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Question #1: When we worship, how sincere is our motive? (vv. 1-2). The scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus with what they thought to be a valid complaint about the actions of our Lord’s disciples, namely, they ate bread without bothering to wash their hands ceremonially. We wash our hands before eating as a matter of hygiene. Germs being unknown at the time, washing of hands was a preliminary act in anticipation for worship, much as we “say the blessing” before meals. If we leave it off, we feel a bit uncomfortable. So what was our Lord’s attitude? The problem is the law said nothing about ceremonial cleansing in preparation for worship. The practice had grown up through the years until it ranked with mandated law. For the people, it compromised the spiritual act by equating it with a physical one.
Question #2: When we come to worship God are we really honest? (vv. 3-6). Greed, or excessive desire for more money than is needed, has a way of warping our standards of right and wrong. The Pharisees had devised ways to avoid the responsibility for caring for the needs of parents. The law said to honor one’s parents. They by-passed the requirement by supposedly invoking a higher requirement, namely, the obligation to put God first by saying the money was dedicated to God. The principle could be expanded to cover investments. As a result, the dedicated money was freed to be used as the man wished. His neighbors, or other relatives, might question what he was doing, but there was no way to hold him accountable. Thus, tradition was used to trump the law.
Question #3: Does our worship come from the heart? (vv. 7-9). Jesus realized that some of the people had been suffering from a congenital heart defect that had plagued them for centuries. He quoted from Isaiah 29:13 in which God said the “people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me….” As some of our old time evangelists used to say, “Some people will miss heaven by eighteen inches.” By that they meant their knowledge of God was head knowledge, not heart knowledge.
Question #4: Are you good at interpreting parables? (vv. 10-11). The questions may have caused you to raise an eyebrow quizzically, but let’s put the question into context. The harsh judgment of Jesus about he hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders caused Jesus to make a general statement about eating unclean good. Peter still did not understand, assuming Jesus was speaking some kind of parable (v. 15). Jesus marveled at his lack of understanding (v. 16).
Question #5: Closely related to the above question we need to be sure our hearts are clean (vv. 17-20). The Jewish laws were quite emphatic about what could or could not be eaten. Some laws, as those relating to pork, were necessary because impure pork could cause trichinosis. Other laws appear to be to set the Jews apart from other nations just at Sabbath observances signified the covenant relationship, as signified in Exodus 31:13, 16-17. The dietary laws had a degree of arbitrariness as God told Peter to eat certain foods which Peter considered unclean (Acts 10:10-16). Jesus gave a moral application. What one ingests through the mouth eventually goes through he digestive tract and is discarded into the sewer. Conversely, whatever is in the heart reveals its moral fiber by the words uttered. Filthy words defile the person. Jesus listed seven heart sins that give rise to evil actions. In short, the heart is desperately evil.
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