Daily Worship

Leaping and raising the bar

John Povey February 26, 2024 5 3
Image credit: Unsplash
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Mark 7: 1-8; 14-15 (NRSVA)

1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 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.) 5 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?’ 6 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.”

8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.’


14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’

We could say that the Pharisees asked for it, by calling out Jesus’ disciples and their apparently grubby hands. Why do they neglect to wash the world off before coming to dinner as their elders taught them? It all sounds just a bit over the top to us, doesn’t it?

The Pharisees quickly disappeared from the scene after Jesus’ reprimand, without another word. But Jesus was just getting started. He called the crowd together to extend the theme of clean vs. unclean, holy vs. unholy, beyond the dinner table.

The gist of Jesus’ message is that nothing outside of a person can affect their holiness factor. It’s what emerges from within that matters.

The world Jesus invites us to see has no quarantines. He eats with sinners and tax collectors, touches lepers, and crosses all the boundaries and taboos that divide people.  Nothing can keep Jesus away from them, or from the disciples who persist in incomprehension, or indeed from us. He brings us together, and we leap together in faith with Jesus by our sides, daring to follow him beyond human hurdles and hypocrisies into a common humanity.




Lord, help us to use our hands wisely, that they may be purified by actions which demonstrate love. Take our abilities and our talents, that they may become a blessing to others. May we choose to live each day in a way that honours you through both outward actions and inward thoughts. Give us strength to practise love in everything that we do.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.