Mark 7: Where is that smell coming from?

I had just finished cleaning the house and was walking through the hall to put the vacuum away when I smelled it. Phew!

I smell a rat

Where was that smell coming from?! And how had I missed it?

My search narrowed to the linen closet. I started to empty shelves, spraying my strongest disinfectant and wiping out every surface as I went. Ceiling, walls, shelves, even the carpeted floor. The smell was still there.

I ran all the sheets and towels through the wash. I fluffed the pillows in the dryer with scented dryer sheets. The smell was still there.

At that point Mark decided to remove the access panel and crawl under the house with a flashlight and face mask. He emerged twenty minutes later, triumphant. “It’s a rat. Yep, he’s dead, and getting stinkier by the day. I’ll get him out of there and things should freshen up quickly.”

No amount of cleaning would have taken care of that problem.

Change of Topic

Mark 7 begins with a big shift in the conversation. The new topic is introduced by a delegation from the Pharisees who’ve come to question Jesus. They take issue with his observance of rituals of purity. They think they smell a rat.

Here’s some background from Dr. Hughes to help us understand the issue they raise:

The Mishnah, a compilation of Jewish oral laws made at the end of the second century A.D., says, “Tradition is a fence around the law”…The biggest concern of the Mishnah was “cleannesses,” and much of the concern here was with ritual washing. This originally rose from the Biblical command that all priests must wash their hands (Exodus 30:19; 40:12). Though this was only a priestly requirement, all pious Jews began to do it about 200 years before Christ. By Jesus’ day, it was firmly entrenched as a requirement for those who wanted to be “clean.”

These laws were an addition to God’s law, intended to help people keep the law. But they ended up diverting people’s attention from the spirit of the law (true purity) to an obsession with the letter of the law (have I conformed externally?).

Clean or Dirty?

That question is relevant to everyone of us. We want to be clean. We want to feel clean. This chapter will educate our conscience and give us good news to pass along to others. Here are the questions for the week:

Day 1: Context — Reread Mark 6:53-56 and read Mark 7:1-5.

  1. What was going on in Jesus ministry just before Mark 7?
  2. What did his “many wonders” indicate about the crowd? (compare Mark 6:5-6 to 6:56).
  3. Normally too busy to eat, what do you think Jesus and his disciples may have been discussing at this meal in Mark 7:1-5?
  4. What did the Pharisees choose to focus on? What does this focus reveal about them?

Day 2: Observation — Read Mark 7 as three scenes. Read Matthew 15:21-28.

  1. Who were the three audiences in scene 1 (7:1-23)? Who in scene 2 (see Matthew 15:21-28 for more details)? Who in scene 3?
  2. What was the problem in each scene?
  3. What did Jesus say or do in each scene?
  4. Does anything surprise you in each scene? What?

Day 3: Meaning — Read Mark 7 as a single story with a main point.

  1. Describe the Pharisee’s hypocrisy. What was Jesus’ response to them?
  2. Describe the Syro-Phoenician woman’s faith? What was Jesus’ response to her?
  3. Describe the faith of the deaf man’s friends? How did Jesus respond to them?
  4. How do scenes 2 and 3 comment on scene 1?
  5. What do you think is the theme of this chapter?

Day 4: Application — Read Mark 7 as a personal word to you from God.

  1. What makes you feel dirty? What, besides Jesus, are you tempted to turn to for cleansing? Repent and believe. And rejoice!
  2. Is there someone you know who needs this good news? Ask the Father to help you minister it to them with compassion and clarity.

I’m so glad Jesus knew where the smell was coming from in my life and removed the source by forgiving all my sins. Wow. I want to think about that.






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