In Mark 7, Jesus responds to a challenge over rule-breaking by exposing their hypocrisy. Is this just a takedown, or is he saying something else?
The challenge of following Jesus isn’t doing or believing. It’s both.
Proper 17B | Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
We have to go back nearly two months. Back in June, we were working our way through this gospel we call Mark. And the plot of the story is so far back we’ve no doubt lost it. So let’s find it again, quickly.
When chapter 6 begins, Jesus is getting a lot of attention. He’s been a part of some big, high-profile healings and everyone was talking. People were hanging on every word and action, scrambling to get close to him.
Except for back home. When he went home, they couldn’t hear his words because they wouldn’t listen. They wouldn’t believe that Mary and Joseph’s son could possibly be so connected to God.
From there, this place of unbelief, Jesus gives his power to the disciples. He tells them to go out into the world, healing and proclaiming. Then come back.
And while they’re gone, we get this strange interlude about Herod. Word of the healings has come to him. None of it makes sense. It sounds like John the Baptizer, but he’s dead. Herod killed him. Is it a ghost?
When the disciples get back, they tell Jesus everything. They healed and taught just like Jesus! But clearly, they’re exhausted. So he tries to take them away to get a break. But the crowds won’t let them. Jesus feels such sympathy for them that he feeds all of them, miraculously from so little: a couple fish and some bread.
Then Jesus sends the disciples away by boat and he climbs a mountain to pray. Of course, the people try to follow them. Jesus comes, walking on the water, and like Herod, the disciples think it must be a ghost. Which means they still don’t fully comprehend what Jesus is teaching them.
Now, on the other side, the mob has found them. And as chapter 7 begins, the first skeptics come to interrogate Jesus about his teaching.
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