Friday, August 28th Mark 7:17-23

When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 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.” Mark 7:17-23

This is one of those moments that appear throughout the gospels that we often read so quickly that we miss their magic. Mark, in writing the Jesus story, moves us from Jesus “in public” with the crowds (some for him and most against him) to Jesus “in private” with his closest friends. As readers, we join Jesus in both places.

In other words, we too get invited into this private conversation with Jesus. Once here, we very quickly realize that, even though we have lots of information that simply wasn’t available at the time to the initial disciples, we aren’t much different than they are.

We also fail to understand. We also tend to twist our insider status into a personal achievement rather than a gracious invitation. And yet we too learn at the feet of Jesus.

He tells us that which truly defiles, dirties, corrupts and breaks our relationship with God and with one another. The words, even presented in a list, trigger memories of past experiences, fantasies and realities, that scar our lives: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. A long list, but clearly not long enough to fully capture the brokenness of life.

This is who we are, and this is how we are. Nevertheless, this is who Jesus is now spending time with. This is who Jesus loved and loves. These are the character defects of a fallen people who would raise Jesus up to a cross. And this is who Jesus would rise back to and beyond in his resurrection. This is who Jesus promised, by his grace, to one day welcome home.

Later this morning I will begin spending the day with a crowd of other pastors and leaders in our church. There will be plenty of time, over lunch and during our breaks, for idle chit chat. People will ask one another, “How are you?” (It is the socially accepted ice breaker and invitation to further conversation.) And the customary response then is, “I’m fine. How are you?”

And maybe, at some point, we are fine. But the deeper reality is that, lurking beneath the surface, there is a war going on. Evil intentions, always threatening to win the day, yet tempered by what we have learned at Jesus’ feet – our brokenness can be redeemed, has been redeemed, and need not win the day. We have been, and are being, healed, cleansed and restored by love.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, you know the evil that lies within each and every one of us. You know how quick we can be to give up and give in and tear apart that which you lovingly seek to build – a community of grace for the sake of the world. Keep working on us, in us and through us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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