Mark’s Gospel Chapter 7
First posted on Facebook in 2010
Jesus frequently finds himself at odds with the practices of the religiously orthodox — 2.24, 3.2, 7.1–8. Jesus responds that the truth is not to be found in tradition; this ties in with the theme about sin, outward cleanliness often seems to be consistent with inner defilement. The tradition itself can have callous manifestations. His rejection of such practices goes to the core of Jesus’ message. We could look at his sayings as affirming the idea of ‘original sin’ (though we won’t take it in that way) — ‘it is the things that come out of a person that defile him’ (7.15). He could also be deconstructing the idea of a Devil as the source of evil (it’s good to deconstruct the ‘Devil’), or possibly trying to tell the hearers that they were responsible for their own behaviour and its consequences. There is a consistency between the inner state and the outward appearance, scrupulous attention to religious practice is not a good indicator of underlying goodness. This too seems to have baffled the disciples, they were taken in by the outward appearance, so the theme of ‘knowing’ reappears. ‘Are you as dull as the rest? Do you not see that nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him? [or her]’ (7.18). He appears to struggle with the outward appearance (ethnicity) at his next encounter, casting racial slurs which the author no doubt approves of.