My Heart Thy Royal Throne

Text: Mark 7:14-23
Date: Pentecost XIV + Proper 17 + 8/30/15

Last week at the beginning of Mark chapter 7 we heard the exchange between the officials from Jerusalem accusing Jesus’ disciples (and therefore Jesus Himself) of lawlessness, violating the rules and traditions of the elders concerning the ceremonial washing of hands before a meal. Jesus countered by labeling them hypocrites and legalists. In our discussion of the way of the Law and the way of the Gospel we ended with the observation that love is the fulfilling of the law. Today in the second half of chapter 7 Jesus turns from addressing the merely man-made religious traditions to the divine Law of God itself as summarized in the Ten Commandments. We discover that not only is love the fulfilling of the Law but that the love of Christ is actually the goal and end of the Law!

Earlier Jesus quoted Isaiah 29 saying, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mk 7:6). Today Jesus addresses the heart of the matter.

First our Lord continues to address the crowds actually calling and inviting them to catechesis or instruction saying, “Hear me…and understand.” “Hear me.” No one can know God’s will or anything about Him unless we first hear His own word, communication, revelation. “And understand.” Then comes the gift of faith, believing the truth revealed as St. Paul says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). Jesus cuts directly to the heart of those ceremonial cleanliness laws seeming even to contradict them, saying, “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” I said Jesus here “seems” to contradict the law because there’s more to it than that.

We recalled last Sunday Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mt 5:17). And guess what. That’s for this life. But there’s more! In the very next sentence Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law,” but then He adds, “until all is accomplished” (Mt 5:18). When all is accomplished at the last day, then will be completely fulfilled the statement of the apostle Paul when he said, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom 10:4). As he said to the Galatians, “Before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3:23-27). The apostle is speaking even as our Lord is speaking, namely, proleptically, that is, as if the future reality is already accomplished, because it is!

Now Jesus moves from the crowds into the house. The artist of our service folder cover suggests it was Simon Peter’s house. When asked by His disciples to explain the parable notice Jesus first seems to scold them, saying, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see?” He was doing a little heart surgery on them. He says that what defiles a person is not from the outside entering the stomach but does not enter his heart. Again Jesus gets to the heart of the matter then saying, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come” all the evil that defiles a person. His list of evils covers, first, the Second Table of the Law, those things that are sins against the neighbor (sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy), the last three sins against God or the First Table of the Law (slander, pride, foolishness). We continue to carry and be burdened by our fallen sinful nature actually sinning if not in certain ways then in others. So we see what “defilement” is, namely, anything and everything that separates us from our neighbor or from God’s gracious reign and rule. These sins have the effect of disrupting fellowship with our neighbor or with God. But worse than that, “Unrepentant persistence eventually leads to complete separation from God, and, therefore, finally to eternal death.”[1] Jesus here once again calls us to continued repentance and faith.

For the sake of a strong faith in Christ then we pray and sing the familiar hymn from the heart:

On my heart imprint Your image,
Blessed Jesus, King of grace,
That life’s riches, cares, and pleasures
Never may Your work erase;
Let the clear inscription be:
Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my life, my hope’s foundation,
And my glory and salvation! (LSB 422)

[1] Voelz, “Mark 1:1—8:26,” Concordia Commentary series, © 2013 CPH, 469.