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Reflecting On The Third Week of Lent: Mark 6-8

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

Jesus’ invasion into Satan’s territory continued. The demonized were freed, the blind received their sight, and the sick healed.

The fault finding of the religious leaders continued as well. In 7: 1- 23 the issue was the failure of the disciples to do "ceremonial washing" before eating. The tradition of the elders had been violated. Jesus attacks the traditional legalistic requirements. The rules may appear religious, may give one the feeling of being righteous, but they fall short of what it means to be a person of faith. Jesus, quoting from Isaiah, put it in the strongest terms:

"These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules." (Mark 7:1-30 NIV).

Legalistic requirements had accumulated in the Jewish faith, and Jesus frequently ignored what he called man-made rules. Legalistic requirements accumulated in our Methodist movement in an effort to live out what it meant to be Holy. Jesus points to the heart and says:

"For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person" (Mark 7:21–23, NIV).

Jesus calls us to a heart check, not blind obedience to man-made religious rules. When the heart is right, we will honour God in our behaviour.

The last half of chapter 8 brings a change in tone. Jesus wants the disciples to be clear about who he is and what is going to happen to him. Jesus asks, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter speaks up. "You are the Messiah." What Jesus said next was a shocker. The Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected by the elders...and be killed, and after three days, rise again.

The Messiah rejected and killed nonsense, according to Peter. Brimming with confidence, Peter takes Jesus aside to correct his wrong thinking. "Jesus, you are the Messiah-what you are talking about is not going to happen. We won’t let it happen.

Jesus’ words to Peter are severe. "Get behind me, Satan. You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." Peter was putting before Jesus the same temptation that Jesus faced in the wilderness.

How can Peter be so right and then, within a few minutes, be so wrong? In this case, he thought he knew more than Jesus. He was sure he knew better than God himself.

In our own lives, it is important to ask: Are we truly hearing God’s plan, or are we trying to create our own reality? The difference Peter discovered can be likened to the difference between night and day. Let us be careful to hear and discern what God desires and separate his desire from our own ambitions.

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