Hamilton Smith's Writings
( Mark 7) MAN EXPOSED AND GOD REVEALED
We have seen in chapter6, the exposure and condemnation of the social and political world. In this chapter we have the condemnation of the formal religion of the flesh (1-13); the exposure of the heart of man (14-23); and the revelation of the heart of God (24-37).
(Vv1-5). The chapter opens with the religious leaders of the nation coming to Jesus, not with any sense of their need or of His grace, but, alas! to oppose Christ by finding fault with His disciples because they ate bread with unwashen hands. The religion of these men consisted in honouring the tradition of their ancestors, by the performance of certain outward forms and ceremonies which any one can do, and which make a reputation before men, but leave the heart far from God.
(Vv6-13). In His reply to these men, the Lord exposes the emptiness of their religion that consists in mere outward forms. First, it leaves men mere hypocrites, as proved by Scripture, for Isaiah said of such, "This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." Hypocrisy is pretending to be what we are not. By their religious acts they professed great piety before men, and by their words they professed to reverence God; actually their hearts were far from God. ( Isaiah 29:13 : Ezekiel 33:31).
Secondly, the Lord shows that such religion is "in vain". It may gain for its devotees a reputation for piety before men, but it is worthless in the sight of God.
Thirdly, it sets aside the plain word of God in favour of the traditions of men. The Lord gives an example of this great evil. The word of God gives plain directions for the children to honour the parents; but they had a tradition by which they could profess to set aside their property for the use of God by saying "It is Corban," meaning a gift devoted to God, and therefore could not be used to help a needy parent. Thus, by their tradition, they set aside the word of God, evaded their responsibility to their needy relatives, and ministered to their own covetousness.
It adds solemnity to this passage, if we remember that these Pharisees and Scribes from Jerusalem were the religious leaders of the remnant that had been delivered from Babylon. There was indeed, in the Lord"s day, a little feeble remnant within this remnant, who feared the Lord, thought upon His Name, and looked for redemption in Israel, but alas! the mass had sunk into the terrible condition set forth by these leaders. They were no longer idolaters. Outwardly they were very pious before men, and with their lips they made a fair profession before God, but we learn that all this is possible and yet the heart be far from God, and the word of God be set aside by the traditions of men.
(Vv14-16). Having exposed the hypocrisy of the outward religion of the flesh, the Lord, in the hearing of "all the people," shows that the source of defilement is not from without, but from within. The washing of hands and cups and pots, simply deals with defilement from without, but the source of moral defilement springs from the inward evil of the heart. This cuts at the root of all worldly religion of the flesh which simply deals with externals and leaves the heart untouched. God works from within and deals with the conscience and heart. The real source of defilement is not a man"s environment but himself. It is true that man being such as he Isaiah - a fallen creature- if he goes into scenes of evil and temptation, his surroundings will stir up his lusts within. But even so the source of the evil is from within. An Angel can pass through Sodom and not be defiled, but not so Lot. There was no evil heart in the Angel to answer to sin; there was in Lot.
(Vv17-23). Alone with His disciples the Lord enlarges upon this theme, and interprets His illustration. Moral evil has its root in the heart whatever form the evil may take, whether it be evil thinking, evil Acts, such as adulteries, murder, thefts or deceit, evil looking, or evil speaking in blasphemy, pride and foolishness. "All these evils come from within, and defile the man."
(Vv24-30). The evil of the heart of man being exposed, we nave in the story of the Syrophenician woman a blessed unfolding of the heart of God- a heart that, full of love, maintains the truth while dispensing grace to needy sinners. The Lord as He passed through this world that had rejected Him would fain be hid, thus revealing the lowly mind of Christ that led him to make Himself of no reputation. But such was His perfection- so great the contrast to all around- that He could not be hid. As one has said, "Goodness joined with power are too rare in the world to remain unnoticed" (J.N.D.)
The woman was a Greek, that is a Gentile, but her deep need brought her to the Lord. She had faith in the power of Jesus, and in His grace to use the power on behalf of a Gentile dog. The Lord draws out her faith by saying, "Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children"s bread and cast it unto the dogs". This was a great test for faith. She might have argued, "Then I am only a dog and have no claim upon the Lord; the blessing only belongs to the children." Her faith triumphs over this difficulty by admitting the truth as to herself and falling back upon the grace that is in His heart. She can say, as it were, "Yes, as far as I am concerned, it is true I cannot claim the place of a child. I am but a dog, but my whole trust is in what You are and not what I am. I see there is such grace in your heart that you would not deny a crumb to a dog." This is ever the way of faith to own the wretchedness, the vileness, and unworthiness of our hearts, and rest in the perfect grace of His heart. Faith lays hold of Christ and rests upon Who He is and what He has done.
This was a faith that the Lord would not, and could not, deny. He could not say, "I am not so good as you suppose," or "My grace is not so great as you imagine." Blessed be His Name, His grace exceeds all our faith, and He delights to respond to the smallest faith. Thus faith in Christ secures the blessing, and He can say to the woman, "For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter."
(Vv31-37). In the closing scene the Lord is found again in Galilee, amongst the people of Israel. They bring to Him one that is deaf and with an impediment in his speech. The man fitly represents the condition to which sin had reduced the nation. Christ is in their midst with grace and power to meet their need, but sin has so blinded them that the nation, as a whole, cannot avail themselves of the healing virtue that is in Christ.
Nevertheless their sin cannot change His heart of love. Hence He will not turn away a case of need. If He will not send away a Gentile woman, neither will He refuse an appeal on behalf of a needy Jew. But in dispensing grace, He will, in both cases, maintain truth. So we read, "He took him aside from the multitude." He is not indifferent to their rejection of Himself. If He works in their midst it is because of their need, and not because they are Jews. Sin has put Jew and Gentile on one common level, and grace can bless either on the ground of their need.
In showing grace the Lord looked up to heaven and sighed. He ever acted in dependence upon the Father and in accord with the mind of heaven. His heart was sustained by heaven if it was broken by the sorrows of earth. We, too, as the sorrows of earth press upon our spirits may well sigh; but, too often, we sigh without looking up to heaven, and so become vast down and depressed. Looking around we sigh; but looking up we are sustained. Having healed the man He charges them that they should tell no man. He was here as the perfect Servant, so would not use His mighty power and grace to exalt Himself. His mind was to make Himself of no reputation. But He could not be hid. The people were beyond measure astonished and said, "He hath done all things well: He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak."
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Mark 7". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25