Tim Keller | February 16, 1997
If you look at the historical events of Jesus’ life, you will see a number of controversialist events. Jesus debated. Jesus fought. Jesus argued. When you look at one of his debates with the religious and civil elites, it’s so easy to say that this is not very relevant for us today. Who cares about the clean and the unclean laws, the ceremonial washings, and the ablutions the Jews observed? However, Jesus never debated something that wasn’t important — the things he debated have universal relevance.
Let’s look at three things in this passage that we learn about our spiritual condition: (vv. 1-5) we all have a deep sense of spiritual uncleanness; (vv.6-13) we all try to deal with this uncleanness on our own and in our own ways; (vv. 14-23) this self-cleansing will never work.
In Mark 7, Jesus challenges the Pharisees, explaining that true impurity comes from evil thoughts and actions inside us, not from things outside us. He tells them that merely following human traditions can’t clean our hearts, and presents a way to solve the common problem of spiritual impurity. The idea of cleanliness from the Old Testament is discussed, comparing sin to dirt, sickness, and decay, and emphasizing how it harms relationships and the universal fight to be free from guilt and impurity.
2. How can we handle our feeling of spiritual impurity?
Jesus’ critique of the Pharisees’ excessive rule-making and selective obedience to God’s law is a warning for us all. He points out the human habit of focusing on some parts of God’s law and ignoring others, like in the culture wars where both liberals and conservatives pick and choose parts of God’s law. But, these ways of dealing with our feeling of impurity don’t actually work.
3. Why these methods don’t work
Impurity comes from inside us, not from things outside us, and can’t be removed by changing our surroundings or simply following rules. If we think impurity is caused by certain places or situations, we misunderstand its true nature. The strength of forgiveness and cleanliness comes from Jesus’ sacrifice, which lets believers be cleaned and wear righteousness, fulfilling the law and showing a new way to be clean.
February Book Offer
In his book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller shows us how a proper understanding of the Bible reveals the truth about societal ideals and our own hearts — and that there is only one God who can wholly satisfy our cravings and fulfill our hopes.
February Book Offer