make the interpretation known to him.18O king, the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father.19Because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations and [men of every] language feared and trembled before him; whomever he wished he killed and whomever he wished he spared alive; and whomever he wished he elevated and whomever he wished he humbled.20But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne and [his] glory was taken away from him.21He was also driven away from mankind, and his heart was made like [that of] beasts, and his dwelling place [was] with the wild donkeys. He was given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and [that] He sets over it whomever He wishes.22Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this,23but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified.24Then the hand was sent from Him and this inscription was written out.25“Now this is the inscription that was written out: ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’26This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENE’—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it.27‘TEKEL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient.28‘PERES’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”; Lk 11:20-2220But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.21When a strong [man], fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed.22But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder.).
3. He spits. Saliva is a symbol of His inner strength that comes out through His mouth. He will have spit on His hand and wet His finger with it.
4. With the finger with saliva on it He touches the tongue of the man, as to put His inner strength from His mouth into the mouth of the man.
5. He brings the need He is working on into connection with heaven. It emphasizes His actions in dependence on His Father (Mk 6:4141And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed [the food] and broke the loaves and He kept giving [them] to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all.).
6. He sighs, which speaks of the burden He experiences in His mind as He heals the man.
7. He speaks the redeeming word. It is a truly redemptive word, for it is an opening and loosening word.

After all these acts the deafness of the man and what has prevented him from speaking properly are removed. Now he is able to speak properly. To speak well means to speak well of someone. The first good words he speaks will be about Christ. Good words can only be spoken if the ear is opened. Christ makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak. Thus He will do as the Messiah does with the remnant of Israel in the future (Isa 35:5-65Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
6Then the lame will leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.
For waters will break forth in the wilderness
And streams in the Arabah.
).

As the perfect Servant, He has no choice but to say that this miracle must not be passed on. The true Servant seeks no honor from men, no honor for Himself. But the miracle has made such an impression that no one can remain silent about it. It is an understandable reaction, yet disobedience to the Lord.

People come to recognize that He has done all things well. There is only perfection in His actions. He is truly the perfect Servant whose work is perfect.


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