Unsafe but Good
Father God, I give You thanks for the promise, challenge, and blessing of today. Speak to me now, I pray.
Read Mark 7:1-13
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
It is easy to keep the heart and spirit from God by giving priority to human traditions and rules. We need to constantly be on guard against this temptation.
Today, Mark’s explanatory aside (3,4) reminds us that he is educating his largely Gentile readers about first century Jewish purity codes. Strict boundaries had been set up to separate “clean” places, objects, times and people from those declared “unclean” because of association with Gentiles, outcasts or physically disabled or maimed people. What Mark’s community (probably in Rome) did not need to be educated about was recognizing the sinister purpose of the Jerusalem authorities who, even far away from the temple, shadowed Jesus, or the possibility of state violence which lay behind their apparently superficial questions (5,3:6; 11:16).
In contrast to the temple’s secret agents, who hid their conspiratorial motives, Jesus answers with transparent, stinging opposition (6,7) choosing Isaiah’s words to accuse these religious professionals of hypocrisy for exchanging godliness of heart with fanatical cleanliness (8; Isa. 29:13). Note Jesus’ repeated “you” in his second line of argument (9-13), which resembles prophecies about Israel’s priestly class centuries earlier (Isa. 1; Hos. 4). Jesus quietly but incisively reveals the Pharisees’ Corban vow in their oral law to be economic exploitation dressed up as religion. All the detail of this public confrontation, which momentarily interrupts Jesus’ relative obscurity in Galilee, is Mark’s reminder that Jesus’ exposure of the injustice of powerful elites in Jerusalem must still be consequential for our story.
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when Lucy asks if Aslan is safe, Mr. Beaver’s reply is straightforward: “Who said anything about safe? “Course he isn’t safe! But he’s good.” Encountering Jesus is never safe because he sees through every attempt at dissembling and deceit.
It takes courage to look at ourselves with Jesus’ gaze and respond to what he sees. Tell him how you feel about following him on paths you have not chosen.
Lord, I enjoy being in my comfort zone, but I know You often call me to move beyond it. Help me faithfully follow You today.