Mark 7:3. The pharisees, and all the jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not. Their traditionary laws, which enjoined all possible corporeal purity, were built on the notion that a person might unconsciously have touched something unclean. They washed their hands as far as the wrist, literally the fist. It is some credit to revelation that those were laws of tradition, imposed as maxims of the wise. Yet we cannot deny, that they obtained in various forms through the whole of Shem’s race; and corporeal purity was associated with purity of heart. Those rites became so extensive, and were enforced with so much rigour, that St. Paul denominates the whole ritual law, “a yoke which neither they nor their fathers could bear.” — During the dark ages of the church, christians were nearly as much burdened with papal injunctions as the jews with the cabala of their rabbins.
Mark 7:7. Teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. See on Matthew 15:9. The pharisees came to Christ with unclean hands, violating the first duty of the second table by exempting for corban, a paltry gift, a young man from supporting his aged parents. Men who reprove others should themselves be pure. The rigorous observance of traditions was an affliction. How could a man in the field wash before meat when he had no water. The evangelist adds a word more than Matthew, that meat, like sin, does not enter the heart: Mark 7:15. — Bruce found a people in Abyssinia called the Remmont, once the Falasha, who have a great abhorrence of fish, because they boast of a descent from the prophet Jonah. They carry wood and water to Gondar, a people of whom the Abyssinians speak with contempt. Having as christians been once baptized, and having once received the holy sacrament, they seem to pay no further attention to religion. On coming from market or any public place, they wash themselves from head to foot, lest they should have touched any one of a different sect to their own, esteeming all unclean. — Travels, vol. 4. p. 275. This enterprising Caledonian had evidently received this account of those poor christians in Abyssinia from their mahommedan enemies.
Mark 7:10. Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death. “Moth jumath,” as in Beza, without any hope of commutation of punishment. This quotation is a full stroke at the commutation of corban, which excused a man from maintaining his aged parents.
Mark 7:21. Out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts. Here is the fountain of sin. The issues of life have their source in the heart, the seat of all depravity. The most powerful of exterior causes of excitement is, an evil eye. Achan saw in Jericho an ingot of gold, and a Babylonian garment. Here the motions of evil commence, followed by ruin in all its forms. —
But what is the remedy? The answer of philosophy is here vague and weak, that of the gospel pure and perfect. Come unto me, says the Saviour, and I will give you rest. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth. Behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and be changed into the same image, which you see in the gospel as clearly as you see your own face in a mirror; yea, be changed from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. There is a moral connection between the heart and the objects with which it converses; and these acts of faith, connected with the ever-burning altar of piety, will produce a new creation in the soul, and make a man as heavenly as he has been earthly, as holy as he has been sinful. Sin can be conquered only by the mighty and effectual working of the Spirit of God. Romans 8:13. Ephesians 3:7.
Mark 7:25-26. A certain woman — a Greek, a Hellenist. Mark adds this to Matthew 15:21. How illustrious is the character of this woman, whose case is worthily recorded by three evangelists. Severe afflictions excited her cries, and faith emboldened her pleadings. Her cries were not silenced by the silence of the Saviour. She ceased not to cry, though he had apparently disregarded the intercessions of the apostles, by saying, I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Nay, the severe proverb of the jews, who called the gentiles dogs, only heightened her claims. She ascended above discouragement, and all these mountains, still keeping her eye on the charity that never faileth. — See on Matthew 15:21; Matthew 15:28.
Mark 7:31. Decapolis, beyond Jordan, contained Pella, Macherus, and eight other towns.
Mark 7:34. Ephphatha, that is, be opened. St. Mark gives untranslated the Chaldaic imperative, which our Saviour used; for opening the drum of the ear, and loosing the ligament of the tongue, as well as giving sight to one born blind, were miracles in kind and character equivalent to the creation of the world. Therefore the people said,
Mark 7:37. He hath done all things well; yea, doubly well, for he had just made the pharisees deaf, and the scribes dumb; and now he made this man to hear and speak.
The Saviour appears here in his proper character. He purifies the law from all the soils it had received in the hands of men. He repudiates the gaited portrait of pharisaical superstition. They washed their hands, their pots, vessels, and beds. They washed whatever they bought in the market, and dipped their whole body in water for every species of ceremonial uncleanness, a custom which would kill the world in colder climates. Christianity nowhere imposes dipping, either in baptism or in ceremonial impurities.
These hypocrites, being now sent as spies on our Saviour’s person, he treated them with all the becoming dignity of a prophet. He exposed their errors in magnifying exterior services, while they neglected the grand precepts of the law, purity and love; judgment, mercy and faith. In particular he corrected that error of ceremonial impurity, that man was not defiled by what entered his mouth, but by what proceeded from his heart. And where is there a foul and wicked deed that was not first conceived and nourished in the heart. We must trace the source of this evil to our birth- fault, or rather to original sin, whereby the nature of man is of itself inclined to evil. Hence it must be the work of regeneration to strike at the heart, and to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. This would indeed be a hopeless struggle, had not God so strongly promised a new heart and a right spirit. But the flesh being always weak, no man can enjoy that glorious liberty and spiritual perfection, without the atoning merits of Christ every moment applied to the soul; nor can we in regard to the infirmities of nature enjoy it in this world. Yet, the believer having constant access to the merits of Christ may be so cleansed from unbelief and self- love, and so sanctified, that the emanations of pure love may flow from his heart to God and man.
We cannot but remark the confusion with which this deputation must have returned to Jerusalem. They did not find in the Lord an artful impostor, affecting sanctity, with a countenance looking twenty ways. They found, I know not what of heaven in his looks, so as to forbid them meeting his eyes. They were awed and embarrassed in his presence; they looked ashamed one at another, and dropped their countenance to the earth. They found a searcher of hearts, and a prophet tutored in the university of heaven. And when their foolish customs were exposed, they did not dare to open their mouth, but retired confounded before the crowd. His character is equally illustrious in the extension of grace and mercy to a poor woman of Tyre and Sidon. He refused the trammels of men in doing the work of the Father. What an example for ministers to be unawed by the bigotry and opposition of unbelieving men.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 7". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter