Word By Mail

 We Are Hypocrites

Mark 7:1-23

Message #24

Have you ever heard someone complain, “the church is full of hypocrites”? Is it too soon in the message to tell you, to some extent, they’re right?

Today we have a lesson on being a hypocrite, an example of being a hypocrite and an explanation of what to do about it.

The previous back-to-back events are done. Mark is moving on, and he returns today to a familiar battle. And that is the ongoing battle between Jesus and man’s religion. And in that battle today we see that the Pharisees were hypocrites, just like us.

We start today with a transition.

Mark 7:1 (NLT)
1 One day
(there’s the transition) some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. 

The religious leaders had come purposefully from Jerusalem, and this is no quick Uber ride. This is a three-day walk and could become a four or five-day walk, one way. And so, these “teachers of religious law” must’ve really wanted to see Jesus, right?

Yeah, they did. They wanted to see something they could attack him for. They wanted to see something they could use against him, very similar to our political environment today.

And they found something they felt they could easily use to prove that Jesus was obviously not religious and so, obviously not from God. Here’s their big, earth-shaking discovery.

Mark 7:2 (NLT)
2 They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating.

Nooooo! Tell me it’s not so! Jesus and his Disciples failed to follow the religious, ritual, ceremonial hand-washing that was required by all good, religious people. All is lost… all is lost.

This is such a big deal that Mark had to explain it to his Roman audience and to us.

Mark 7:3 (NLT)
(notice the parenthesis) (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions. 

So, let’s get this straight. This is not about washing your hands with soap like your mother told you to do before dinner. This is a ceremonial thing, developed as a ceremonial ritual to be done ceremonially before every meal, developed by ceremonial religious leaders to convey a ceremonial religious status of a ceremonially religious person who goes through this religious ceremony – ceremonially. All of which is not required by God but by ceremonial religious traditions. Does that help clear it up?

Then, Mark 7:4 continues.

Mark 7:4 (NLT)
4 Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles.)

So, what we’re talking about are ceremonial religious traditions that the religious leaders taught as religious law. And remember, we’re not talking about God’s law here – we’re talking about man-made religious laws.

And so, these religious leaders really believe they’re on to something. They feel like they’ve really got Jesus cornered on this all-important religious hand washing ceremony. And so, the attack begins.

Mark 7:5 (NLT)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”

And they’re thinking, man, this is it – we’ve got him. Not following the age-old traditions. Not performing the religious hand-washing ceremony. These are impeachable offenses for sure. We’re going to hang him out to dry on these.

Aren’t you glad we don’t see this type of thing in our culture today? We’ve come so far, haven’t we? We’ve evolved so much as humans, haven’t we?

No – we absolutely have not!

The religious landscape Jesus stepped into then was the same as the religious landscape today. It was the same!!! Why??? Because we, as humans, at our core, are the same today as we were then. Because we have the same sin nature today, as we did then.

Many of us who’ve been around the Church awhile are familiar with this teaching. But here’s what I’ve found too often with these particular verses. Too often we kind of secretly love this teaching, because it gives us the chance to point that big foam football finger. You know, that three-foot-high finger that you put on for the football game.

We love this teaching because often, our response is to point that big three-foot finger at all those hypocrites out there.

Yeah, Jesus, I hate those hypocrites too – just like you do. You and me Jesus, we are sooooo holy. I am so glad I’m not one of those hypocrites.

Allow me to paint a picture of what each of us is prone to do with this life-changing teaching from Jesus.

I’m going to read a scripture, and let’s put ourselves in this picture and let’s apply these verses to ourselves in regard to us being a hypocrite.

Luke 18:9–14 (PARAPHRASED – for this subject)
9 Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else:
10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not
(a HYPOCRITE) like other people . . .
. . .
13 “But the
(one who knew he was a SINNER) stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’
14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Listen to me, please. What we need to do is take that big ol’ foam football finger and we need to back up three feet away from a mirror, and then we need to point that big ol’ foam finger right back at that mirror.

If we want to avoid being the Pharisee in that picture, the first step is to realize that in our sin nature, we have a tendency to be hypocrites. And until we accept that we can so easily be a hypocrite, we will continue to be that Pharisee pointing the big foam football finder at all those other people and saying, “Thank you God, that I am not … like them.”

Please, please, when I read these next verses, do not see all those “other people.” See just one person – in the mirror.

Mark 7:6-8 (NLT)
6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
7 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’
8 For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”

When you read that looking in the mirror, it stings.

Lord, in my nature, I tend to be a hypocrite. Don’t let me honor you with my lips while my heart is far from you. Don’t allow my worship to be a farce because of the condition of my heart. Don’t allow me, Lord, to loophole your law and put in my own thoughts and my own traditions. That’s the promise we want to embrace.

Here’s God’s definition of a hypocrite: People who honor him with their lips while their hearts are far from him.

Let’s be honest, to some degree, and at some point in time, that has defined us all. Honoring God with our lips while our hearts are far from him. Teaching or embracing our own man-made ideas as (or in place of) God’s commands. Ignoring God’s law and substituting our own traditions. At some point, to some extent, that defines us all.

If we refuse to take a hard look in the mirror in the mirror at ourselves, then we will always be shaking that big foam football finger at everyone else.

We’ve got to acknowledge our own tendency to be a hypocrite and then crucify it by the power of God’s Holy Spirit so that we do not become Pharisees.

And then, in verse 9, Jesus summarizes the lesson by telling us how skillful we are at this.

Mark 7:9 (NLT)
9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition.

Our natural tendency is to skillfully justify our actions so that we can skillfully sidestep God’s commands. It happens in our Churches, and it happens in our personal lives.

And so, that is the lesson. Now we see the example.

Mark 7:10-12 (NLT)
10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’
(that’s serious)
11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’
12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents.

This is something the religious leaders came up with to avoid financially supporting their parents. It allowed people to say; I’ve vowed to give all my money to God – someday. So I can’t give it to you today.

And so, the religious leaders (primarily for their own good) created a loophole that allowed them to get out of what God called them to do, and they could still look very religious.

And guys, if you’re not angry with me yet, let me just share one more truth with you. We are very skillful at creating religious loopholes that allow us to do what we want and still look very religious. We can come up with a reason to do what we want to do and make it sound holy. It happens every day.

I know Jesus is specifically talking about religious traditions here. But if I don’t apply this to our lives personally today, aren’t I just handing you that big foam football finger and giving you the okay to shake it at all those “other people”?

We already have the tendency to be hypocrites. I don’t want to feed that tendency and make it even worse. And Jesus ends this example in Mark 7:13.

Mark 7:13 (NLT)
13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”

You cancel the Word of God in order to hold on to your own traditions, your own ideas, and your own loopholes. Guys, we’ve got to crucify our tendency to do this.

So, we’ve seen the lesson. (Don’t be a hypocrite).
We’ve seen the example. (Religious tradition).

Now, we get the explanation.

Mark 7:14 (NLT)
14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand
(love that)

Jesus is like, “This is too much, you all come around and listen up, I gotta clear this thing up right now.” And so, he says in Mark 7:15,

Mark 7:15 (NLT)
15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”

Jesus is referring back to the ceremonial hand washing because the religious tradition was if you eat without that ceremony, that food remains unclean, and so the food will make you unclean. And Jesus is like, “You’re kidding me, right? Like that little ceremony is somehow going to magically make you clean?”

And then it seems (to me) Jesus just throws up his hands and huffs a little, and then we read in Mark 7:17,

Mark 7:17(a) (NLT)
17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd . . .

So, there’s this guy sitting on his porch. Jesus says, “Hey, buddy, can I come into your house for one minute? I just need a break from all this madness.” And the guy lets him in, along with his Disciples. And then, Jesus gets “additionally amazed” by his own Disciples.

Mark 7:17(b)-19(a) (NLT)
17 . . . and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used.
18 “Don’t you understand either?” he asked
(are you kidding me). “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you?
19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.”
(good translation) . . . 

And then Mark inserts his second commentary.

Mark 7:19(b) (NLT)
19 . . . (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)

That is a major blow to the Jewish religion and to many religions today.

But diet is not the point here, so let’s not make it the point. The point is that you and I have a tendency (by our sin nature) to be hypocrites. And Jesus is using the religious traditions of eating as a powerful example – of our hypocrisy.

And so, finally, in verse 20, Jesus begins his final point. And he makes it clear exactly what those who truly want to honor God must be focused on.

Mark 7:20-22 (NLT)
20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you.
21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder,
22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.

These are the sins and a hundred more that reside within our sin nature. Mark 7:23 says,

Mark 7:23 (NLT)
23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

And so, here is the final lesson, the send-off. Let me tell you how (in my observation) most of the Church deals with it. You cover up the sin that’s in your heart, and you look like a Christian on the outside.

First step to transformation in this area, separate clearly in your mind the difference between what people look at and what God looks at. We must separate what man looks at from what God looks at.

1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT)
7 . . . The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The Lord does not see things the way you see things. You and the Lord do not have the same perspective.

You and I must decide every day who do we want to look good for. People are looking at our outward display, but the Lord is looking at our heart.

When King David realized this very thing, he cried out to God in Psalm 51.

Psalm 51 (ESV)
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
. . .
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
. . .
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

In our sin nature we have a strong tendency to be hypocrites, to look good on the outside. But, if you are in Christ today, that sin nature no longer has to be in control. It only has control if we give it control. You positionally have conquered the sin nature and the sin nature is positionally rendered inoperative, it’s crucified. It’s null and void. Why do you keep giving it CPR? Why do you keep giving your sin nature mouth-to-mouth? It’s a dead man. The power of our new life in Christ can keep that sin nature crucified (rendered inoperative).

And for this area, the first step toward transformation is to fully embrace that all outward displays are meaningless to God if they don’t come from a pure and right heart. God wants our heart wholly and completely, transparently, and honestly. And that starts with us confessing to God that we have a tendency to be a hypocrite.

And may we be always praying with King David, “Lord, create in me a CLEAN HEART, and RENEW a Right Spirit within me.”