Mark 7:14-28 (Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 17—Series B)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
September 2, 2018
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Holy Gospel recorded in Mark 7:
14And He called together the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand. 15There is nothing outside of a person that by entering into him is able to defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defiles the person.” 17And when He had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples asked Him about the parable. 18And He said to them, “So you are also without understanding? Do you not understand that everything which goes into a person from the outside is not able to defile him 19because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and then goes out into the toilet?”—purifying all foods that there are. 20And He said, “That which goes out of a person, that defiles the person.” 21For from within, out of the heart of people, the bad reasonings go out, fornications, thefts, murders, 22adulteries, greedinesses, wickednesses, guile, licentiousness, jealousy, blasphemy, arrogance, foolishness. 23All these evils go out from within and defile the person.
What makes a person “defiled?” Not following the tradition of the elders? Not washing hands, cups, or utensils? Not following the traditional rituals? Relying on “clean living” and a decent lifestyle? What makes a person koinos?
To be koinos means that a person is “not clean or set apart,” that is, “not holy” as God is holy. To be koinos means to be unfit for contact with the sacred, to be in the presence of God. As such, to be koinos concerns those who are within God’s reign and rule. So, from a Jewish perspective, to be koinos, or associated with things that are koinos, means to be marginalized within the kingdom. A person who is koinos or associated with things that are koinos is not in full fellowship with God and with His people.
Jesus would have us understand that being koinos (defiled, unclean, not holy) has nothing to do with what a person puts into their body (certain foods), but what comes out from the human who is by nature koinos, “not holy” as God is holy. You see, the whole subject matter of the conversation has changed. It’s no longer about human tradition vs. the divine written Word. What marginalizes a person within—or excludes him or her from—the reign and rule of God is what come out of the person. What comes out of a person’s heart, what proceeds from their inmost being, has the ability to “defile a person”—to disregard and exclude that person from God’s reign and rule. It’s another way of saying, we are by nature sinful and koinos, “unclean.”
Jesus’ gives a realistic list as the evidence. The first nine deal with Second Table items, Commandments 4-10. The last three are oriented more with respect to First Table items, Commandments 1-3. “For from within, out of the heart of people, the bad reasonings go out, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, greedinesses, wickednesses, guile, licentiousness, jealousy, blasphemy, arrogance, foolishness [by being self-indulgent and self-centered].” The proof of what is inside our human nature displays itself in the actions that come out from inside our sinful, unclean selves.
Last Monday I did laundry after we came home from New Hampshire. There was a stain on one of my wife’s clothes that I didn’t know about. That stain didn’t come out by my putting it in the wash and using the right amount of detergent. Now, the piece of clothing is washed and dried with a set-in stain that I couldn’t get rid of. I needed something more—a stain remover.
This is similar to our condition of being sinful and koino,j. God is holy. He is free from any corruption and koinos. He cannot and will not allow Himself to become tainted by the stain our sin.
Before He receives people into His presence, we must be purged and cleansed of all offenses, sins, and unholiness that pollute us and cause God to recoil from us.
All our efforts, however well-intentioned, to remove the stain and the sin and the evil from ourselves before God are in vain, much like my well-intentioned attempt to get the laundry clean. Pharisaic dependence on human tradition and ritual won’t do it. Simply trying to be “nice” people and living the best life we can doesn’t cleanse us. The stain of our koinos, of our sin, can only be removed by blood—the blood of the Son of God-made-flesh so that He could suffer and die in our place as the once-for-all bloody-sacrifice to make all people clean.
In the Introit today from Psalm 51 there is an allusion to the blood of the Passover Lamb that
was painted on the doorposts of the Israelites’ houses in Egypt with a hyssop branch. So King David writes in this prayer to the Lord, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. . . . Purge me with hyssop [that is, with the blood of the lamb], and I shall be clean; wash me [with blood], and I shall be whiter than snow” (Ps. 51:1, 7 ESV). The blood of the Passover lamb points us forward to the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. We read in Hebrews 9, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, . . . he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:11-14 ESV). St. John also declares, “The blood of Jesus, [God’s] Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7 ESV).
It is the blood of Jesus that washes us from our iniquity and cleanses us from our sin. It is the blood of Jesus that reconciles us to God. Jesus, true God and true Man, died on Golgotha’s cross, shedding His blood as the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It was not with silver or gold that we are made clean from sin, “but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pet. 1:18-19 ESV).
Because of Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross, we are no longer excluded from God’s reign and rule by our sin and koinos. We are made clean and holy through the waters of Baptism as the cleansing blood of Jesus shed on the cross is applied to each one of us personally “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” St. Paul writes in Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5 ESV). This is a source of great comfort to us when we feel filthy, guilty, and unclean because we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. When we feel unworthy of God, it is our Baptism that reminds us He has come near to us in Word and Sacrament.
God comes near to us because Jesus has come near and cleansed us with His blood so that we are no longer unholy, unclean, and defiled with sin. Because we are whiter than snow before the throne of God through the cleansing flood of Jesus’ blood, God does not recoil from us in horror, but He comes near and favors us with His presence. Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” In Baptism, the Father has called us each by name and has put the saving mark of the cross upon our head and heart. Through the lavish waters of Baptism, He has claimed us as His own sons and daughters, inheritors of life and salvation, through the very blood of the Lamb.
Now you are no longer koinos, unclean and marginalized and excluded. Because of Jesus, you are included in the reign and rule of God because you are indeed clean. You are declared holy by Jesus’ blood shed for you on the cross and applied to you in your Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. The forgiveness of all your sins and all your uncleanness is yours through Christ alone—a gift of His grace and favor. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:19-23 ESV). Amen.