Hypocrisy According to Jesus

Continuing our Bible Study series in the Gospels, we are looking today at Mark 7:1-30,  and how Purity of Heart, and Keeping His Word, are the ways we counter hypocrisy.

When Jesus spoke and taught in this situation, the disciples questioned Jesus–we too ought to approach this text wanting to be taught, not taking our own understanding for granted.  However, He does confront their question with another: “Are you so lacking in understanding also?” The Old Testament taught things, such as we studied in Deuteronomy last semester, but also throughout all the prophets, about heart–and these lessons were missed by the Pharisees;  are they missed by the disciples, and us as well? This is not a new teaching–but Jesus is clarifying.  

Mark 7:1-13 

Jesus was surrounded by Pharisees and scribes, eating.  Jesus’ disciples had not ceremonially washed the way the others always would, and yet were eating.  Verses 3-4 detail the attitude of the Pharisees, their habit based on wanting to be noticed. This was a matter of tradition, not Law.  The Pharisees ask why Jesus’ disciples do not follow this tradition, and Jesus “immediatly” responds “Rightly did Isaiah prophecy of you hypocrites!” 


Can you imagine hearing this, having copied the book of Isaiah and taught it, and now having it applied to you–in front of how many gathered together? Jesus did not shy away from confrontation, see Matthew 23:13 and all the following woes, Isaiah 29:13, Ezekiel 33:31, Matthew 12:33-37.  When we use the word “hypocrite” we sometimes misuse it–of a legalist, or a perfectionist who fails, or of anyone who fails to live up to their own standards….but how is Jesus using the term?

Let us come up with a robust definition. Many have scolded Christians for being hypocrites because they sin, and cannot seem to live a perfect life. Good news: only Jesus is sinless and perfect. We live by faith and repentance–not by (as my pastor always says) “sola boot-strappa” or attempting to be righteous and have it all together on my own. We live in Union with Christ, relying on Him every moment.

Before we define hypocrisy, we must go through this chapter a bit further…

Apart from the Word

Mark 7:8  Do not neglect the commandment of God, or reject the commandment of God. 7:9 “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God.” Let this not be something we become accustomed to doing, and excel at.

Mark 7:13 Do not make void the Word of God, or invalidate the Word of God

How were they doing this?  By clinging to their traditions, that have been handed down from their forefathers.

It was the rabbinical way of translating and applying the Law that Jesus attacks.  He upholds the Law. Read Psalm 40:8, the Law was in Jesus’ heart, and His Spirit would eventually write it on all His followers hearts! Hypocrites set aside the Word, neglect it, reject it, tweak it, twist it, add to it, subtract from it…you get the picture. They do not abide in His Word.

Parable of the Heart

Mark 7:17, cf Mark 4:10-13.  This parable? Though not a typical parable, it follows the pattern, of Jesus teaching so that only those who love Him would understand; and He would explain privately to His disciples. See Mark 4:33-34.

What cultural values or norms do we pass on to the next generation as “Christian” when they are really just preference at best, or wicked self-righteousness at worst?  

In this section, Jesus emphasizes the Heart, the inner man.  Heart is not contrasted from mind, or from thinking, or from ‘brain’…but contrasted from outward presentation.  How you look, verses how you truly are. White washed tomb? Wolf in sheeps clothing? Or, in Union with Christ, circumcised of heart, sitting at His feet ready to learn?

Mark 7:19 He declares all food clean–see Acts 10:11-16; Luke 11:37-44; 1 Corinthians 6:12-13. A quick recap:

  7:1-13 hypocrisy of neglecting Law and Word; Jesus addressed traditions void of His approval.

7:14-23  all food declared clean, focus on inner man and heart, not outer man and presentation; He negates the ceremonies that pointed to His coming, the shadows that were visible before the Reality, and the time of reformation (see Hebrews 9).

7:24-30 Jesus shows His care for all peoples, as symbolized by food!  A Gentile Miracle!!! The food was for the children, but “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:11-12

7:21  all these things listed, that flow out of the heart, are addressed by the Law.  The law serves as our tutor, leading us to Christ, see Galatians! The law reveals our need for Christ, See  Romans 7!  The Law is good, when used lawfully (see 1 Timothy 1).

Mark 7:24ff, a Gentile miracle. 

How beautifully this fits in this trio of stories–because Pharisees tradition taught that any contact with Gentiles made a Jewish person ‘unclean’ and they had to be cleansed ceremonially.  This was tradition, not Law. This was a horrible way for God’s people to view other people, all of whom are created in the image of God.

To be called a dog–would this have shocked or horrified her? We do not know–we know His words, but not His tone of voice or posture. But we do know that the woman was not offended, she did not run off but spoke again.  Matthew 15:28 commends her faith. And her daughter is healed at a distance (remember the Gentile official who sought Jesus out to heal his servant at a distance?).  At a distance. Ponder His power for a moment, this ought to produce awe in our hearts.

For further meditation: How does Mark 7 become more clear in light of Hebrews 8:1, 10:1 and 1 Timothy 1:3-11?  

Hebrews 8:1ff  Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man…now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Lae; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things…but now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant…

Hebrews 10:1For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.  

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