11 July 2021
Series: Hope Emerges
Book: Mark

The Beatdown: Jesus Slams Religious Hypocrisy

Speaker: Austin Rammell

Bible Passage: Mark 7:1-13

Jesus takes the gloves off and gives the religious hypocrites a Mike Tyson-style beatdown in the street.

The Beatdown: Jesus Slams Religious Hypocrisy

One of the fun parts of my generation was getting to watch Mike Tyson fight.  In my lifetime there has never been a boxer like him, and many say there has never been a boxer like him ever. Tragically Tyson is now known for biting Evander Hollifield’s ear off, losing to Buster Douglas, and abusing his first wife. But none of those changes the fact that for the vast majority of his boxing career he was the most vicious force ever to set foot in the ring. Many of his opponents knew it, but a few disregarded it and walked into the ring with the attitude that Tyson was an overrated boxer, and their fate became just like the others.

I really want you to get this visualization in your head because what we are going to see today in Mark is the verbal equivalent to what Mike Tyson did to people in the ring!

So, with those images in mind let me take you to the next passage in our study of Mark. It’s one of those occasions in the ministry of Jesus where he has enough of the arrogant hypocrisy of the religious leaders and puts an absolute Mike Tyson verbal beat down on them.

There are two parts to this Mike Tyson beat down in Mark 7:1-13!

The Taunt

The religious leaders attacked Jesus because some of His disciples didn’t practice some of their traditions. (7:1-5)

1 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem,

I’ve repeated this numerous times throughout this series, but it’s important to remember, Daniel, prophesied that the Messiah would come in the 1st Century.  As a result of the huge Messianic expectations, dozens of men had claimed to be the Messiah but only one could be!  Therefore, the Scribes (the truly learned men of that society who were highly respected as such) were looked to as the experts to determine if a person was indeed the Messiah.  However, these Scribes had clearly determined, before ever arriving, that Jesus was not the Messiah.  He didn’t fit their political and militaristic expectations.  

In addition, it’s important to understand that the Pharisees and Scribes saw themselves as true superiors not only to Jesus’ disciples but also to Jesus Himself.  To them, Jesus is nothing more than the illegitimate child raised by an uneducated carpenter in a culturally insignificant town (Nazareth).  He is a common laborer with no pedigree or training to set Him apart as one who deserves to be leading God’s people, and as such, they see themselves as superior in every way in righteousness, intelligence, authority, leadership, teaching, everything!

Finally, to have Scribes show up from Jerusalem was escalating things to the very top.  These were not local Scribes from the local synagogue addressing the situation, but rather an official delegation sent from Jerusalem, the center of religious life in the Jewish world.

They were theological “hitmen” sent to nail Jesus.” 1

The reason for the sense of urgency was that nobody else who claimed to be the Messiah had even remotely done the things Jesus had done! The news was spreading everywhere about Jesus of Nazareth and the crowds were growing like wildfire.  So, there was a serious sense of urgency by the Scribes and Jewish cultural police (The Pharisees) to squash this fervor because Jesus wasn’t meeting any of their Messianic expectations!

So, they get together to confront Jesus with a mission to disqualify Him as the Messiah and turn the crowds against Him.  And here is what they came up with.

2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.). 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”

Concerning verse two, “It is notable that a hate so vicious that it sought to kill Jesus could only find the flimsy charge that ‘some’ of His disciples ‘ate with unwashed hands.’” 2

In addition, “The crowd Jesus fed in §112 could obviously not have complied with this ceremonial washing in a desert place, so this may well have been the ‘inspiration’ for the Pharisaic attack.” 3

“According to the OT, only priests were required to wash before entering the tabernacle (Exod 30:19; 40:13; Lev 22:1–6); otherwise the washing of hands the point of contention in v. 2 was prescribed only if one had touched a bodily discharge (Lev 15:11).” 4

But …

“By Jesus’ day, adherence to the unwritten oral tradition was as important for the Pharisees as was adherence to the Torah itself. Although the claim cannot be sustained from the OT itself, rabbis promoted the idea that Moses had received two laws on Mt. Sinai, the written Torah, and the oral Mishnah. The Mishnah was believed to preserve an unbroken chain of authorized tradition extending from Moses to the “Great Synagogue” of Jesus’ day (m. Avot 1:1–13). The Mishnah called the oral interpretation “a fence around the Torah” (m. Avot 3:13) “fence” being understood as preservation of the integrity of the written law by elaborating every conceivable implication of it. In general, the Torah was understood as policy. Its commandments declared what God decreed, but not always how they were to be fulfilled. The Torah alone, according to advocates of the oral tradition, was believed to be too ambiguous to establish and govern the Jewish community. The oral tradition as preserved in the Mishnah, on the other hand, prescribed in infinite detail how the intent of the Torah ought to be fulfilled in actual circumstances.” 5

“The ceremonial purification rites in question were fixed shortly before our Lord’s time by Hillel and Shammai, the two great rival Jewish teachers, both of whom are designated ‘the Elder’ in rabbinic writings. Ceremonial purification is one of the few things they ever agreed on, so it was particularly significant to the Jewish nation … This explains the zeal of the Pharisees and scribes in attacking Jesus on this question (Edersheim, 2:13–14).” 6

“It is worth remembering that fully twenty-five percent of the Mishnah is devoted to questions of purity.” 7

We can only understand the zeal of the Jewish opposition to Jesus when we learn that over the centuries they had come to elevate their traditions to a position superior to that of Scripture. They held, for instance, that when tradition and Scripture conflicted, then tradition would hold precedence. So the Jewish leaders, by virtue of their training and indoctrination, were convinced of the solidity of their ground for attacking Jesus. What He did was question their whole religious philosophy; if one accepted His argument then the whole basis of centuries of tradition was destroyed! Can you understand why the Jews got mad?” 8

Therefore, to the religious leaders, it didn’t matter that these rules were the total invention of religious leaders and had no Biblical basis whatsoever; if you violated them, you were considered unworthy of God, unfit to enter the Temple or synagogue, and unfit to even be accepted in society.  

This reaction should be very easy for us to grasp in 2021.  From all the COVID rules that led people to be judged as horrible human beings if they dared to question them; to the cultural correctness of our day that requires total blind allegiance or your cancellation as a plague on society!  And let me be clear, this arrogant and foolish ethos is no longer confined to the proponents of the far-left politically correct movement, but it has also fully established itself on the political and religious right.  

Whether it’s within historic Christian denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention or political parties like the Republican party, conservative institutions are being taken over by the very type of thinking that conservatives have criticized for decades on the left; that is if you don’t get in line and you dare to challenge the status quo; if you dare to offer a divergent viewpoint on literally anything, and worst of all, if you dare see something on the other side that you agree with, even on some of the most common sense basic human elements; then the mob will do everything in its power to shout you down and cancel you.   So understand, to these religious leaders, they are as zealous about these things as the cultural blow torches are in the United States that want to burn everybody alive that don’t totally and blindly agree with them. The passion and allegiance to the oral law was deep!

The Rebuke

Jesus exposed the obscene levels of hypocrisy in the religious leaders. (7:6-13)

There are three parts to this beatdown.  First was his jab.  People said Tyson’s jab was like no other.  Most snapped it out and back as a stinging blow to score points and keep people backed up. Most used it as a setup punch.  Tyson put his entire body into his jab as an attempt to knock people out even with that!  When Jesus throws this jab it has the same effect.

The Jab: Jesus blasted them for their love of religion over God. (7:6-9)

6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!

“The sarcasm of v. 6 (and v. 9) in the NIV is also present in the original Greek: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions.”  9

When Jesus refers to the Pharisees as “hypocrites,” he takes a term from the theater meaning to play a part on the stage. Especially in Greek theater, actors wore various masks according to the roles they impersonated. The word “hypocrite,” accordingly, comes to mean someone who acts a role without sincerity, hence a pretender. The quotation from Isa 29:13 (LXX) rightly defines “hypocrite” as one who voices lofty and even noble sentiments that are divorced from the intentions of the heart. People who do this “ ‘worship me in vain,’ ” according to the quotation. The result of the pretense is that “ ‘their teachings are but rules taught by men,’ ” thus idolatry, that is, the replacement of the divine by the merely human. With regard to the oral tradition, the Pharisees substitute interpretations of the law for the law itself, indeed interpretations at variance with the intent of the law.” 10

“Mark 7:8 sums up the problem: ‘You forsake the commandments of God and hold fast the tradition of men.’ This was the issue. The commandments of God (and the word of God) point to the Messiah; and if there had been followed and adhered to, the nation would have recognized Jesus as the Messiah. But, instead, the man had substituted his own traditions, a route which cannot lead to God, for the only route starts with man recognizing his inadequacy and recognizing his absolute reliance on God for righteousness. The commandments were designed to achieve this (Gal 3:24); tradition, which is invariably designed to placate man and make him feel adequate, never does.” 11

“Worse, he said that while they outwardly honored God, their hearts (the core of their life) were not even close.” 12

They were literally using the Word of God to set aside the Word of God and be replaced by their own rules; rules that they loved far more than both the actual Word of God and God Himself!

As such, they were worshiping God in vain!  Their hearts were actually far from God and instead close to their own traditions, that is the religious culture they had created, achieved success, and standing in, and we’re proud of as being better than everybody else!  That took the label that God gave them as His chosen people and used it to justify the love and worship of a religion they created in His name!

Therefore, worshiping God as a means to justify, even to themselves, their love of religion, their love of religious culture, and in the end their love of themselves!

The proof of this insane level of hypocrisy came in the 2nd devastating verbal punch from Jesus!

The Devastating Right Cross: Jesus blasted them for their love of money over family. (7:10-13a)

They are already exposed through the devastating first blow.  They are already dazed and stunned but then here comes a huge right hand from Jesus!

10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”‘ (that is, given to God)– 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother,13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.

Every Jew understood that the Fifth Commandment (to “honor” one’s father and mother) included taking care of them as they age. But scribal tradition offered a way to get around it, which was simply to say that one’s possessions were “Corban” (given to God). Even more, the tradition made a man keep his Corban vow even if it was spoken rashly in a fit of anger, for tradition said that one’s vow to God was more important than keeping the Fifth Commandment.” 13

“The law of Corban permitted a man to dedicate something to God and still enjoy its use until a specified future event (e.g., his death), arguing that, as it was dedicated to God, no one else could claim it. Naturally, it did not take long for people to use this ‘loophole’ to avoid their responsibilities, particularly the one the Mosaic Law laid on them to take financial responsibility for aging parents. Consider this custom of Corban for a minute. The Pharisaic logic was that dedicating a particular asset to God was doing greater good than supporting one’s parent, so one’s action was fully vindicated. However, as the dedication was deferred one had the ‘bonus’ of using the asset for as long as one wished, but also the responsibility not to fritter away the asset, for that would be depriving God. In this way, they argued their way round their biblical responsibility to care for their parents, and the Pharisees would ‘no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother.’ Jesus exposed the shallowness and fallacy of this logic, for surely God, who owns the world, does not need our pitiful riches. He had decreed what those riches were to do, and in order to pander to selfish human greed the Pharisees had devised a system to abrogate God’s law.” 14

What made it even more hypocritical was that “A man goes through the formality of vowing something to God, not that he may give it to God, but in order to prevent some other person from having it.” This was not the end of the matter, however. Once the property had been offered to God, priests discouraged anyone from withdrawing it from Corban in order to return it to human use. According to Josephus, priests required fifty shekels from a man, and thirty from a woman, to cancel Corban (Ant. 4.73). The practice of Corban resulted in egregious casuistry by annulling a moral commandment of the Torah (honor of parents) by a ritual practice of the oral tradition (Corban). A concrete and unambiguous moral good, “ ‘Honor your father and mother,” is not simply thereby nullified but actually reversed by forbidding a child to do “ ‘anything for his father or mother.’ ” 15

“The phrase ‘making void the word of God’ (Mark 7:12) is deeply significant; the Pharisaic tradition had rendered that word sterile, for it did not do what it was designed to do. To this day, tradition has this danger.” 16

“Hypocrisy indeed: it was God who commanded the duty to parents in the first place, and officially ‘giving the money to God’ actually makes a mockery of the God they are claiming to honor.” 17

The Clean-up Punch: Jesus blasted them for their consistent pattern of hypocritical sinful rebellion against God. (7:13b)

“And many such things you do.”

To be clear Jesus is not speaking of something they used to do but something they presently do (“do” is present tense), but he adds to it that Corban is just one of “many” examples where they make the Word of God void by their traditions that contradict God’s Word; traditions that they elevated above God’s Word!

“Whereas the national leaders charged Jesus with allowing His disciples to break their tradition, Jesus charged them with violating the Law and ignoring the warnings of the prophets. Clearly, His charges were more serious, and moreover, He could lay His charge directly against them and not merely against their disciples. The Pharisees, on the one hand, were trying to demonstrate that Jesus was not ‘religious’ enough to be the Messiah; He, on the other hand, demonstrated that they were not ‘righteous’ enough to lead the nation!” 18

Challenge: What are the things that you are justifying in your life by hypocritically putting a Jesus sticker on it?

We put a Jesus mask over our hearts so that outwardly we can make our heart and/or actions look like Jesus while inwardly it’s the opposite, even if outwardly!  

We learn to live out, “lofty and even noble sentiments that are divorced from the intentions of the heart” 19

As such we are able to do the following without any hint of conviction!

  • Be actively involved in serving in the church while giving no priority to our own relationship with Jesus.
  • Passionately worship Christ in worship gatherings but never really think of Him elsewhere.
  • Be dedicated to Bible studies with Christians but never share the Gospel with unbelievers.
  • Find ourselves infuriated by those who claim the Bible is not God’s Word but never read it or attempt to understand it for ourselves!
  • Living the Christian “life” around people at Church while refusing to acknowledge Christ with those outside the church.
  • Justifying bitterness while preaching love.
  • Striving to live in fellowship with people in the church while rejecting people outside the church.
  • Striving to live in fellowship with certain people in the church while rejecting people in the church that don’t fit our relational standards.
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    2.  Mills, M. S. (1999). The Life of Christ: A Study Guide to the Gospel Record (Mt 15:1–Mk 7:5). Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries.
    3.  Mills, M. S. (1999). The Life of Christ: A Study Guide to the Gospel Record (Mt 15:1–Mk 7:5). Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries.
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    12.  Hughes, R. K. (1989). Mark: Jesus, servant, and savior (Vol. 1, p. 165). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.
    13.  Hughes, R. K. (1989). Mark: Jesus, servant, and savior (Vol. 1, p. 166). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.
    14.  Mills, M. S. (1999). The Life of Christ: A Study Guide to the Gospel Record (Mt 15:3–Mk 7:13). Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries.
    15.   Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (pp. 210–211). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
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    19.   Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 209). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.