After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.). Mark 7, 17-19.
Did you know that there are still 3 people alive today who were born in the 1800s? All three were born in 1899. One lives in Italy, one in New York and the oldest living person (as of today) is a 115 year old woman who lives in Michigan. Her secret to long living: live by the Golden Rule. In fact, one of the things that is common to all three “super-centenarians” is that they have faith.
Negativity truly won’t get you far in life. I tend to think that the Pharisees were negative people, sort of like those of us who get all wrapped around the axle today over small things like politics…guilty as self-charged. Anyway, I tend to think that the Pharisees were so pre-occupied with the minutiae of living that they clouded out the bigger, better parts. In making dozens of rules for people to live by, they codified their personal negativity into legalistic rules. Jesus called them up short on it and forcefully but lovingly pointed out both their errors and a better way.
Then, to make things worse, Jesus’ closest followers sided with the Pharisees. It wasn’t intentional; it wasn’t as if they decided “yeah, those guys have a point.” It’s more likely that they were simply ignorant. On the surface, it seems Jesus is intolerant of that; “are you so dull?” By our standards, it’s almost as if He’s mocking them. But we need to look deeper to see that He’s honestly questioning them, turning their questions back to them to get their neurons churning. He does this while then teaching them something obvious: that ‘defilement’ is a learned condition. Food, air, water, even disease don’t make people ceremonially unclean, nor did they ever. Moses had given God’s laws to the Israelites to point them to the deeper truth that defilement was a condition of the heart, not dirt on one’s hands. That’s what Jesus was teaching.
Can you imagine living in three different centuries? I can’t. On Tuesday, I went to the cemetery where my grandparents are buried, and Tuesday was Grandpa’s birthday; he would be 107. Many members of my family are buried there; it’s as close to a family cemetery as we have. I remember a few of these people; some of them were pretty negative, but most weren’t. I looked up to my grandparents, though, and admired them. I still do. When I was researching the people from the 1800s who are still alive today, I realized that these people were alive when my grandparents were born, alive when they died, and are still alive today, and it has been over 20 years since my Grandma passed away; God’s mercy amazes me. The family members whose graves I visited were old, even ancient, when I knew them yet they are surpassed before and after by even older folks still around today. And those people say they know why. The secret is knowing Jesus and taking Him at face value without all the rules.
Lord, thank You for life, for Your living and dying for me, and for elders to teach me right from wrong.
Read Mark 7, verses 1-23.