"Meanderings in Mark"
Series on Mark, Lesson 27

The Fundamental Difference

Read: Mark 7:1-23

Text: (Mark 7:6b KJV) This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

Theme: External observances do not please God, only a changed heart.


QUOTE (Dr. Henry Ironside) "To the spiritual mind it is a question of unceasing wonder that men should be so ready to follow and even fearlessly contend for the authority of human traditions, while they are just as ready to ignore the plain teachings of the Word of God."

QUOTE (Warren W. Weirsbe) "… human nature is prone to hold on to worn-out man-made traditions and ignore or disobey the living word of God."

Here in Mark 7, we have a declaration of war:

Here we see Jesus' revolutionary teaching about our true source of authority (God's word), and the true source of defilement (our own hearts).


I. The Pharisees had a wrong view of authority.

(Mark 7:6b KJV) This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

QUESTION - What was their source of authority?

QUESTION - Why was this authority wrong, in Jesus' view?

A. They held tradition above all else.

1. These traditions had evolved gradually.

QUOTE (Matthew Henry) - "There were many cases in which, by the law of Moses, washing were appointed; but they ADDED to them, and enforced the observation of their own impositions as much as of God's institutions."

QUESTION - Is tradition a good thing? Ever? When? Why? Is it ever a bad thing? When? Why?

B. Tradition becomes a problem when it is elevated over God's word.

(The Scribes and Pharisees elevated their tradition over God's word.)

QUOTE (Rabbi Eleazer) - "He who expounds the Scriptures in opposition to the tradition has no share in the world to come."

QUOTE (Mishna) - "It is a greater offense to teach anything contrary to the voice of the Rabbis than to contradict Scripture itself."

ILLUS. LAW did not require the washing of hands discussed in our text, yet:

QUOTE (Barclay) - " To fail to do this was in Jewish eyes, not to be guilty of bad manners, not to be dirty in the health sense, but to be unclean in the sight of God. The man who ate with unclean hands was subject to the attacks of a demon called Shibta. To omit so to wash the hands was to become liable to poverty and destruction. Bread eaten with unclean hands was not better than excrement."

ILLUS. A Rabbi once omitted the ceremony and was buried in excommunication.

ILLUS. A Rabbi was once imprisoned by the Romans, and nearly died of thirst because he used his drinking water for the washing, and therefore had nothing to drink. Obeying the tradition of washing was more important that LIFE to him.

QUOTE (Bible Knowledge Commentary) - "For a loyal Jew to disregard these regulations was a sin, to follow them was the essence of goodness and service to God."

C. Tradition becomes a problem when it is used to nullify God's word.

(The Scribes and Pharisees did this with their traditions.)

QUESTION - How did they use their traditions to nullify the word of God?

QUESTION - What was Corban? Why was it a problem?

1. Corban was a formula for avoiding doing right by your parents.

QUOTE (Gleason L. Archer) "Under the pious pretext of dedicating his property to the Lord and retaining a life estate in it himself, a man could sidestep his obligation to support his aged parents, alleging that he had no undedicated property from which he could support them…The Hebrew word for the same term is qorban…The Mishna states that anything set apart as a qorban to the Lord, could never be withdrawn again for secular use, even though the vow was rashly made" (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 5, p. 959). Connected with this was some of the most detestable trickery practiced in the nation. Whenever a selfish man desired to escape the obligation to support his parents or even to repay a personal debt, he excused himself by declaring all he possessed was "corban" that is, Dedicated to the Lord. Therefore what he had, was not really his. The temple authorities were aware of the practice and were very co-operative in their attitude. The man could give a liberal offering which was considered some kind of a down payment on the rest of his estate. When this had been done, he could not be held responsible for the destitution of his parents. Neither could he be made to sell his property in order to pay his creditors.

QUESTION - What do you think of this idea?

QUESTION - Is it scriptural? Could it be justified scripturally?

ANSWER - READ Numbers 30:1-2. Apparently this was the justification.

2. Corban was an example of nullifying God's word with tradition.

(Exo 20:12 KJV) Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

(Deu 5:16 KJV) Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

(Exo 21:19 KJV) If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.

(Lev 20:9 KJV) For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.

3. Their justification of Corban was an example of trying to use one scripture to nullify another.

(I.e. using Numbers 30:1-2 to nullify the 5th commandment!)

QUESTION - Do we ever see this today?

QUOTE (NIV Study Bible note) - "Jesus categorically rejects the practice of using one Biblical teaching to nullify another. The scribal interpretation of Numbers 30:1-2 satisfied the letter of the passage but missed the meaning of the law as a whole. GOD NEVER INTENDED OBEDIENCE TO ONE COMMAND TO NULLIFY ANOTHER."

D. Jesus put God's word in its proper place of authority.

(Compare vs. 10-11 "Moses said… but YE say…")

1. Jesus often quoted scripture, and declared its authority.

(Mat 5:17-18 KJV) Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

2. Jesus continuously denounced tradition.

ILLUS. In His sermon on the mount, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time (TRADITION)…, But I say unto you… (AUTHORITY OF GOD'S WORD)…"

3. The Word of God is our only authority!

(2 Tim 3:16 KJV) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

(2 Pet 1:20-21 KJV) Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

ILLUS. Berean Christians - (Acts 17:11 KJV) These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

4. There is a progression that occurs when we first step away from recognizing scripture as our only authority!

QUOTE (Warren Weirsbe) - "Note the tragic sequence: teaching their doctrines as God's Word (Mark 7:7); laying aside God's Word (vs. 8); rejecting God's Word (vs. 9); finally, robbing God's Word of its power (vs. 13)."

It all starts when we question the word's authority! It is the ultimate authority!

(Gen 3:1 KJV) Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

E. Jesus said the Pharisees wrong view of authority had made hypocrites of them. (Vs. 6)

1. Definition - "play actor," (literally - "two faces"). (Found only in the 3 synoptic gospels, and used only by Jesus.)

2. Came to mean "one whose whole life is a piece of acting without any sincerity behind it at all."

3. Such is one whose religion is tradition because:

QUOTE (Barclay) "He believes that he is a good man if he carries out the correct acts and practices, no matter what his heart and his thoughts are like."

II. The Pharisees practiced a religion of externals.

(Mark 7:6b KJV) This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

A. Most religions are based on externals.

QUESTION - Can you think of some examples?

ILLUS. Catholicism

ILLUS. Those who believe they are saved by baptism (or any other outward observance):

QUOTE (Detroit Episcopalian priest, when asked if he were saved) - "I was saved at the age of 8 days old when my daddy baptized me."

ILLUS. Those who believe they can lose their salvation, and must therefore work to keep it.

QUESTION - Can ANY external observance save you, make you clean, make you right with God?


(Eph 2:8-9 KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

(Titus 3:4-5 KJV) But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

QUESTION - Why, then, do most religions promote EXTERNALS, TRADITIONS, and outward observances in order to become right with God?

B. Jesus' message (Christianity) is a matter of internals. (Vs. 15, 23)

1. Jesus was teaching that it's not what a person DOES that makes them right with God. Rather it is what they ARE.

ILLUS. What made David the man after God's own heart?

2. Nothing you do for God can make you righteous!

(It's what He has already done for you that counts!)

QUOTE - "The religions of the world can be spelled D-O, but the religion of Jesus Christ is spelled D-O-N-E!"

(John 19:30 KJV) When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

I.e. TETELESTHAI - It is finished now and ever more shall be! The IOU is cancelled and the debt is paid. (Note - this term has been found on bills of sale where it was used to indicate PAID IN FULL!)

3. We're saved and made right with God simply by believing what He did and receiving it.

(John 1:12-13 KJV) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

(John 3:16 KJV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

(Acts 16:31 KJV) And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

(Rom 10:9 KJV) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

(Rom 10:13 KJV) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

NOTE - There's nothing in any of these verses to indicate TRADITION or EXTERNAL OBSERVANCES has anything to do with it.


Jesus said, (Mark 7:6b KJV) This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

From this point in time it was open warfare between the Pharisees and the Lord.

There was a fundamental difference between them in that the Pharisees' religion was one of traditions and external observances, while Jesus' message taught the need for a changed heart, an internal transformation.

Let's close our study today by asking a simple question. Think about it in the quietness of your own heart: WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE MAKES YOU RIGHT WITH GOD? WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE MAKES YOU A GOOD PERSON, AN ACCEPTED PERSON, IN THE EYES OF GOD?

If you determine that you are trusting in some external observance, some tradition, then you are no different than the Pharisees, and in need of salvation.

(Mat 7:22-23 KJV) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

WHY? Because they trust tradition… they trust external observances. Jesus said that it must come from within. Jesus said you need a changed heart and a changed life.

Jesus said, (Mark 7:6b KJV) This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

Please direct questions, comments, and submissions to William E. Johnson
Copyright © 1997 William E. Johnson.