“Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person, but the things that come out from within are what defile”Mark 7: 18-20
Jesus tells the crowds that nothing from the world around them can make them unworthy of God’s service. I think the message from Jesus to the Pharisees, the Scribes, and His apostles probably had them scratching their heads with uncertainty.
For generations, the Jews followed the Law from the Old Testament, the 613 commandments that describe what a person can and can not do, rules that state how a person is supposed to live. What to eat, what not to eat, how to clean one’s hands before eating, how to clean dishes, pots and pans, even beds. The people in those days strictly followed these Laws, these dietary and cleaning rules. The Law described how “good” people lived their lives.
Jesus says don’t worry about what goes into our bodies from the outside, like certain foods; rather, worry about what comes out from within is what really matters. Our actions, how we treat one another, how we live our lives in relation to all our neighbors, that is what is important.
The people in today’s gospel, those who listened to what Jesus said, had to have been confused. They had been taught throughout their lives that they would be judged by God according to what they did or did not eat. What they did, or did not do, on the Sabbath. Jesus tells them what they have placed as most important in life is incorrect. Nothing in the outer world (what we eat, how we clean our dishes and how we clean our hands) can separate us from God. But what comes from within—the choices we make, how we choose to live our lives—can indeed create a sense of separation and judgment.
Jesus describes the things that come from within our hearts that defile us: evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, deceit, envy, and arrogance. These activities are what can separate us from God. These actions that we cling to will separate us from God, not what we eat or how we clean our dishes.
Jesus tried to simplify things for the Pharisees and the Scribes. He tried to teach His followers a simpler way of life in how we are supposed to treat one another. There should be less emphasis on the 613 Laws that were followed by their ancestors for generations, and more emphasis on caring for others, being kind and compassionate to all those we meet. Just love God, and love your neighbor.
Jesus has a way of simplifying things for us as well as we yearn for Everlasting Life; He lived His Life as an example for all of us. Although He set the bar pretty high for us, we don’t have to be perfect. We try to imitate His behavior, we try to live our lives as His disciples.
Something to consider this week as we try to embrace Christ’s teachings from today, and look to Him for guidance, support and direction in our lives.