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It’s a Matter of the Heart

Wendy Blight

Day: 9 | Plan: Mark

Today's Reading: Mark 7

Mark 7:6-7 (NIV) "He replied, 'Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules." You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.'"

If we ever desire a story that reveals how deeply Jesus values the heart above all else, we find it in Mark 7. The scene opens with the Pharisees (the religious leaders of the day) challenging Jesus over His disciples' failure to engage in the ceremonial washing of hands before they ate. By failing to do this, the Pharisees accused them of eating with defiled, unclean hands.

It's important to understand that ceremonial law, like this handwashing, was not part of the Torah (God's original Mosaic Law). It was a man-made tradition. The Pharisees established these traditions and held them in high esteem, treating them as if they had the same force and effect as the Torah. They meticulously followed the rules and harshly judged those Jews who did not.

Instead of siding with the Pharisees, Jesus confronted them publicly. Quoting from Isaiah, Jesus called them hypocrites for setting aside the commands of God for their man-made traditions.

Jesus explained that whether a person is clean and unclean has nothing to do with external actions. True holiness is a matter of a person's inward affections. It's all about the heart. Sin is birthed in the heart, not in what we take into our bodies.

A few verses later, Jesus' teaching comes powerfully into play when He meets a Syrophoenician woman while visiting Tyre. As a Gentile, the Jews labeled this woman as unclean and unworthy to come to Jesus. They likened Gentiles to dogs. Yet, she came to Him and begged Him for mercy to drive a demon from her daughter.

Because of her gender and nationality, she should have expected nothing from a Jewish man. And this was no ordinary Jewish man. This man was Jesus. Initially, she got nothing. Jesus' words seemed harsh as He told her it "is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs" (Mark 9:27).

Her response amazed Jesus: "Lord … even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs" (Mark 7:28). Her faith moved Jesus' heart, and He granted her request.

Did you notice how she addressed Jesus? She called Him "Lord." She had a desperate need, and she came to the One she knew could meet it. And Jesus faithfully met her need.

Yet the Pharisees, known for their pious obedience to the law, received not grace, but Jesus' rebuke because they did not recognize Jesus as Lord. Their hearts were far from Him.

This is another story where we find Jesus breaking down the walls that had separated the Jews and Gentiles for centuries, foreshadowing that His salvation was for all people, not just the Jews.

We too, though Gentiles, are beneficiaries of Jesus' amazing grace! So, like the Syrophoenician woman, when you need Him, come to Him. Come with a fully-surrendered, expectant heart. Our Lord and Savior will be faithful, not based on who you are but because of who He is.

Prayer: Father, I'm so grateful for Your amazing grace. Thank You for sending Your Son Jesus, so that the blessings and benefits that once extended only to the Israelites under the Old Covenant, now extend to me. Thank You that I am one of Your beloved children. Loved. Forgiven. Redeemed. Restored. Made new in every way. Help me to walk in the truth of my new identity and be forever grateful for it. In Jesus' name, amen.

More Moments:

Read Mark 7:14-15. Following Jesus' public rebuke of the Pharisees with these words:... Read More

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