Crossing Analysis for Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Well, it’s certainly been a while since I’ve posted! With everything happening through my discernment process, helping with the downtown Bible study, starting class at Christian Theological Seminary, yadda yadda, some things start to fall by the wayside.

I’ve been connected to the Crossings community for a few years now (time has a habit of moving on). I’ve learned a lot about reading Scripture from them, and their ways of thinking have steadily impacted my own thinking, and understanding of my faith. With this, I’ve wanted to start writing my own Crossings analyses for a long time, but just never got around to it.

And there’s my persistent open question of what this blog is for. Like discernment, there’s wondering what to write about, even as I begin to have assignments and writing that I have to do. So like with everything, perhaps this is a place to begin stretching and exploring through a new exercise. Anyway, here goes, and perhaps this will become a regular faith practice for me.

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The Tradition of the Elders

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

“This people honours me with their lips,  but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.”You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.’

Then he called the crowd again and said to them, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’ For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’



It’s a dirty, dirty world. Sometimes, when I watch TV, I feel like I remember more about the commercials than the actual shows themselves. And these days, it feels like so many of those commercials are for cleaning products. Mr. Clean. Tide. Scrubbing Bubbles. You think your kitchen counter is clean? Let’s just take a closer look with this scanning electron microscope. Look! Bacteria! Germ bugs! What a disaster! I forget which commercial called them “germ bugs” – but actually I think that one was about teeth and toothpaste. Just goes to show us how EVERYTHING is filthy dirty, even when it looks sparkly and white.

Those poor, ignorant people of the Dirty Countertop. How could they not know just how dirty they were? Thank goodness for Kaboom with Foamtastic, otherwise they’d surely get sick and die. By the end of the commercial, they’ve learned their lesson, and everything will finally be o.k.


Now that I’m enlightened, I can go to my local temple of commerce (aka supermarket) and buy those cleaning products that the commercials promised would kill those germ bugs. I can be clean and safe. But when I actually go and browse the aisles, it’s such an overwhelming experience. Countless brand names with all sorts of flavors. With bleach. Without bleach. Anti-bacterial. So, how do I get rid of those germ bugs, and keep my hands soft and kissable? Heck, how do I know it’ll actually kill my germ bugs?

And if you take the time to read the labels more closely, they’ve always got warnings. Avoid skin contact. Test a small area for discoloration. What if it ruins my countertop? I was hopeful, but now I have no idea if I can truly get clean. Am I even choosing the right product? I just have no idea.

From the Scripture, you might think the Pharisees have all the answers. A rule for every little thing. “The washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.” Though, it’s funny to think of Scripture teaching us how to wash dishes. Would the Pharisees choose Dawn, Joy, or Palmolive?


Our TVs are filled with voices that constantly fill us with doubts about ourselves and our safety. Whether it’s about being clean, or keeping our home secure, or having reliable cable service, how do we know we’ve made right choices? In the end, will our choices ever save us from the pain, suffering, and death that scare us to the core? And God’s answer is a resounding “No.”

Jesus tells the Pharisees this. “You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” For all their boundless struggle to be clean, their efforts are for naught. If we have abandoned the commandment of God, then what have we got left?

And when Jesus mentions their “teaching human precepts as doctrines”, I’m reminded me of those TV commercials that we thought were enlightening us, but only setting us up for an anxiety attack at the store, paralyzed from making a right choice that probably will be wrong.

The crowd is desperate for an answer from anyone. If they defile themselves, they will be unfit for eternal life, separated from God. How can they ever stop defiling themselves?



But to the crowd, and us, Jesus answers our fears of the things that defile. “There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” We do not have to worry whether our purity, our cleanliness, is enough to keep us from the love of God. Our mind games that we play with ourselves are completely unnecessary.

In the movie WarGames, a couple precocious kids send the world to the brink of armageddon by playing an innocent game of chess against a war machine. The moral of the story was that the only way to win is to not play the “game” at all. There is no winner. Everybody loses. They stop playing the game, and they live.


Jesus tells us that we don’t have to play the game. We don’t have to win the war against germ bugs. Our lives are not doomed to fail. We do not have to fear death.

And when we no longer fear death, no longer fear the germ bugs (for they are already inside anyway!), we do not have to be overwhelmed by making right choices. We are free to freely choose. To make mistakes. And to live, in spite of it all, with the love of God.


Living in the light of God’s love, we are not afraid to invite others over for dinner because our counters are not clean enough. And we can visit our friends without fearing for our lives or judging them. We can enjoy their company, and they can enjoy ours. We can be Christ for them, and encounter Christ in them, and live with each other in the love that has freed us from fear.


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