Much of today’s reading is wrapped up with challenges from the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a leading religious sect in first-century Judaism. They were fastidious about keeping every aspect of the Jewish law and the traditions that had emerged over the past 1,000 years.
When watching Jesus’ interactions with them, keep in mind what Mark has already revealed. Remember the dinner that Jesus attended in chapter 2, where He dined with “tax collectors and prostitutes?” It was the Pharisees who raised questions about Jesus’ propriety. Remember Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath in chapter 3, when Jesus sprung their own trap back on them? The Pharisees responded by holding counsel with the Herodians, seeking how to destroy Him.
This motivation hovers in the background as the Pharisees and Jesus intersect throughout today’s reading. To begin with, some of the Pharisees are annoyed that Jesus’ disciples do not hold to the Pharisees’ standards of ritual purity. Pay attention to Jesus’ piercing sermon, founded on the premise that “There is nothing outside of a person that by going in can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
Jesus “immediately” heads north, into the Gentile territory of Tyre and Sidon. Here, as well as later in the Decapolis, His reputation precedes Him and people of need seek Him out. One of the most intriguing dialogues in this book occurs between Jesus and a Gentile woman, who argues that even she has the right to believe.
The emotional watershed of the Gospel is created by three events at the end of chapter 8. In the first, a blind man requires a “double touch” to be fully healed. In the third, Jesus informs His disciples of His impending death. Between these is a question, to Peter: “Who do you say that I am?” Imagine yourself in Peter’s place, hearing this question for the first time, the eyes of Jesus looking straight into yours. Peter’s answer is as direct as the question, but although technically accurate, his response is clouded, incomplete, like the blind man’s first attempts at sight.
Our verse for this week is John 3:19: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
Mark chapters 7 and 8. Now let’s read it!
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.