March 14, 2023
14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” 17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) 20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them.21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
Going in and Coming out
In this passage, Jesus reminds us that the content of our hearts and our minds is what separates us from God rather than the traditions and outward actions we perform. Traditions like eating food considered clean are not what bridges the gap between us and God since food enters and leaves our bodies. Rather, it is our sincere belief in God that allows us to accept Jesus and be transformed by the Holy Spirit.
When reading this passage, Jesus’ response to his disciples in verse 18 stuck out to me more than his message about clean and unclean food. “Are you so dull?” (NIV) or perhaps more gently: “Then are you also without understanding?” (ESV)
Throughout the Gospel of Mark, the disciples often seem to not understand and not recognize Jesus. It seems strange given that they have devoted their lives to following him. But I realize that I’m not so different. I do my best to cultivate traditionally good habits like regularly attending my home group and Sunday services and setting aside time for a devotion each morning - even if it’s only 10 minutes on most weekdays. These activities all have a beginning and an end, from when I open my Bible to when I close it, from when I walk into the church building and out again. But after the time specifically set aside to be with God has ended, how much do I truly commune with God? Despite good intentions, I know that I sometimes go through the motions without really opening my ears to hear God speak to me.
How do you open your ears to God’s voice and learn to hear him speak? We know that we love an all-powerful God who could, if he so chose, force us to hear him and obey. But he chooses not to. He wants us to turn our brains on, reflect, and wrestle with our faith and his Word. He wants us to worry about the content of our minds and hearts rather than the shape of our Sabbath or the rationale behind our food choices. Because if our minds and our hearts are in tune with the Holy Spirit, then God-honoring Sabbath, speech, and thoughts flow from it.
So, in response to Jesus’ rhetorical question “Are you so dull?” Yes. Yes, I am. I try to make healthy habits, but often fail to open the eyes of my heart and understand what God is trying to say to me. I’ve found I need to train myself to be reflective since it doesn’t seem to just come naturally to me. This passage reminded me to ask myself reflective questions and I challenge you to do the same. What is God trying to say to you through this passage? How do you hear him speaking and see him working through your actions and in your daily life?
Prayer: “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you.” – Paul Baloche Amen.