Daily D – Mark 7:9
Mark 7:9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
A hotheaded and opinionated young man in a church I served years ago never could be satisfied with anything I did. I was not legalistic enough for him. He declared his opinions a matter of HOLINESS. For months, I did everything I could to appease him. Then one day I told him about a cartoon I found in Leadership Journal. It shows a pastor sitting at one end of a conference table with several other people standing at the other end. The caption reads, “God may forgive you, but our standards are a little higher.”
My legalistic friend died laughing.
He and his family still left the church not long after that. You win some, you lose some, and with some it’s just as well.
Take a gander at how this chapter of Mark’s Gospel goes. It begins with Pharisees and teachers of the law attempting to shame and browbeat Jesus into practicing their legalistic traditions which were much more stringent than the actual law handed down from God. Verses 1-23 are quite contentious. The deeper you go in this text, the more red letters there are. Jesus had a lot to say about legalism and none of it was favorable.
The next thing Mark records is the healing of a girl whose mother bugged Jesus’ disciples and Jesus himself to no end. (Compare Matthew’s version of this story in 15:21-28.) The conversation there makes it sound like Jesus is playing the Legalism card. Then we see he was not. Instead, he placed on full display how God responds to those we deem unclean and irritating. He loves them with an everlasting love. He loves them with gifts of mercy and healing.
The last thing happening in this chapter concerns a deaf and mute man. Some people brought this man to Jesus. Jesus spit, touched the man’s tongue, and put his fingers in the man’s ears. If the Pharisees and teachers of the law thought Jesus was unsanitary in the first few verses of this chapter, what would they think now?
Here’s what to think: The woman and her daughter (verses 24-30) would never, could never, measure up to the standards of legalism set by those religious authoritarians. Even so, God loved them so much that he gave his one and only Son to express the full measure of his love to them.
Here’s what to think: No level of legalistic observance of traditions would open deaf ears or loosen dumb tongues. Only our Savior with healing in his hands could provide the physical restoration required for that man to hear clearly and to speak plainly.
If the choice comes down to your faith traditions or the miracles of Jesus and his unlimited love, please choose the latter.
A mother wept. A child skipped and danced. An old man saw and heard and laughed and cried.
If the choice comes down to looking good to all your preacher buddies or joining Jesus in bringing healing, hope, and restoration, always and forever join Jesus. Jesus is a lot more fun than legalists. Jesus changes the world and fills it full of laughter and joy. Legalists strain gnats.
PS: My legalistic friend and his family returned to our church some years later. His disposition was different. There was joy in his soul. Jesus had met him where he was and led him where he needed to be. He would do anything in the world for me today if I asked. I would likewise do the same for him. Thank you, Jesus, for continuing to deliver laughter where once there was pain.
I will join Jesus where joy resides.
Our Father, deliver me from sourpuss religionists. Keep me from solemn expressions of rectitude when you are inviting us all to a party. Amen.
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Jonah 4:2, 3 So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”
Joel 2:12, 13 That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.”
Hosea 14:8, 9 “O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.” Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.”