Thursday after Septuagesima
Scripture: St. Mark 7:1-30 (NKJV)
1 Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. 2 Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. 3 For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches.
5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” 6 He answered and 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 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” 9 He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”‘—(that is, a gift to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, 13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”
17 When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. 18 So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” 20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
24 From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. 25 For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” 28 And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30 And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.
“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
There are many individuals, congregations, and organizations in Christendom that honor God with their lips, but reject the truth of God’s Word and cling to false doctrines of men. Every person certainly stumbles at one time or another. However, here we are talking about those who do not just stumble and then repent, but those who cling to falsehood. Their hearts are far from God.
The truth of the Gospel is a profound gift to all mankind. God’s Word tells us that our peace does not come from our own efforts. It comes from His forgiveness for our mistakes, and the continuance in the good works that He teaches us. Groping around for wisdom and fulfillment in the godless teachings of men fails to bring real peace because it is ultimately based on man himself.
Those who would be called Christian must hold fast to the clear teachings of God above all others. The uncompromised Word of Law teaches real wisdom and real repentance for our many weaknesses. And most importantly, His uncompromised Word of Gospel shows us that our sins are forgiven in the work of God, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Anything apart from these holy and perfect teachings obscures these wonderful gifts of truth, and threatens to poison or kill the souls of others. Lord deliver us from this evil!
We pray: Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word, and keep our hearts on Christ Jesus alone by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.