Studying Mark's Gospel: Hypocrisy or Religiosity?

Lesson 11: Hypocrisy or Religiosity? (Mark 7)
 

LAST WEEK IN REVIEW

 

Lesson 10 covered two of the most well known signs Jesus did to show that He was not just the Son of Man, but Son of God: the feeding of the 5,000 and His walking on the water. The disciples had returned from their short-term mission trip and were trying to find a little rest. However, when Jesus saw the vast crowds that followed Him, rather than ignoring them in favor of the Twelve, He was moved by compassion (an empathy one can feel welling up in the gut, leading to doing something about it). He miraculously fed not just 5,000 men, but possibly up to 20,000 counting women and children! Jesus’ tired disciples didn’t learn from this lesson of faith, so He had to implement another means: forcing them into peril by sending them across the sea to the other side while He stayed there. Once again a storm or at a least violent wind arose and their lives were in jeopardy. Jesus came to them, walking on the water, and delivered them once again. From these experiences we learned: that a selfless life of practical compassion is required for successful Christian service; that Jesus can take the little that we have and turn it to much beyond what we’d even imagine; that the boat of our life without Jesus on it is heading for disaster; and that when we think He’s passing us by, He is working to show us His glory, and will be there for us in all times of trial and testing.

 

This week we will read of the conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus coming to a head, and if the Pharisees had the power at that time to have someone executed, it might have happened then! Religion had become hypocritical, sterile, and dead under the leadership of the Pharisees, and compromised with the world under the Sadducees. Let’s see what we can learn from Mark 7 as we turn to it now.

 

DAY ONE: Religious Fault Finders

 

Please carefully read Mark 7:1-7 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  It appears a group of Pharisees and Scribes followed Jesus around to monitor His actions so they would find a reason to criticize Him.[i] What did they observe about the disciples that they latched onto, and how did Mark explain this to his Roman audience (v. 2-4)?

 

2.   What accusing question did they ask Jesus (v. 5)?

 

Sidelight:  Clean and Unclean

As we read in our Introduction, since the days of the Jews’ Babylonian Captivity, the religious leaders had been developing and instituting an oral law and interpretations of what the Scriptures really meant in their viewpoint. These became viewed as having the highest religious authority for Judaism, and in a sense supplanted the Scripture.[ii] A tradition; the Greek word paradosis, was something delivered by someone to a second person to keep or care for. A tradition therefore meant instructions handed down from one generation to another, to be observed by following generations. Holding is krateo, to keep carefully and faithfully.[iii] At issue here wasn’t whether Jesus’ disciples were practicing good hygiene. Rather it was all about their notion of being clean versus unclean (koinais, “common”). As Mark explained to his Gentile readers, this meant ceremonially unwashed, denoting whatever was contaminated according to their religious rituals was unfit to be called holy or devoted to God.[iv] They literally believed that sin, evil, and uncleanness could be transmitted from objects and from other people. The Pharisees took this to an extreme, and in a sense very few in Judaism would even have the ability to try to maintain a state of religious purity as they defined it. Thus their tradition excluded the vast amount of the Jews let alone the Gentile peoples. The whole notion of ritual cleanness was thus the heart of what the Pharisees were all about. It was that heart (or perhaps better the lack of it) Jesus attacked because of their ongoing hypocrisy.

 

3.  How did Jesus respond to this accusation, and bring the conflict the Pharisees had with Him to a head (v. 6, 7)?

 

4.  The word hypocrite comes from the Greek hupocrites; hupo means under, and krino means to judge, and originally meant one who judged from under the cover of a mask, assuming an identity and a character which he was not; an actor on the Greek stage, taking the part of another. The Pharisees were religious actors so to speak in that they pretended to be on the outside what they were not on the inside.[v] They honored God externally, not from the heart, teaching their own commands rather than the Word of God as revealed. This a clear mark of religion (or a cult for that matter) versus what Christianity is, a living relationship with God. Religion always finds fault with others and substitutes external actions for a living walk with God, taking the Word of God away from the common person and substituting its own version. 

 

The Jews were supposed to be a light to the world, a living witness to the nations. Rather, these leaders fulfilled the passage Jesus quoted from Isaiah. Read Isaiah 29:13-16 and record how it applies to religious hypocrisy. Also, what are some things that Paul warned about how believers should respond to these types of so-called teachers that might come along (Colossians 2:8-23)?

 

Scripture Memory:  This week we will be memorizing Mark 7:21-23.  Review the passage several times throughout the day each day this week, and by the end of the week, you should have it memorized completely.

 

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts... All these evil things come from within and defile a man. Mark 7:21a, 23 (nkjv)

 

DAY TWO: Religion Undermining the Heart of Scripture

 

Please carefully read Mark 7:8-16 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  What were some of the other things Jesus said about the religious leaders’ hypocrisy and treatment of God’s Word (v. 8-12)? 

 

2.  These men had laid aside the Word of God, meaning to send away, to bid go away or depart, to send from one’s self, to let alone, to disregard, to abandon, to leave as behind and done with in order to go on to another thing. Jesus used the example of corban, which was a regulation they had made that allowed a gift or offering to be set aside for God and prohibit its use by others, even as Jesus alluded to here the rejection of the Law of Moses for supposed religious purposes.[vi] They seemed to look for legal loopholes to violate the spirit of the Law.[vii] What does this sort of action result in (v. 13)? 

 

3.  Warren Wiersbe well pointed out the results of such actions for them:   

But they were not only destroying their character; they were also destroying the influence and authority of the very Word of God that they claimed to be defending. Note the tragic sequence: teaching their doctrines as God’s Word (Mark 7:7); laying aside God’s Word (Mark 7:8); rejecting God’s Word (Mark 7:9); finally, robbing God’s Word of its power (Mark 7:13). People who revere man-made traditions above the Word of God eventually lose the power of God’s Word in their lives. No matter how devout they may appear, their hearts are far from God.[viii]

What exhortation and appeal to repent from hypocrisy had these religious leaders ignored or forgotten in Isaiah 1:10-20? Read the passage and summarize the main points of this strong exhortation by God Himself.

 

4.  Jesus didn’t want the people to miss the importance of this, which no doubt they had never heard from their own religious leaders who kept them in the dark of their hypocritical religious domination (v. 14-16). What really matters in God’s Kingdom when it comes to such ritualistic things (Romans 14:16-19)?

 

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

For from within, out of the _______________ of men, proceed evil thoughts...__________ these ____________ things come from within and __________________ a man.   Mark 7:21a, 23 (nkjv)

 

DAY THREE: Religion Produces Fleshly Fruit; Relation Godly Fruit

 

Please carefully read Mark 7:17-23 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  After this confrontation, Jesus and the disciples went into the house where the disciples asked Him what this meant. Jesus rebukes them for their lack of comprehension of these things. “Are you thus without understanding also?” (nkjv) or as the niv bluntly put it, “Are you so dull?” As A.T. Robertson put it, “It was a discouraging moment for the great Teacher if his own chosen pupils (disciples) were still under the spell of the Pharisaic theological outlook. It was a riddle to them.”[ix] How did Jesus clarify for them what He meant (v. 18-20)?

 

2.  It isn’t the external things that defile us in God’s sight, Jesus said, but the internal state of our hearts that has defiled us, the sin nature we are all born with. What do the following passages tell us about our natural heart?

 

Psalms 14:3

Isaiah 53:6; Isaiah 59:1-2; Isaiah 64:6-7

Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-12


3.  Jesus went on to define some of the resident evils we naturally have within us, thankfully not always manifested, but there nonetheless, which no amount of external religiosity will be able to purge.[x] The word thoughts relates to discussion or debate, with an under-thought of suspicion or doubt of oneself or another. Evil is the Greek word kakos, bad in nature, base, wrong, or wicked. “The very sound of the word as it is pronounced, suggests the idea in the word ‘reprehensible.’”[xi] These evil thoughts or evil ideas are designs and attitudes that produce the vices Jesus described.[xii] All these evils defile a person, and have their source from inside one’s heart. So Jesus took the focus of attention away from external rituals and placed it on the need for God to cleanse one’s evil heart.[xiii] Read verses 21-23 and list in your own words some of these things in our wicked hearts. 

 

4.  In view of these things there are only two options for what they imply: we are without hope, or we must have a spiritual heart transplant! This is what Jesus meant when He spoke to Nicodemus in John 3 of being born again, the new covenant:

 

"But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day," says the LORD. "I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their family, saying, 'You should know the LORD.' For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will already know me," says the LORD. "And I will forgive their wickedness and will never again remember their sins" (Jeremiah 31:33-34, nlt).

 

He put His Spirit into our hearts as well, and through Him equips us to bear fruit of a godly nature, not these fruits of the fleshly, corrupt heart. Read through Galatians 5:16-25, and list here some of the differences between the fruit of the flesh and that of the Spirit, and what we need to do to bear godly fruit.

  

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

For from within, out of the _______________ of men, _________________________ evil thoughts...__________ these ____________ things come from within and __________________ a _____________.   Mark 7:21a, 23 (nkjv)

 

DAY FOUR: Faith Won’t Give Up

 

Please carefully read Mark 7:24-30 and answer the following questions.

 

At first read it looks like that the prior subject of religiosity, cleanness versus uncleanness, etc. has ended and on to another miracle of Jesus. But this is very closely tied in with what Jesus said to the religious leaders as we’ll see. Jesus actually left Palestine, the only time recorded that He did so, and would put into practice the very things He just had talked about.[xiv] Matthew 15:21-28 records this as well with a few other details, so you will want to look at that passage too.

 

1.  First of all we notice that Jesus tried to remain incognito in the area, but news soon leaked out that He was there. Who in particular came to Jesus for help, and what did she ask of Him (v. 25, 26)? How does Matthew 15:22-23 describe her anguish and the disciples’ attitude toward her?

 

2.  Mark said that this woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician; this means she was Greek in religion, Syrian in tongue, and Phoenician in race.[xv] She was first of all a woman, whom Jews rarely if ever spoke to in public; a Gentile, whom the Pharisees would consider unclean; and she came to Jesus about her daughter possessed with an unclean spirit. This story would greatly encourage Mark’s Gentile readers who had been persecuted and rejected like she had been.[xvi] At first was she rebuffed, but how did she continue to seek Jesus’ help (Matthew 15:24-25)? Then how did Jesus seem to shockingly address her situation (Mark 7:27)?

 

3.  This didn’t deter the woman who was so moved by faith that her daughter could be healed by Jesus. She addressed Jesus humbly, worshipfully, and called Him Lord—and no one else in the Gospel of Mark called Him that![xvii] What was her classic answer to such a strong rebuff (v. 28)? How did Jesus respond to this (v. 29, 30; Matthew 15:28)?

4.  Prostrating one's self was indication of not just a sign of grief but of reverence and worship; interestingly both a pagan woman and a synagogue ruler (Jairus) did so to Jesus![xviii] Suffering and sin are great equalizers, and Jesus came to break down the walls that kept all people from a personal relationship with God. The word Jesus used for dogs wasn’t a mangy mutt, but a diminutive form of the word dog, or a puppy. Jesus wasn’t trying to insult the woman, but rather to give her something to latch onto, testing her faith which He knew was genuine. Jesus was telling her that His first priority in being there was instructing His disciples; as it is not appropriate to interrupt a family meal to give the dogs food from the table, it was not appropriate for Him to interrupt His ministry to His disciples to give His services to her, a Gentile. Jesus’ seeming reluctance to help instead stimulated her faith.[xix] The Pharisees would have no doubt just passed this woman by, leaving her daughter to suffer on.

All she wanted was just one of the crumbs the kids would drop for the little dogs for her little girl. Jesus gave her a meal instead, and answered her request! What are a few things you glean from the following passages about how all mankind is lost in sin but yet Jesus brings forgiveness and salvation for all people of all nations who believe, and how He made this possible?

Romans 1:16-17; Romans 2:4-16
Ephesians 2:4-14, Ephesians 2:19-22

 

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

For from _________________________, out of the _______________ of men, _________________________ evil thoughts...__________ these ____________ things come from __________________________ and __________________ a _____________.   Mark 7:21a, 23 (nkjv)

 

DAY FIVE:  All Things Done Well

 

Please carefully read Mark 7:31-36 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  As we read verses 31-37, it helps us to keep in mind that Jesus never intended to have a ministry among these people, just a brief respite from the Pharisees’ hypocrisy.[xx] Yet Mark chose to include this passage because again it would be appreciated by his Roman readers, as this area was considered by many as “Rome away from Rome.”[xxi] What happened as Jesus passed through the area (v. 32)?


2. It isn’t clear from the Greek text whether this man was a Jew or Greek, if he “could hardly talk” (niv) or was completely mute, i.e., unable to utter any sound; the word in Greek, mogilalon, properly means speaking with difficulty and is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, and appears in the Septuagint only in Isaiah 35:6, where it translates a Hebrew word meaning mute.[xxii] Despite this, what significant thing though would this mean for Jesus’ claims to Messiahship (Isaiah 35:5-10)? 

 

3. What unique things did Jesus do in the process of ministering to this man, and what was the result (v 33-35)? Jesus’ sigh was an inward groan, our Lord’s compassionate response to the pain and sorrow sin has brought into the world, and was also a prayer to the Father on behalf of the man. How was this word also used about Jesus’ reaction to the situation over the death of Lazarus (John 11:33-38) and about our prayer life (Romans 8:23-26)?

 

4.  Jesus didn’t want a big scene made over this incident because He had no intention of staying and ministering in this area for any length of time. What did He strongly ask of the people, but what did they do all the more (v. 36)? 


5.  What was their two-fold reaction to Jesus’ work there (v. 37)?

NOTES: Telling the people to be silent is surprising since the miracle could not be hidden. “Ironically the Gospel that most emphasizes the ‘messianic secret’ also indicates it could not be kept even in Jesus’ lifetime. Nevertheless Jesus did not want to be known as a Hellenistic miracle worker... Jesus’ true identity could not be understood until after the passion and resurrection.”[xxiii] The people were, as the King James Bible puts it, “beyond measure astonished,” which meant to be superabundantly above out of their senses! “Their astonishment at the miracle was so great that it almost deprived them of their self-possession, and it was in superabundance, and then some on top of that.”[xxiv] Jesus did all things well among them, meaning He did things beautifully, fully, excellently, and honorably did good to others. Interestingly, Jesus told the mute man to talk and the talking people to be quiet; He restored the man to his full senses while knocking the people around him out of theirs!

Scripture Memory:  Can you write out this week’s passage by memory here below? Give it a try, and keep reviewing the passage several times throughout the day.

 

Mark 7:21a, 23:

 

 

DAY SIX: Following Christ

 

1.  As we read the Gospels it is easy to wrongly assume that all the Pharisees were corrupted hypocrites. Many Pharisees truly sought after God and revered His Law, but the ones Jesus attacked had rejected the Law for their own tradition in order to break it! There were some like Nicodemus in John 3 who truly wanted to know the truth, and John 12:42-43 tells us that many among the religious leaders believed in Him but wouldn’t publicly confess Him due to fear of the consequences among their peers. As we look at other people and point at them as hypocrites, remember that more fingers point back at us than point at them! Many in the Body of Christ have ignored the spirit of the Scripture by developing legalistic and superior views about themselves over others, or by having their tradition set by their particular group. Others have hypocritically and purposefully continued in sin while on the outside they put on a complete show to those around them. Consider the following thoughts by R.A. Morey, and record some ways you have noticed hypocrisy trying to sneak into your life, and you can turn away from that before you too become another hypocrite like them:

We must ask ourselves some hard questions. Have we ever sung a hymn while our minds were blank or daydreaming or anxiously turning over some problem we faced? We sang the words of the hymn mechanically and took no notice of what they meant. We were thus guilty of hypocritical worship. God was not glorified. Nor were we edified. We honored God with our lips but our hearts were far from Him.... Have we ever been guilty of sitting through a sermon and, instead of listening and obeying God’s Word, sleeping, daydreaming or worrying about something? We were guilty of hypocritical worship. God is worshiped when we listen to and obey His Word. Hearing a sermon is worship. But if we “hear” and do not “listen,” we are guilty of hypocritical worship.... In these situations we can see the utter difference between the inner reality of what really goes on in our hearts and what is merely the following of external forms of worship. How God must be grieved when we treat Him so shabbily! God is not deceived by our hypocrisy.[xxv]

2.  The Gentile, pagan woman who came to Jesus for help had within her a faith that wouldn’t give up, one that cried out within her to be put into practice. How many others are out there like her who have the faith to believe but have not heard the message? Are we too busy eating our own spiritual meals that we have forgotten to share the crumbs with those who will gladly receive the Gospel? Look at this story as an exhortation to get beyond your comfort zone and reach out to others in need of Jesus around you. Remember, the pups are fed by the children’s scraps from their plates; the children were fed by their Father, and from Him learn to give what they have received to others. They would do this in the innocence and lack of prejudice of a child’s heart. What are some ways you personally can make a greater effort in reaching out to those in a state of spiritual malnutrition around you? Record some ideas here then discuss it as a group so all can benefit, learning to reach out to those around them.

3.  When Jesus healed the deaf man, enabling him to both hear and speak clearly, the people were astounded. Although many of these people were not even Jewish, they realized something unique in Jesus, and saw that He did all things well. This makes us wonder how others perceive what we do. Are we truly doing all things well, or at least as much as possible? If someone was to testify to what they saw in and about us, would they be able to say the same thing as they did about the One we follow working through our lives? Read Colossians 3:16-24, here in the nlt, and record how it speaks to you personally about your choosing to, like Jesus, do all things well:

Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father. You wives must submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord. And you husbands must love your wives and never treat them harshly. You children must always obey your parents, for this is what pleases the Lord. Fathers, don't aggravate your children. If you do, they will become discouraged and quit trying. You slaves must obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Obey them willingly because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ.

4.  Lastly, if there was something else from Mark 7 that God spoke to your heart about this week, please record it here to share with your group so all can be encouraged.

Scripture Memory:  Hopefully you now can write out this week’s passage completely by memory.  Do so now, and keep on reviewing it do you will be ready to share it with others in your group time.

 

Mark 7:21a, 23:

 


[i] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1 (Wheaton:  Victor Books/SP Publications, 1989), p. 133.

 

[ii] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1, p. 134; John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2005), p. 1219.

 

[iii] Unless elsewhere noted, all Greek word/phrase translations are based on the following:  A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  In Oak Harbor:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1932, 1933, 1997);  James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible:  Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order, Electronic Edition (Ontario:  Woodside Bible Fellowship; in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996); M.R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002); Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Studies in the New Testament:  For the English Reader (Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Co; in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1984, 1997); and Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary:  New Testament, Electronic Edition (Chattanooga:  AMG Publishers, in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1992, 1993, 2000).

 

[iv] John D. Grassmick, Mark.  In John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament (Wheaton:  Victor Books/SP Publications, 1983), p. 132.

 

[v] Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Studies in the New Testament:  For the English Reader (Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Co; in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1984, 1997).

 

[vi] Joel F. Williams, Mark.  In Darrell L. Bock ed., The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study, The Gospels (Colorado Springs:  Cook Communications Ministries, 2002), p. 137.

 

[vii] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary (Downer’s Grove:  InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 153. 

 

[viii] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1, p. 134.

 

[ix] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  In Oak Harbor:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1932, 1933, 1997).

 

[x] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2005), p. 1221.

 

[xi] Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Studies in the New Testament:  For the English Reader.

 

[xii] James A. Brooks, Mark. In David S. Dockery ed., The New American Commentary V. 23 (Nashville:  Broadman Press, 1991), p. 119.

 

[xiii] John D. Grassmick, Mark.  In John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, p. 135.

 

[xiv] Warren W. Wiersbe, p. 135. 

 

[xv] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament.

 

[xvi] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, p. 154.

 

[xvii] Walter W. Wessell, Mark.  In Frank E. Gaebelein ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol. 8 (Grand Rapids:  Regency Reference Library, 1984), p. 682; John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1221.

 

[xviii] James A. Brooks, Mark, pp. 120, 121. 

 

[xix] Warren W. Wiersbe, p. 136. 

 

[xx] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1222.

 

[xxi] Wiersbe, p. 136.

 

[xxii]  James A. Brooks, pp. 122, 123; also see Joel F. Williams, Mark. In Darrell L. Bock ed., The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study, The Gospels, p. 138.

 

[xxiii] Brooks, p. 123.

 

[xxiv] Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Studies in the New Testament:  For the English Reader.

 

[xxv] R.A. Morey, Worship: It’s Not Just Sunday Morning (Iowa Falls:  World Bible Publishers, 2001), p. 58.

 

© 2005 by Harvest Christian Fellowship. All rights reserved. Written by Thomas Klock for Men’s Bible Fellowship, 2005-2006.  

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