Heart of the Matter

(Verse 1-2) Jesus was constantly scrutinized and condemned by the groups of people that Mark identified as “Pharisees and teachers of the law.” A majority of the conflict between Jesus and these leaders had to do with interpretations of the law and the traditions of the elders.
(Verse 3) Ceremonial washing has its origin in the Old Testament law but it specifically applied to the priesthood (Exodus 30) The priest would wash his hands and feet before performing sacred duties in the temple.In the centuries following the Jews’ return from Babylonian captivity, Jewish religious leaders had added hundreds of religious traditions to God’s laws. The Pharisees and scribes considered these religious traditions to be as binding and unbreakable as God’s law itself.
By their scrupulous observance of traditions and rituals, they had completely lost their perspective on the reason the law of God had been given: to bring God’s kingdom to earth, to provide reconciliation between God and his people, and to bring peace.
(Verse 4) This washing was not to clean dirty hands; it was a ceremonial washing to cleanse them from their contact with defiled “sinners” or Gentiles.
(Verse 5-7) Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah and calls them hypocrites — play actors, pretenders. The religious leaders might say all the right words and give lip-service to God, but their hearts were far from God.

God is always more concerned about the condition of your heart than the content of your lips.

We become hypocrites when we:
  1. pay more attention to appearance or reputation than to character
  2. carefully follow certain religious practices while allowing our heart to remain far from God
  3. emphasize our goodness and others’ sins
(Verse 8-9) The religious leaders are guilty of the very thing they are trying to avoid. Every time we add to the law of God, we inevitably subtract from it, because instead of putting our attention on the things that God is concerned about, human traditions cause us to lose sight of what concerns Him. They had left the commandment of God behind in order to hold to human tradition.
The original commands of God were meant to bring God’s Kingdom near but the traditions of the elders placed God and His peace out of reach of the common people. See Matthew 23:1-5; 13.
(Verse 10-12) The scribes and Pharisees knew Moses’ words backward and forward. But they found a way to break them while still looking religious. The practice of Corban (“offering”) meant that a person could dedicate something to God, but in such a way that they didn’t give it to the temple. Instead, they only legally excluded other (like their parents) from using it. They could still use the money any way they chose, but could use his Corban vow as an excuse not to give any money to help his needy parents.
(Verse 13-16) In his example, Jesus clarified to these hypocritical religious leaders that God’s law, not oral tradition, was the true authority over people’s lives. Jesus explains that the Pharisees were wrong in thinking they were acceptable to God just because they were “clean” on the outside. He explained that defilement is not an external matter but an internal one. See Matthew 23:25-28. Sin begins in the heart, just as the prophet Jeremiah had said hundreds of years before (Jeremiah 17:9–10).
(Verses 17-19) Moral defilement has nothing to do with food. Sin in a person’s heart is what defiles, not the lack of ceremonial cleansing or the type of food eaten. It is disobedience that defiles, and disobedience begins in the heart.

When it comes to sin, the heart of the matter is that something is the matter with your heart.

(Verses 20-23) With this conclusion, Jesus gets to the Heart of the Matter. Evil intentions begin within, in a person’s heart.

The contents of heart become the conduct of your life.

When people become Christians, God makes them different on the inside. He will continue the process of change inside them if they only ask. True Christianity lived from the inside-out, not the outside-in.
Then Jesus listed a catalog of twelve “evil intentions” that come from the heart. All these evil actions and attitudes begin in a person’s heart. And it is those evil actions and attitudes that cause defilement.
The cure? The good news of the Gospel offers the only cure for humanity’s natural defilement. Cleansing can only come by the blood of Jesus Christ offered on our behalf. Only then can we become “pure” before God. See Joel 2:12-13; Hebrews 10:22; James 4:8.