Mark 7 Bible Study
Section 1 – Human Traditions or God’s Commandments
Read Mark 7:1-13
Question: How does Jesus challenge and correct the Pharisees?
It’s now very clear in Mark’s Gospel that the Pharisees value human traditions and instructions over the true Word of God in the Old Testament. For example, the Bible says “Honour your Mother and Father” and an important way of doing this was for Jews to support their parents in their old age. However, a new teaching from the pharisees had emerged where the super religious people could declare money and resources used to support parents could instead by given to God. Thus, parents were not honoured, God’s law was broken, but the Pharisees, in their own mind, were showing their religiousness.
Question: Are there any ways we can value human tradition over God’s commands?
A few ideas – not using Psalms in sung worship because the music is less good and it might put people off, squashing gifts of the Spirit in services so Non-Christians can feel more welcome, doing a quiet time in the morning but then not praying or involving God the rest of the day, working hard for the Lord in church but not in your secular job, praying loudly for all to see in public but not privately etc.
Section 2 – Inside/Outside
Read Mark 7:14-23
There’s an important teaching in this section of Mark. It is what comes out of us that reveals our sin, not what goes into us. That means food will not defile us, but it also means we cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility for our own sin.
Question: Do you ever try and blame others or external factors for your sin? What does this passage teach us about those circumstances
Read this quote from Sam Allberry’s (excellent) forthcoming book, Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With?:
It’s common these days when someone’s wrong is exposed for them to say, “I don’t know what came over me; this isn’t who I am”. David says the opposite: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).
Scholars debate whether David was using poetic exaggeration (hyperbole) here or whether he really believed he had a sinful nature even from the moment he was conceived. But David’s basic point is clear: what he did was an outworking of what is deep within him. He committed adultery because he is, in his heart, an adulterer. He lied because he is, in his heart, a liar. He murdered because he is, in his heart, a murderer. David understands that this is a heart issue, not some one-off behavioural aberration. He did what he did because his heart is as it is.
This is a deeply uncomfortable realisation to come to terms with, but it is what we see throughout the teaching of Jesus. We instinctively want to make the issue our behaviour (which we trust can be improved); Jesus constantly challenges us to see that the issue is our heart …
It’s not enough to say to God, “I wish I hadn’t done that”. What we really need to say is, “I wish I wasn’t the kind of person who does that.”
Question: Look at verses 21-22. Are there any of these sins that you struggle with?
Maybe have a time of quiet confession.
Section 3 – Hunger for Jesus
Read Mark 7:24-30
Question: Why does Jesus say “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs”?
There’s no doubt that this could come across as insulting to the Gentile women in the story. However, I believe Jesus uses this saying as a way explaining that there is a right time for everything. It would be ridiculous for a person to throw scraps to the dogs, before feeding their own children. Therefore it would also be wrong for Jesus to immediately devote himself to teaching and healing Gentiles before first teaching and instructing the Jews, who are called God’s children.
The women’s response is amazing: “Even the dogs eat the crumbs”. She’s saying “I’m so hungry for your teaching and power that I’m prepared to beg like a dog under a table desperately trying to pick up crumbs. It’s an amazing statement of faith actually. This is a lady who understands the value, even of Jesus’ crumbs.
Consequently, Jesus performs the miracle she requires.
Question: Do we have this hunger for God and this understanding of just how valuable Jesus is, that we would be desperate even for the crumbs?
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