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Q&A: Mark 7

Questions and Answers on Mark 7

Bruce Stanley

March 13, 2023

Mark 7 Q and A

Here are some brief answers to our questions from our Sunday evening service.

If you would like to discuss more, please call me or email:

1. v29 "For such a reply" sounds like the woman has earned Jesus' miracle - could you explain further??

This is a common teaching tool by Jesus - to ask a question to set up for an answer. In this case, this helps us to consider the answer compared to the answers of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Their reply displays their lack of faith. Her response displays her faith. So, her answer does not earn her the miracle, but simply displays her faith. But yes, in English it can sound like she is being "rewarded" for a good answer.

2. What do we make of Jesus also celebrating Hanukah and Purim, both of which were traditional ceremonies and not of the scriptures?

This is not an area of expertise for me. However, if I can make a general answer... I imagine Jesus may also have celebrated birthday parties. We know he celebrated weddings (for example the wedding at Cana). So he did celebrate worldly celebrations. However, there is no evidence that he celebrated anything that was contrary to Scripture, or anything that dishonoured God. This is a good thing to think about. What do you celebrate? Does it line up with our faith? Is it OK as it's just fun to celebrate? Or does it have a meaning contrary to our beliefs? I've been part of Churches that have soccer teams. It's not in the Bible but it's fun and can draw people together for fellowship. There are many Jewish celebrations that were nice or even helpful traditions and customs. If not contrary to Scripture, I imagine Jesus would have had no problem celebrating these events with his cultural group.

3. Can you describe a practical method to determining whether a long held church tradition should go forth? It's not always a black or white situation.

The best test I use is to ask "Does this bring glory to God?" Or at the very least, does this take glory away from God?" Pagan traditions like chocolate easter eggs are a good example of this. It's a small thing but why use them? Are they helpful? A hindrance? Neutral? Either way, it is also helpful not to judge others when we may not now their motives for engaging in some customs and traditions.

In terms of bringing glory to God, in this year of Evangelism, will our traditions get in the way of bringing people to know Jesus? Inviting them to church? Explaining the gospel? If we invite someone to church and spend most of our time explaining human traditions, rather than the gospel, maybe we need to think again about what we are holding on to.

4. In the public perception today the Church is legalistic: women cannot take leadership roles, LGBTI+ are sinners … How can we create a positive perception

This is an important question. I encourage us all to read and learn the Scriptures. To be certain of what we believe. And to dispel myths that people may have about God or about the church. For example, if someone says to me that women cannot take leadership roles in the church, I would respond that actually they can, and do, in the Bible and in our church. Sadly some churches limit women in ministry substantially and that is disappointing and also contrary to Scripture. With regard to the LGBTI+ matter, I am often saddened by how the church has welcomed, or failed to welcome, people from the LGBTI+ community.

There are many people in church communities who may practice their sexuality outside of God's plans (which is designed to be in marriage - in a lifelong union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others). Sexuality exercised outside of this is always sinful under God's plans for our world. Yet many Christians seem to focus their attention on sexual sin towards only the LGBTI+ community. This is sad. Perhaps it is to distract from the sinful practices of the hetero-sexual community! Celibacy is what God calls for outside of marriage and there are many people of all types of sexuality who do and do not practice celibacy outside of marriage.

There is a big disconnect when Churches fail to welcome anyone into a church community. How do we create a positive perception? One person at a time. Welcome one person at a time. Recognise that every person is broken, and every person struggles with sin. Every person needs Jesus in their life and that often begins with a good welcome into a community of God's people.

Let's commit to knowing the Scriptures well. Let's be firm on what we believe. Let's dispel the myths and rebuke our own church culture where needed. And let God be the judge. God welcomes sinners like you and me. I think one of the most helpful ways to change perception is to be careful of self-righteousness so that others may know that we see ourselves as sinful people in need of God's mercy.

How terrible it would be during this year of evangelism if any person in our community did not feel they would be welcome in our church.

5. Is it appropriate to discern Christian maturity when assigning people to various roles in ministry, even though it isn't relevant to our standing with God?

Yes. Especially when we have leaders leading vulnerable people or people who are infants in their faith, we have a responsibility to ensure that we are serving God and encouraging others to serve God within the limits of their gifts and skills. Maturity has nothing to do with whether we are saved or not or how "good" we are as Christians. But as we serve in God's church, we do need to be discerning about where people can appropriately serve. And on this topic, any leader should demonstrate humility. If someone thinks they are a "better" Christian because we are in leadership, they have failed the greatest leadership test of humility. Philippians 2!

6. Jesus' disciples were Jewish so why didn't they follow the rituals around washing? Did most common people of that era not follow all the proper rituals?

Jesus' disciples followed Jesus. From what I have read about this, it seems that following all the rules was more about "doing all the things IF people were watching". I think by hanging around with Jesus, the disciples decided it would not be the best decision to act like that anymore, or perhaps they never did and that's what made them good disciples! I think th4 "devoted" Jews would have followed the rules. I suspect many did not bother unless the Pharisees were watching.

7. During Jesus' time, were there rules prohibiting gentiles from worshipping at the synagogue?

Gentiles were allowed in certain parts of the synagogue - the outer courts - like a public court where women could also attend.

One example of many that Gentiles did attend the synagogues is in Acts 14:

Acts 14:1-2

Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.

Acts 13 and 17 also give other examples. And Acts 18:4 -

Acts 18:4

And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

8. What things might we be hypocritical about beyond the list in vs 21-23 (which is quite comprehensive already).

Mark 7:21-23

21For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder,22adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.23All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

I don't believe this is meant to be an exhaustive list that Jesus gives here. So there are plenty of things we could add. Pride is one I reckon is big today. Arrogance is already there so perhaps that's about the same. I think self-righteousness (which is probably also arrogance!) I'll probably have a bigger list in my head by the end of the day as I reflect on my own behaviours and sinfulness!

9. Aren't some customs actually better? (Not deserving the kingdom, but better nonetheless.) Can we feel good e.g. about: reading the Bible, women preaching...

Yes. I think feeling good about things is great. But when it turns to "feeling superior", then that is an issue. I am so thankful (and joyful) to be in a church where the Scriptures are valued as authoritative and where women can preach and exercise ministry alongside men. I feel greatly encouraged when people share with me that they're doing the "Bible in a year" reading program.

But we do need to be careful that this joy doesn't turn to arrogance and self-righteousness. To keep this in check, it's helpful to also look at what we don't do well. What needs work, remembering that we're not perfect by a long way! The letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3 are a helpful read and reminder.

It's good to feel good about things. But it's not good to feel superior. Humility is what separates those two feelings / thoughts.

10. Does Eastwood fountain have any special cleaning power,?

It has been claimed it does. I am yet to be convinced. Yet I am just thankful that we have such an amazing landmark in our suburb. It adds so much to the vibes of Eastwood. #proudtobeaneastwoodianbutnotarrogant

11. Under the new covenant, is there still a distinction between Jews and Gentiles?

Some say yes and some say no. The gospel of Jesus is to go first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles (Romans 8:16). Whilst some argue the gospel going out to the Gentiles is still the priority, others will argue that this "first/second" distinction has already been fulfilled by the time of Acts 1:8

Acts 1:8

8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I would agree with this view - that we are now beyond Judea (the Jews) and Samaria (Northern Israel), and are now in the part of the mission to the ends of the earth. To all people with the same priority - Jews and Gentiles. (But I know some disagree with this)

12. Does orthodoxy and/or catholicism have the same issue of rituals and human traditions while being far from God?

I think all faith groups, Christian or not, have issues of rituals and traditions taking them away from the core truths of their faith. Romans 1 tells us that it is natural for humans to replace God with themself. Like Israel's golden calf incident in the wilderness, we humans are prone to worship ourselves, which will always take us further away from God.

And if our mission is to reach all people for Jesus, we do need to be very aware of the traditions and customs that might make it more difficult for people to come to know Jesus, or those things that confuse the core truths. If you invite a non-believer to Church, you want to gospel message to be clear in the songs, the prayers, the preaching, the BIble reading, and even supper or morning tea. We can always be thinking of things that MIGHT get in the way of this.

13. Washing hands and utensils is it not good hygiene.

it is, but ceremonial washing was not about hygiene. It MAY have increased hygiene, but it was the process of washing that the Pharisees held actually made you clean INSIDE that Jesus was objecting to.

14. Why did Jesus want to enter a house undetected?

This is often referred to as the great "Messianic secret" of Mark. Jesus is wanting to continue his ministry. He knows he will be arrested and killed in time, but he needed to keep going for his full mission so sometimes it was necessary to play down his presence so as not to attract too many crowds who were only there for the "circus", and spend his time with those who were seeking him out of faith.

15. Without condemning anyone else's tradition (assuming they aren't heretical), is it wrong to still prefer to worship God in a specific tradition?

It's not wrong until we think our way of worship is better than others, and we make ourselves superior. I would encourage all our members to experience the difference styles of service at St Phil's and St Mark's. You can compare several services with the same bible readings and preaching, but with different traditions. I would not encourage us to experience the traditions of churches that do not hold Scripture ina position of authority. But ith that exception, I think it is helpful to experience other traditions. And it's not the same online - head along to another service one week and compare!

16. Did Jesus call the woman a racial slur?

Yes. He called her a name she would have been familiar with from Jews. But not against her. This was a teaching moment for Jesus - this was an opportunity to see her response and to teach those around her as well. It's almost like Jesus sometimes "set up" people for an answer, just to make the most of a teaching moment. So yes, he used the dog term to refer to her as a Gentile, but then in his grace showed her that she was not, indeed, a dog at all, but was abe to share in the table banquet of the Kingdom of God.

17. Would you recommend speech pathologists follow the methods of verse 33-34?

Ha! That may not be Covid friendly these days...

18. Please give some practical ways to learn to be humble as the gentile woman (7:27) showed, especially when society emphasises self-pride

Remember your sin before God. Come to him in confession each day. Be thankful for his grace.

I'll try to be very practical... instead of thinking how good YOU are, think about the gifts and strengths of others around you. Focus on encouraging others. Be the best encourager you can be. By focusing on others, and the needs of others, it is a simple way to be less self-centred. In a world where we are encouraged to pout ourselves first, it is very easy to lose humility. Focus on the needs of others. Again, Philippians 2 - read this. Every day for a week. See what happens and let us know!

How much of a witness would this also be to others outside the church? When they see a church full of people putting others first - that is a great witness fo the gospel.

19. Jesus responded differently to the woman with bleeding problem (Mark 5) and the gentile woman (Mark 7). What can we learn about asking Jesus for help?

I think we learn a lot about Jesus. There is no one who he does not care about. No matter how we come to hum, come in humility asking for help, recognising:

1. Jesus is able

2. Jesus knows what is best for us

3. Trust Jesus when he answers.

4. Don't ever be afraid to come to him - for anything. He loves for us to depend on him always.

The 2 women approached him differently but both went away the same way - understanding and receiving the grace of Jesus.

20. What does didactic mean?

It's a fancy word for "teaching centred" - an action or word that is intended to teach others. (From the Greek: Didaktikós)

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