top of page

What Defiles A Person?

Sermon Series:

It Had To Be Said

Jon Delger
Jon Delger

Executive Pastor

Peace Church

Main Passage:
Mark 7:1-23


Awesome. Hey, if you got a Bible, would you grab that and open with me to Mark chapter 7. Mark chapter 7, that's where we're going to be this morning. We're going to look at verses 1 through 23. A little bit of a longer reading, so I invite you to have a Bible open and follow along with me as we go. We're in the midst of our series called It Had to be Said, the quotes of Christ that changed the world. And if you've read a lot of scripture, you know that Jesus quotes some of them are really Great sayings that you want to just hang on the wall and memorize and look at every day and some of Jesus sayings just punch you right in the gut, but all of them are absolutely true and we need to hear them. Amen Amen, and so we're gonna get into another one of those this morning in Mark chapter 7 as we hear an answer to the question, what defiles a person in an argument between Jesus and the Pharisees. So we're gonna read it, then I'll pray, then we'll get to work. Mark chapter seven, verses one through 23, here we go.

Mark 7:1-23

1 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,

but their heart is far from me;

7 in vain do they worship me,

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 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)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 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.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 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, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

This is God's word. Let's pray. Father in heaven, we give you thanks this morning for the truth of your word. God, I pray that you open up our hearts, that we would receive it, that we would be changed, convicted, encouraged to walk with Jesus. God, I pray that you would fill me with your Holy Spirit, a broken instrument to bring your word to your people. And God, I pray that you would be glorified as we hear what you have to say to us. It's in Jesus' name we pray all these things. Amen. Amen.

Well, one of the things that you might know if you're a homeowner is that home ownership

comes with home projects. One of those things they should tell you before you buy a house. I usually enjoy projects on our house. I like to problem solve and figure things out, but there's one kind of project that I always hate doing on our house, plumbing projects. I always find that I end up in a tight space and wet It's not what I what I enjoy in the house that we owned before this one that we own right now We had one in particular plumbing problem. The main problem was that our kitchen sink was in the opposite corner of the house from the main drain that went down into the ground And so there was a really long run It would go all the way down one wall and then down the other wall in the basement And so because it was such a long run it would kind of get flat and things would get stuck.

And so the kitchen sink would back up and I'd pour some Drano in there and I'd do the snake thing and all that. And I'd do whatever I could to try to approach the problem from the top instead of getting on down in the basement and getting into the, into the pipes and that kind of thing. But inevitably, eventually it got stuck and I couldn't fix it from, from above. So I had to get down in the basement and you slide over those ceiling tiles and you reach up in there. And I know that I'm going to open up this pipe and some stuff's going to come out. And so I sort of plan and prepare. I lay down a tarp. I got a five-gallon bucket and I'm kind of looking at the pipe.

I kind of look at the bucket and I kind of calculate. And I'm like, yeah, I'm pretty sure that's in the right spot. This is going to work out. And I go to cut into the pipe and open it up. And of course, I was wrong. I underestimated just how forcefully the fluid would come out of this pipe, and it comes out and it hits the bulkhead in front of it and bounces back right onto me. Because it's like way up here, and I'm standing on a bucket, and I'm up here like this, and it just comes right down on my head. It's like one of those moments where you want to scream, but then I would have to open my mouth and some of the stuff might get in there. Thankful that it wasn't a toilet, but it was the kitchen sink, which some nasty stuff goes down. Lovely experience. Nonetheless, Jesus tells us in this passage that what defiles a person is not the stuff that comes to us from the outside. It's actually the stuff that comes up from inside of us.

So that is what defiles a person, makes them dirty, disgusting, unclean. And that is the problem. The main idea this morning is just that it's not what goes in, but what comes out that matters for a person. The key quote comes from verse 15 in the text. Jesus says, hear me, all of you, and understand that 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.

So this morning, we're going to talk about the source and the solution to contamination. The Pharisees and Jesus each have a different answer to the question of what causes people to become unclean and what is the solution to uncleanness. And so we're gonna look at each of those things, starting with the source.

So let's talk about that. Take a look with me at the first couple of verses of Mark chapter seven. It says, when the Pharisees gathered to him with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled that is unwashed All right, so you got some guys come from Jerusalem Which is the central religious hub of the nation of Israel in particular you got Pharisees and scribes So these are the elites the professionals the religious leaders of Jesus's day These are the guys who people look to for religious wisdom and teaching and you got Jesus this teacher who comes on the scene and Is gathering huge crowds to hear him and people love him and they follow him. And so the scribes and the Pharisees come and they're jealous of Jesus. Right? This is a guy who is gathering much bigger crowds to him than they are. He's a threat to their way of life, to their authority, to their position. And so they're jealous of Jesus and they come hoping to trap Jesus, they notice that the disciples of all things don't wash their hands before eating dinner.

How many of you force your kids to wash their hands before every meal? It's okay. A lot of you are bad parents just like I am. That's great, that's okay, it's all good. I rarely make my kids wash their hands before dinner.

The one time that I usually do is when we go to like the mall or a big store. When they come in from outside, I always say God made dirt and dirt don't hurt. When their hands are all muddy and nasty, you know, that's no big deal.

But when you come home from the store and you just got like all that stuff all over, you know, that's the stuff that I worry about. Unfortunately, that makes me a little bit like the Pharisees. It says in this passage that they especially washed their hands after coming back from the marketplace. So they were scared of the germs and stuff they get from other people, namely the Gentiles. So unfortunately, bad for me. I think like that a little bit. But the Pharisees think to themselves,

here's our chance to get them. And so they asked Jesus, why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders? Now we're gonna look at Jesus' answer in just a minute, but before we do, we gotta understand the question that the Pharisees are asking. And we're gonna do that by asking two more questions. What are these traditions of the elders that they're talking about. And what do they tell us about how the Pharisees think about the source of contamination? So let's tackle that first question.

What are the traditions of the elders? Are they, are they asking about the disciples obedience to the Bible? Is this a Bible command or is it something else? Is it a man-made religious tradition? Well, let's look at the Bible says according to the old Testament, some of the rules about hand washing were for priests.

Priests had to wash their hands before going into the tabernacle. If you want to look up some of these passages later, you're welcome to. It's Exodus 30 verse 19, Exodus 40 verse 13, and Leviticus 22 verses 1 through 6. All talk about how the priests have to wash their hands before they go into the tabernacle, the place where God dwelled and where they go in to be with him. The only other passage that talks about the washing of hands is Leviticus 15 verse 11, which does say that anybody has to wash their hands after they've come in contact with a bodily discharge, like blood or something else that came out of the body. Okay, so that's what the Bible says about washing of hands. Those are all the verses. It doesn't say that you have to wash your hands before every meal. Good news for all of us, right?

Us bad parents made it through that one. So it's not the Bible that the Pharisees are appealing to is something else. It's the traditions of the elders, man-made religious traditions. Now we'll talk about that more in a minute, but let's talk about the second question of what does this tell us about how the Pharisees think about the source of contamination? The Pharisees invented these traditions, man-made traditions, because of a certain way of thinking, a way of thinking about how somebody becomes unclean, about how somebody becomes dirty, about how somebody becomes not right with God, separated from God, the very problem of the human race. The Pharisees believed that the source of the problem, the source of contamination was not in here, but was out there, somewhere out there. The Pharisees, I would say, are kind of like spiritual germophobes, right? They walked around everywhere with their hand sanitizer and the air purifier and the essential oils and the diffuser and they wouldn't shake anybody's hands and they just said, you know, everybody just kind of stay back, right? I don't want to get near anybody. I don't want to touch anybody.

You're sick. I don't want to get near, especially the Gentiles, the outsiders, other people that might get me unclean. Now, in the Old Testament, there were these things called purity laws about how to be ceremonially clean to be able to go into the temple, but the Pharisees misunderstood the point of these laws.

They thought the point of these laws were to say that human beings came into this world and they were good, and you just need to keep bad things away from you. But that's actually not the point of the Old Testament purity laws. The point of those laws was actually as a grand visual aid to show that human beings are actually not good, not clean on our own, but in fact we need to be washed in order to be with God. That was the point of the Old Testament purity laws.

So the Pharisees read the text, but they came to the wrong conclusion. They believed that the source of contamination was out there, that if they could just keep it away, then they would be good. What they didn't understand, what they failed to realize was that the problem was not out there. The problem was in here. And that's exactly what Jesus goes on to explain and point out to them. He says it most clearly in verses 14 and 15. Take a look with me. And Jesus called the people to him again and said to them, hear me, all of you and understand, there is nothing outside of a person that by going into him can defile him. But the things that come out of a person are what defile him. And if you jump down to verse 21, he gives some examples. He says, 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 things come out of a person. So Jesus says, the Pharisees, you entirely missed the point. The real problem is inside of a person. Makes me think of Jeremiah 17, nine, says the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure, who can understand it? The Bible tells us that we have a problem and it's not somebody out there, it's actually in here. Going all the way back to the very beginning of the Bible, human beings are born with a sinful nature.

I think at one time, before I was a pastor, during seminary, I was working a job and the guys knew that I was training to become a pastor and so they would ask me sort of tough questions about Christianity sometimes and they'd try to get me and I remember one time, one guy coming to me,

and he explained a bad thing that he had done. And he had said, John, I bet you think that that makes me a sinner. And I said something to him that actually kind of startled him. I said, actually, and this is an original to me, you guys have been saying this for a long time, but I said, actually, you're not a sinner because you sin, you sin because you are a sinner. You see, we often get the problem upside down. We think that we come into this world and we're good or we're at least neutral. And then until we do something bad, we're in good shape. And then we do something bad and that gets us messed up. But actually, the Bible tells us that ever since Adam and Eve, ever since our very first parents, they sinned against God and all of their children, which includes are born into this world with a heart that is broken, that is tainted, that is corrupted, that we actually have these two sides of us, a sinful nature and a nature that wants to follow God.

The Bible tells us about it in a couple of places. Romans 5, 12 says this, "'Sin came into the world through one man,' that's Adam, "'and death through sin, "'and so death spread to all men.'"

Romans 7, verse 21 says this, "'I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, "'evil lies close at hand.'" Doesn't that sound like us? I want to do the right thing, but I also really want to do the wrong thing.

Evil lies close at hand, for I delight in the law of God in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Right, the German folk runs around saying, the problem's out there, I just gotta keep it away, right? I'm just gonna sanitize, I'm gonna purify, I'm gonna do the diffuser, I'm gonna just, you know, just keep it at bay, put up my defenses, keep it away from me.

But Jesus says, actually, the real problem is that you have a disease, a cancer growing inside of you. G.K. Chesterton, a famous theologian and writer, back in his day, he got a letter from an editor of a newspaper. The editor had written letters to several famous writers and had asked the question, what is the problem in the world today? G.K. Chesterton wrote back with four words. Dear sir, I am. What is the problem in the world today?

I am. The human heart is the problem in the world today. It's not out there somewhere else. The real problem in the world is not somebody else's fault, it's not in somebody else, it's right here. It's me, it's you, it's broken, sinful people. If you've ever looked for a perfect church, you've probably been disappointed. You walk in the door and guess what? If it was a perfect church before you got there, I hate to say it, but once you walked through the door, it became an imperfect church. Right, because it's me, it's you. We are broken, sinful, imperfect people. There's no such thing as a perfect church. There are just collections of sinners, saved by Jesus, trying to follow him.

The real problem in your life is not somebody else. It's not your circumstances. It's not where you work. It's not the amount of wealth you have. It's not the family you were born into. It's not the color of your skin. It's not the level of education that you have. It's your heart. You and I come into this world with a heart that is tainted by sin and actually against God. So let me just ask you this question. For what are you blaming? Who in your life are you blaming for your problems? Now I'm not saying that you don't go through tough circumstances. I'm not saying that there aren't other people in this world that are hard on you. But at the end of the day, the root of all of your problems is actually right in the mirror. The root of all of your problems is inside of your own heart. So that leads us to ask the next question. What is the solution? Let's look at both the Pharisees and Jesus' answer to the solution to contamination. All right, so we've already seen about the Pharisees that they believe the source of contamination is out there. And if that's the case, what do they propose as a solution to the contamination? They propose that the solution is a strong defense, right?

Fences, walls, keep the contaminants out, outside of there. Rules upon rules. The Pharisees look at God's law and they say, we've got to draw the line even further back so that we don't even get close to that. They want to ensure that they can check all the boxes, make sure they got it all right and all figured out. One type of rule the Pharisees were famous for was their rules about the Sabbath.

They had all kinds of rules. You guys know the commandment about the Sabbath is you shall not work on the Sabbath, it's supposed to be a day of rest. The Pharisees said things like, well, that means that you can't walk through a field on the Sabbath because your sandal might clip a grain of wheat and it would fall to the ground and that would be harvesting. And that's work on the Sabbath and you can't do that. They would say things like you can't spit on the ground on the Sabbath day because that would disturb the dirt and that would be like plowing on the Sabbath and that's work and so you can't do that. They would say you can only walk three-fifths of a mile. That's as far as you could walk before it was work. But if you stash some food three-fifths of a mile away, then you could walk to your food and then you could walk another three-fifths of a mile.

So they would actually make food stashes so they didn't break these Sabbath laws that they made. Check in those boxes, make sure they get it right. I've never been to Israel but I've been told that actually still today, there are Sabbath elevators in Israel. So when you go in the elevator, you don't have to push the button. It just goes up and it stops on every floor.

Now you might be thinking, all right, that's crazy. That's a little absurd, but at least it had good intentions, right? The Pharisees wanted to obey God's law. They just drew some crazy senses around the law Now here's the thing even if it did come from good intentions We are sinful broken people and whenever we stray from God's Word Even with good intentions it lands us in a bad place

Jesus is going to point that out to them, you have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition. You hear that? Jesus doesn't say, hey, you went too far. Jesus says you actually rejected, violated God's command by your so-called fencing of the law. Verse 10, Moses said, honor your father and your mother. Whoever reviles father and mother must surely die.

But you say, if a man tells his father or his mother whatever you would have gained from me is Corbin that is given to God then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother

So just to understand what's going on back then kind of like now, but much more so Parents and their older age would depend on their kids, you know today We have some mechanisms like like retirement accounts and things like that so that we can help ourselves out a little bit back then Parents and their older age were really dependent upon their kids to take care of them. Okay, and so the Pharisees said, hey, kids, if you get to that point where you're supposed to be taking care of mom and dad, but you got this nice field, you got this nice house, you got this nice boat, and you don't want to give them up to take care of mom and dad, here's what you can do. This is really holy.

You can say, I dedicate this thing to God, which means that you can use it all the way until you die, but when you die, it will go to the temple. And if you do that, if you call it Corbin, dedicated to God, then you don't have to sell it to take care of your parents. Mom and dad have no access to that part of your property. There you go. All taken care of. Perfect. If you want to keep your boat, that's great. You just, you just call it God's. It's God's boat. Quite the, quite the work around religious maneuvering to get around God's intention. You see, the Pharisees may have started with good intentions, but whenever we stray from God's word, we have a sinful tainted heart and it lands us in a bad place that actually violates God's law and not keeps God's law. Now, I think there's another really important point to be made here, and I don't want to skip over this.

What the Pharisees did was bad, but that doesn't mean that all rules are bad unfortunately today I've heard people reason this out they said you know the Pharisees they were legalists and the problem was that they followed the rules all rules are bad that's not really how it works unfortunately I think people are throwing out the baby with the bathwater right I think they think that the air of the Pharisees that they tried to follow the Bible's commands they think that the error of the Pharisees is that they tried to take the Bible too seriously. But what does Jesus say? "'If you love me, you will obey my commands.'" Jesus would say, you can't take this book too seriously. The problem isn't that you were trying too hard to follow what God said. The real problem of legalism is not that it takes the Bible too seriously, it's actually that it abuses the Bible. I'll say that's true in at least two ways. Number one, as we saw already, the Pharisees tried to make their own rules.

And whenever we try to make our own rules, whenever we stray from God's word because we have sinful broken hearts, it gets us into trouble, even if we have good intentions. So that's the first way, we saw that in the Corbin rule. The second way that legalism abuses the Bible is that legalism tries to use the law to earn salvation. The Pharisees, other people today, even you and I, are tempted to look at God's laws and say, all right, you look at the 10 commandments and you're like, all right, there's 10 boxes. If I can just check these off, then I am a good person. I'm right with God, I'm all set. But you know what, that was not the point of the law.

The law shows us God's great and moral character The law does show us God's design for life and how it's best to live But you know what else the law shows us and this is super important the law shows us that we fall short One of the major points of God's law is that you can't do it I can't do it in fact You can't do it.

I can't do it. In fact, it shows us that we are unclean and what we need is to be washed. One of the points of God's law is to show us just that, that we are dirty and that we need to be washed, that we need a savior. That's one of the major points of God's law. And that brings us to Jesus' solution to the problem of contamination.

Would you look with me at verses 6 through 8? Jesus responds to the Pharisees, he says, he's going to quote the Old Testament, he says, Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." Jesus says these rituals, these traditions, these man-made rules, they won't cut it. If outward action is separated from inward heart change, it won't cut it. Outward actions do come out of the heart, but your heart has to change. God wants your heart. We heard earlier that unfortunately the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.

So what do we do?

What do we need? We actually need a new heart. We need a brand new heart. And praise the Lord, that's exactly what God promises. This is Ezekiel 36, verse 25. God says, I will sprinkle clean water on you.

You shall be clean from all your uncleanness. And from all your idols I will cleanse you and I will give you a new heart. And a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and I will give you a heart of flesh, a heart that's soft, a heart that's been humbled, a heart that knows that it needs the Lord. Friends, the bad news of the law is that you and I can't do it. The bad news of the law is that you and I are contaminated, that the problem's not out there, it's in here.

That we have a disease growing inside of us and it's called sin. And that what we need is a new heart. But the good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ, He did live the law perfectly. Jesus Christ, He died the deaths for sin that you and I deserve to die. Jesus shed blood, blood that washes over us. Just as we take a bath and the water washes the dirt off of our skin, Jesus' blood washes the sin out of our heart. When we put our faith in Jesus as Lord and as Savior,

we get cleaned. We get saved from our sin. We get made right with God. He solves the problem. We can't solve it ourselves. Only Jesus can solve it. He came and he lived and he died and he rose to give us just that. And that's the invitation he gave that day. It's the invitation that we offer today.

That if you come to this place and you find that you can't measure up, that you are dirty,

have sin, Jesus offers a cure. The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure, but Jesus offers a new heart if you would just receive it by faith in him. This is the good news of the gospel. Amen? Amen. Awesome. Would you please stand This is the good news of the gospel. Amen? Amen. Awesome. Would you please stand with me as we pray and close?

bottom of page