Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / August 30th / Mark 7:14-23 / The Heart of a Man
The Heart of a Man: Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Mark 7:14-23
And [Jesus] called the people to Him again and said to them, “Hear Me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when He had entered the house and left the people, His disciples asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) And He said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. "And when [Jesus] had entered the house and left the people, His disciples asked Him about the parable." Wait a minute, today's Gospel reading is a continuation of last week's Gospel reading but I don't remember Jesus telling a parable, am I missing something? There was a lot of stuff about hand washing and being clean or unclean but I don't remember a parable, there wasn't anything like the parable of the lost sheep, or the good Samaritan, or the lost coin, or the prodigal son.
Here's the part that the disciples are referring back to. Jesus addresses the Scribes and Pharisees saying, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)—then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
What is Corban? It is something given to God. How did that work. Do any of you have a will? If you don't I recommend you put one together. When you do, when you did - if you have - you will be setting up what will happen to your estate at your death. Usually you will put together a list of heirlooms, or art, or jewellery, or other valuables and instructions to your executor to distribute these things at the appropriate time. Some people do this some people don't. Some people go around their house and put little bits of masking tape on the backs of things with people's names on them to let them know that it's for that person. Either way you are making a declaration either privately, or accompanying your will, to be read by the executor that these are your intentions. Corban is sort of like that, but instead of saying that great grandma's china goes to little Suzie Q, the Jewish person at the time that Jesus was talking to these Scribes and Pharisees would be dedicating a thing to go to God.
Like the idea of the willing of a set of China to Suzie Q, Corban would be / could be / given to God at a later date, not necessarily at the time of death just latter, and the Scribes (who served in the capacity of lawyers in those days) along with the Pharisees who were very keen on rules and regulations said, once something was declared Corban (that is, given to God) there were no "taksies backsies."
Now there was no such actual law given by God through Moses to the Children of Israel that was this severe, this whole no " taksies backsies" approach to things was made up by people along the way as a sort of hedge to "help" them keep the ceremonial temple laws of the Old Testament and the Scribes and Pharisees were enforcing it without mercy. So keeping all that in the mind the disciples perceived a little parable from the context of Jesus' conversation, it sounds like they were reading between the lines when they came asking about the parable. What would such a parable have been like?
A young man was born into a wealthy family with a beautiful home. His Father taught him well how to manage his finances and he himself was able to marry and build a beautiful home for himself, in fact he did so well he was able to purchase a little land and a house out of town on the coast of the Mediterranean sea, he and his wife and family would go there to get away from Jerusalem, it was there little get away. He loved it so much and the view was so beautiful that he decided to dedicate it to God and called it Corban. He was doing well and so was his whole family, If he gave it to the Temple they could sell it for a profit and use the money to keep the Temple in good repair, or they could make it a retirement home for Levites and their families. Whatever they would do with it would be fine with him, he was pleased with his dedication of this house by the sea to God. All his friends and family were impressed with his faithfulness and love of God.
Years later the financial situation changed and hard times came. He almost lost all his money but he was able to keep his house and his little get away by the sea. His Mother and Father were not so lucky, they lost the home he grew up in and all their property and money. The young man desiring to help them in their distress thought, "They could have my little get away by the sea. It's beautiful there and just the right size for them, I will ask the Scribes what to do!"
When he talked with the Scribes, they said he was not able to give what was dedicated to God, what was Corban, to his father and mother. The young man's heart sunk, when he'd first dedicated the little house by the sea he'd been trying to do a good thing and now he was stuck! He asked himself, "how can I follow God's law of honouring my mother and father, if I can't take care of them in their trouble? That little house is all I have to give?" He asked them, "can I revoke the vow of dedication I made?" and the said "no," and he went away unhappy.
When the Scribes and Pharisees, came with their extra little laws to judge Jesus' disciples and by extension Him as Jesus perfectly kept the actual laws given by His heavenly Father, Jesus seems to have in mind this sort of situation where, "a man repents of his harsh vow which would deprive his parents of all the help which they would normally expect from their son, but is told by the Scribes to whose arbitration his case has been submitted that he must abide by his vow. The Scribes are actually setting at naught the Word of God by means of their tradition. It is true that the Scribes could point to an absolute command concerning vows inside Scripture itself [like the one found in Numbers 30:1-2, where,] (Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel, saying, “This is what the LORD has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.) [it was the Scribes application of Scripture in this way] their interpretation, their tradition, which was at fault; for it clung to the letter of a particular passage in such a way as to miss the meaning of Scripture as a whole." They weren't balancing this sort of passage from the book of Numbers with passages like this one from the prophet Hosea, where God says, "For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." steadfast love - mercy.
What Jesus is getting at is a warning to be careful of people who heap on piles of little laws on top of the actual laws God has given, particularly when they do it in a unyielding and inflexible way, presenting them as if they were equal to the law given by God. Ironically this gets down into the area of the First Commandment. I say ironically because the question is about trying to best honour God. While all the while missing the point of what God actually wants from you, and for you. The first Commandment is "you shall have no other gods," and the Scribes and Pharisees had made their extra rules and their following of them into a kind of god which they worshiped with their good conduct in the eyes of their neighbours and family. What's worse they demanded that others follow them and do as they were doing.
To put a sharp point on it, the Scribes and Pharisees were teaching that men could be righteous before God, that they could be right in God's eyes if they avoided external things that were evil. if they avoided everything that was ceremonially unclean, if they kept away from all of it. In doing this they created a blind spot. The blind spot hid their heart from their scrutiny. Have you ever had someone drive in your blind spot? You go to change lanes and suddenly they are honking at you and your heart pounds in your chest! If you're not so lucky you end up in an accident.
In Matthew's Gospel Jesus talks about this same blind spot when He says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire."
Just a little further along in Matthew's Gospel Jesus again addresses this blind spot when He says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." And this gets us back to the heart and what Jesus is talking about with His disciples in today's Gospel reading, when He says to them, “Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) And He said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
The next and unsettling question is how is your heart? Is it like mine? Mine is appalling, and rather unpleasant, wicked and full of restless trouble, it needs forgiveness every waking hour, and even in sleep it is not guiltless. Take some time and peal back the blind spot the world places over your heart, have a good look at it. The world says - people are essentially good, and yet we know that's not true. The world says, you're not as bad as the next guy, and yet you know that's not true.
The good news for you today is that God has a heart - and His heart, the one that beats in Jesus' chest, is without blemish: It is perfect and unstained. His love for you is pure, and good, and without sin. Jesus gave His heart, and everything that went with it, to you: He gave every drop of His blood for you, every ounce of His being for you when He died upon the cross, in His holiness He held nothing back, He was dedicated to His Father and yet He showed you mercy, He didn't keep His goodness for Himself He gives it to you. When He forgives you He gives you a heart transplant - He puts His heart where your heart beats. And He does this each and every time you come to Him for forgiveness. Even in those times when you feel stuck between a rock and a hard place, when you are in the deepest, darkest. blackest of holes, when you are swimming in sin and drowning in it, Jesus gives you His heart. You are not required to give yours to Him. In fact as soon as you're given your heart to Him you can be sure He's already given His to you, they as you might you cannot beat Jesus to it. He will give you what you need. And on the last day when you are raised up the heart you have will be once for all fully transformed and it will never again have even on sin in it, not one sinful thought, not one sinful desire. It will be washed clean and made new for all time. Jesus will do this for you, Jesus, "who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself." Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Mark 7:9-13
 Cranfield: St. Mark, C.E.B. Cranfield, Cambridge University Press 1959, pg 238.
 Hosea 6:6
 Matthew 5:21-22
 Matthew 5:27-28
 Philippians 3:21