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Their Heart is Far From Me
Tony Chute, Interim Pastor
Overview: The ministry of Jesus continues to provoke the standing religious order as He breaks new ground without breaking God’s commandments. The Pharisees question why His disciples fail to observe the ritual of properly washing their hands prior to eating their food. Jesus replies with a stinging rebuke about the Pharisees’ habit of following select rules to the letter while dismissing more important lessons altogether. He then instructs the crowd and His disciples that obedience to God comes from within and requires a pure heart. Jesus further overturns traditional thinking as He ministers to a Gentile woman as though she had equal privileges before God as the Jewish people. Taken together, these stories show us the depravity of the human heart while highlighting the generosity of God’s heart.
01. The human heart is fundamentally opposed to the things of God. It generates evil thoughts and actions; minimizes God’s holiness and commandments; expects more from others than ourselves; and places limits on whom it will love.
02. The heart of God is profoundly generous to the human race. He purifies our thoughts and actions; enables us to enjoy Him and His commandments; gives what He requires from us; and places no limits on whom He will love.
Questions for Discussion and Discovery
1. The biblical basis for washing one’s hands and utensils before eating seems to have come from Exodus 30:19-21 and 40:12, 30-32. Do you find that the application of the Pharisees in this text matches that of the Old Testament requirements? What obvious dangers can occur when we equate our own traditions with the Word of God?
2. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and scribes by pointing out their selective obedience to God’s commands. In what ways do we tend to find paths around obeying the Lord rather than simply doing what He says?
3. The biblical basis for clean and unclean foods is found in Leviticus 11:1-47. In light Mark 7:19 and others (i.e., Acts 10-11), how does the removal of this requirement inform us about the reason for its original implementation? Are the ceremonial food laws the only OT laws with an expiration date?
4. Consider the list of sins that Jesus mentions in Mark 7:21-23. What does this description of human nature suggest about human behavior – it is innate, acquired, or both? How would you respond to a non-Christian who says that he or she is basically a good person?
5. Do you find Jesus’s response to the Syrophoenician woman troubling or humorous? What response was He seeking to elicit from her? How does her reply to Jesus demonstrate a keen understanding of grace? What encouragement might we take from this passage as we seek to share the gospel with people who do not believe God cares for them?
For Further Reading: Christopher Morgan, The Love of God (Crossway, 2016).