Mark 7The former part of this chapter acquaints us with the conference or disputation which our Saviour had with the Pharisees about their superstitious observation of the Jewish traditions. These traditions were such rites and customs as were delivered to them by the elders and rulers of the Jewish church in former times: which traditions they valued and regarded more than the express commandments of God.
Learn thence, That superstitious men are always more fond of and zealous for the traditions of men in divine worship, than for the express and positive commands of God.
Secondly, That it is the manner of such persons to tie others to their own practice and example in matters of religious worship, and to censure and condemn all those who do not conform to them in the smallest matters. The Pharisees here censure the disciples for eating with unwashen hands, because it was their custom to wash when they did eat; yet did not Christ or his disciples refuse to wash before meat, as it was a civil and decent custom, but because the Pharisees made it a religious worship, and to censure and condemn all those who do not conform to them in the smallest matters.
The Pharisees here censure the disciples for eating with unwashen hands, because it was their custom to wash when they did eat; yet did not Christ or his disciples refuse to wash before meat, as it was a civil and decent custom, but because the Pharisees made it a religious rite: teaching us, That what is in itself indifferent, and may without offence be done as a civil custom, ought to be discountenanced and opposed when required of us as an act of religion. The Jews, fearing lest they should touch any person or thing that was unclean, and so be defiled unawares, did use frequent washings, as of cups, pots, vessels, tables, beds, or couches, which they lay upon when they eat.
This Pharisaical hypocrisy puts God off with outward cleansing, instead of inward purity; regarding more the outward cleanness of the hand, than the inward purity of the heart. This was the accusation of the Pharisees, to which our Saviour replies by way of recrimination, that if his disciples did not observe the tradition of the elders, they (the Pharisees) did reject and make void the commandments of God, and did worship him in vain, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Learn hence, That all service and worship which is offered to God, according to man's will and ordinances, and not according to the rule of God's own word, is vain and unprofitable: divine institution is the only pure rule of religious worship, as to the substance of it; here, what God doth not command, he forbids.
Observe next, The instance which our Saviour produces of the Pharisees' violating an express command of God, and preferring their own traditions before it: he instances in the fifth comandment, which requires children to relieve their parents in their necessities. Now though the Pharisees did not deny this in plain terms, yet they made an exception from it, which, if children pleased, might render it vain, void, and useless.
For the Pharisees taught, That in case the child of a poor parent, that wanted relief, would give a gift to the temple, which gift they called Corban, that is, a gift consecrated to God and religious uses, that then the children of such poor persons were discharged from making any further provision for their aged and impotent parents; but might reply after this manner, "That which thou askest for thy supply is given to God, and therefore I cannot relieve thee." So that covetous and graceless children looked upon it as the most frugal way, once for all, to fine to the temple, rather than pay the constant rent of daily relief to their poor parents.
Learn hence, that the practice of moral duties is required before, and is more acceptable to Almighty God than the most solemn acts and exercises of instituted worship whatsoever. I will have mercy, says God, rather than sacrifice; and to do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than burnt-offering.
Secondly, That no duty, gift, or offering to God, is accepted where the duty of charity is neglected: it is much more acceptable to God, to refresh the bowels of his saints, who are the living temples of the Holy Ghost, than to adorn material temples with gold and silver.
Corban is a Syriac word, signifying a gift given unto God. The Pharisees applied these gifts to the use and service of the temple; possibly to repair, beautify, and adorn it; which had not been amiss, if they had not taught that such gifts to the temple did discharge children from the duty of charity to their natural parents: These things they ought to have done, in the first place, and not to leave the other undone.
Our blessed Saviour, leaving the Pharisees with some dislike, applies himself to the multitude, and instructs them in a very necessary and useful doctrine, touching the original cause of all spiritual pollution and uncleanness; namely, The filthiness and impurity of man's heart and nature. And that it is not the meat eaten with the mouth, but the wickedness of the heart, vented by the mouth, which pollutes a person in God's account. The heart and soul of man alone is capable of sinful defilement. Nothing can defile a person in God's account, but that which defileth the inward man.
Learn hence, 1. That the heart of man is the sink and seed-plot of all sin, the source and fountain of all pollution.
2. That all the impiety of the life proceeds from the impurity and filthiness of the heart. Men's lives would not be so bad if their hearts were not worse. The disciples desiring the interpretation of the foregoing parable, our Saviour gives it them; but withal expostulates with them for not understanding a matter so obvious and plain, Are ye yet without understanding? As if he had said, "Have ye sat thus long under my ministerial teaching, and enjoyed the benefit of my conversation, and yet are no farther proficients in knowledge?" Plainly intimating, that Christ expects a proficiency in knowledge from us proportionable to the opportunities, and means of knowledge enjoyed by us. Having given them this rebuke, he next acquaints them with the sense and meaning of the parable; namely, That it is out of a wicked and sinful heart, that all sin and wickedness doth proceed. Tho' the occasions of sin are from without, yet the source and original of it is from within. The heart of man is as a cage full of unclean birds: Hence proceeds evil thoughts, either against God or our neighbours. Adulteries, or all sins of the flesh. Murders; That is, all cruelty and hard dealing towards others. An evil eye; that is, an envious spirit, which frets and grieves at the happiness of others called an evil eye, because envy doth much shew and manifest itself in the outward countenance, and especially by the eyes.
From the whole, Note, That the best way to hinder the progress of sin in this life, is to mortify it in the heart, to crucify all inordinate motions, lusts, and corruptions, in their root; for the heart is the first seat and subject of sin, from whence it flows forth into the life and conversation.
All along in the history of our Saviour's life, we are to take notice how he went about from place to place doing good. Being now come into the borders fo Tyre and Sidon he finds a poor woman of the race of the Canaanites, who becomes first an humble supplicant, and then a bold beggar, on the behalf of her possessed daughter.
Where observe, 1. That though all Israel could not example the faith of this Canaanite, yet was her daughter tormented with the devil.
Learn hence, That neither truth of faith, nor strength of faith, can secure against Satan's inward temptations, or outward vexations: and consequently, the worst of bodily afflictions are not sufficient proof of divine displeasure.
Observe, 2. The daughter did not come to Christ for herself, but the mother for her. Perhaps the child was not so sensible of its own misery, but the mother feels both the child's sorrow and her own. True goodness teaches us to appropriate the afflictions of others to ourselves, causing us to bear their griefs, and to sympathize with them in their sorrows.
Observe, 3. The seeming severity of Christ to this poor woman; he calls her not a woman, but a dog; and, as it were, spurns her from the table. Did ever so severe a word drop from those mild lips? What shall we say? Is the Lamb of God turned a lion, that a woman in distress, imploring pity, should be thus rated out of Christ's presence?
But hence we learn, How Christ puts the strongest faith of his own children on the severest trial. This trial had never been so sharp, if here faith had not been so strong: usually, where God gives much grace he tries grace much.
Observe, 4. The humble carriage of this holy woman; her humility grants all, her patience overcomes all, she meekly desires to possess the dog's place; not to croud to the table, but to creep under it, and to partake of the crumbs of mercy that fall from thence. Nothing is so pleasing to Christ as to see his people follow him with faith and importunity when he seems to withdraw himself from them.
See here, 1. The bitter fruits and sad effects of sin, which has brought deafness, dumbness, and blindness, upon the human nature. As death, so all diseases entered into the world by sin; sin first brought infirmitities and mortality into our natures, and the wages of sin are diseases and death.
Observe, 2. That the blessing of bodily health and healing is from Christ; who by his divine power, as he was God, miraculously and immediately healed them that were brought unto him.
Observe, 3. The actions and gestures which our Saviour used in healing this deaf person. He puts his finger into his ears, he spit, and touched his tongue. Not that these were means or natural causes effecting the cures for there was no healing virtue in the spittle; but only outward signs, testimonies, and pledges, of Christ's divine power and gracious readiness to cure the person in distress.
Observe, 4. How Christ withdrew the person from the multitude, whom he was about to help and heal. Teaching us, In all our good works to avoid all shew and appearance of ostentation and vain-glory: to set God's glory before our eyes, and not to seek our own praise.
Observe, 5. The effect which this miracle had upon the multitude; it occasioned their astonishment and applause: They were astonished, and said, He hath done all things well. It becomes us both to take notice of the wonderful works of God, and also to magnify and extol the author of them. This is one way of glorifying our Creator.
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