Mark 7

Mark 7:4 except they wash, they eat not

"In the court of most Jewish homes sat water pots. These stored water not only for cleansing and cooking, but also for the ritual washing of the hands and feet of guests. The host would show respect for the guest by offering a filled pot, and the guest would plunge the lower part of both arms into the water, which ceremonially washed off any pagan contamination. It was also the practice among many Jews to so wash before eating. The criticism leveled at the Lord about the disciples eating grain in a field without first washing had to do with this practice. (See Mark 7:1-5.)

"The custom of ritual washing required a great amount of water if one entertained many guests. Thus, the water pots were often quite large. At the marriage feast in Cana, during which Jesus performed his first miracle (see John 2:1-11), John tells us that there were six empty water pots 'after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece' (John 2:6). Firkin translates the Greek word metretes, a unit of measure equal to about ten (U.S.) gallons. The total amount the six pots held would therefore be between 120 and 180 U. S. gallons." (Richard D. Draper, "Home Life at the Time of Christ," Ensign, Sept. 1987, 58)

Mark 7:6 Well hath Esaias prophesied of you

"Question: Mark 7 quotes Isa. 29 as saying people draw near with their lips, but their hearts are far from the Lord. Jesus said this about the Jews. It is the same thing that was said about the nineteenth century, in Joseph Smith's First Vision. Which group of people was Isaiah referring to?

"Answer: Like so many of Isaiah's words, they can fit various peoples at various times. I have developed a term that I call 'pattern prophecies.' That is, whenever you encounter the same situation, the same words apply. In chapter 29 Isaiah seems to be referring to the people of the last days; this chapter is a 'last days' prophecy. The Savior used it with reference to the Jews because they were in a similar situation to people in the last days, having drifted from the word of the Lord and having substituted their own doctrines. I will summarize it this way. Isaiah talks about the desert blossoming as the rose. Well, which desert does he mean? Does he mean Mojave or Arizona or Utah, or does he mean only Palestine? He means all of those places. Wherever we have a desert that needs to blossom as a rose and any branch of the children of Israel are there, and if the people of the Lord will keep the commandments, the land will be reclaimed and blossom as a 'watered garden' or a rose. That prophecy will fit anywhere or everywhere the conditions are right." (Robert J. Matthews, Selected Writings of Robert J. Matthews: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1999], 210.)

Mark 7:8 laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men

"The Pharisees and the Essenes...believed in something called the 'oral' Law. This was a body of oral traditions which interpreted the written Law of Moses and applied it to new situations. It was often claimed that these traditions had been given to Moses on Mount Sinai; but actually they were attempts of later teachers to 'fine-tune' the Law of Moses. This was done (in the absence of revelation) in an effort to extend or even to alter the requirements of the Law in the face of changing social circumstances." (Stephen E. Robinson, "The Law after Christ," Ensign, Sept. 1983, 69)

"Often called 'the tradition of men' or 'the traditions of the fathers' (Mark 7:8; Gal. 1:14.), these interpretations and commentaries on the law in large measure came to govern Jewish life. Had the Pharisees been more intense in their study of the law itself rather than in the commentaries upon it, they might have recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah. And had they been more eager to apply its teachings rather than to seek for further things they could not understand, they might have been able to accept him." (Robert L. Millet, "Looking beyond the Mark: Why Many Did Not Accept the Messiah," Ensign, July 1987, 61)

Mark 7:10 Honour thy father and thy mother

Dallin H. Oaks

"The commandment to honor our parents has strands that run through the entire fabric of the gospel. It is inherent in our relationship to God our Father. It embraces the divine destiny of the children of God. This commandment relates to the government of the family, which is patterned after the government of heaven.

"The commandment to honor our parents echoes the sacred spirit of family relationships in which-at their best-we have sublime expressions of heavenly love and care for one another. We sense the importance of these relationships when we realize that our greatest expressions of joy or pain in mortality come from the members of our families...

"The Savior re-emphasized the importance of the fifth commandment during his ministry. He reminded the scribes and Pharisees that we are commanded to honor our father and our mother and that God had directed that whoever cursed father or mother should be put to death. (See Lev. 20:9; Deut. 21:18-21; Matt. 15:4; Mark 7:10.) In this day, failing to honor our parents is not a capital crime in any country of which I am aware. However, the divine direction to honor our father and our mother has never been revoked. (See Mosiah 13:20; Matt. 19:19; Luke 18:20.)

"Like many scriptures, this commandment has multiple meanings.

"To young people, honoring parents is appropriately understood to focus on obedience, respect, and emulation of righteous parents. The Apostle Paul illuminated that focus when he taught, 'Children, obey your parents in all things [I believe he meant all righteous things]: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.' (Col. 3:20.)

"President Spencer W. Kimball combined the ideas of obedience and emulation in these words:

'If we truly honor [our parents], we will seek to emulate their best characteristics and to fulfill their highest aspirations for us. No gift purchased from a store can begin to match in value to parents some simple, sincere words of appreciation. Nothing we could give them would be more prized than righteous living for each youngster.' (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, p. 348.)

"Young people, if you honor your parents, you will love them, respect them, confide in them, be considerate of them, express appreciation for them, and demonstrate all of these things by following their counsel in righteousness and by obeying the commandments of God." ("Honour Thy Father and Thy Mother," Ensign, May 1991, 15)

Mark 7:11-12 But ye say...It is Corban...And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother

"Corban [means] given to God. The word describes anything dedicated to God, and therefore not available for ordinary uses. The utterance of it was held to constitute a binding vow, and the fulfillment of a vow was regarded by the Pharisees as of deeper obligation than the duty even to parents. See Matt. 15:5 and Mark 7:11, where it appears that the Pharisees misused the opportunity of dedicating their material possessions to God, in order to avoid responsibility to care for their parents." (Bible Dictionary, Corban)

See commentary for Matt. 15:5.

Mark 7:13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition

Traditions can be good or bad. The Pharisees are not the only ones guilty of placing traditions before the word of God. Joseph Smith felt stifled by the traditions of his day, "It is very difficult for us to communicate to the churches all that God has revealed to us, in consequence of tradition...I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 70, 331)

Latter-day saints are largely ignorant of how affected they are by their own traditions. Many of these traditions, even those based on fundamental gospel principles, can take on a life of their own-becoming more important than the law of God. Perhaps your family has a tradition of family vacations in which Sabbath worship is largely ignored. The Sabbath day activities are indistinguishable from the activities of the rest of the week, or the Sabbath is spent in long, tedious travel. As if the principle of Sabbath worship is on vacation as well, these families unknowingly rewrite the law to read, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, unless you're on vacation."

Mark 7:15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him

It is doubtful that the Lord would utter the same statement today. While eating food with dirty hands may not defile a man, modern day tobacco, hard liquor, and illicit drugs defile both the body and spirit. Their regular use and addictive potential can be most destructive and devastating: binding the individual to appetite, destroying personal freedoms, and negating individual agency. In this regard, Elder Maxwell has noted, "It is so easy to become imprisoned in the single well-lit cell of one impulse and one appetite." (Notwithstanding My Weakness [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 100.)

Gordon B. Hinckley

"Some have even used as an alibi the fact that drugs are not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom. What a miserable excuse. There is likewise no mention of the hazards of diving into an empty swimming pool or of jumping from an overpass onto the freeway. But who doubts the deadly consequences of such? Common sense would dictate against such behavior.

"Regardless of the Word of Wisdom, there is a divinely given reason for avoiding these illegal substances.

"I am convinced that their use is an affront to God. He is our Creator. We are made in His image. These remarkable and wonderful bodies are His handiwork. Does anyone think that he can deliberately injure and impair his body without affronting its Creator? We are told again and again that the body is the tabernacle of the spirit. We are told that it is a temple, holy to the Lord. In a time of terrible conflict between the Nephites and the Lamanites, we are told that the Nephites, who had been strong, became 'weak, like unto their brethren, the Lamanites, and that the Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them because the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples.' (Hel. 4:24.)

"Alma taught the people of Zarahemla: The Lord 'doth not dwell in unholy temples; neither can filthiness or anything which is unclean be received into the kingdom of God.' (Alma 7:21.)

"Can anyone doubt that the taking of these mind- and body-destroying drugs is an act of unholiness? Does anyone think that the Spirit of God can dwell in the temple of the body when that body is defiled by these destructive elements? If there be a young man anywhere who is listening tonight, who is tampering with these things, let him resolve forthwith, and with the strongest determination of which he is capable, that he will never touch them again." ("The Scourge of Illicit Drugs," Ensign, Nov. 1989, 50)

Mark 7:21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications

Spencer W. Kimball

"Transgression and uncleanness and filth are found in all sexual sins. In clarifying a parable, the Savior said:

'.. Out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
' (Mark 7:21-23.)

"It is not the soil of earth or the grease on a person's hands that defile him; nor is it the fingernails 'edged in black,' the accumulated perspiration from honest toil, or the body odor resulting from heavy work. One may bathe hourly, perfume oneself often, have hair shampooed frequently, have fingernails manicured daily, and be a master at soft-spoken utterances, and still be as filthy as hell's cesspools. What defiles is sin, and especially sexual sin." (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], 62)

JST Mark 7:24 he could not deny them; for he had compassion upon all men

"It is inconceivable that the Redeemer of the world couldn't hide himself if he wanted to. He is the God of the universe and has power over the elements. It is unthinkable that he could not conceal himself in some way, except that his compassion for his brothers and sisters would not allow him to do so. Our Savior was willing to be inconvenienced. And so must we be, if we are to become as he is." (Robert L. Millet, Selected Writings of Robert L. Millet: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2000], 333 - 334.)

Mark 7:24 he...went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon

"This is the first time Jesus went into Gentile territory during his ministry, clearly foreshadowing the universal spread of the gospel message. That Jesus, a Jew from Galilee, performed miracles among the Gentiles must have made a significant impact on the minds and hearts of those who witnessed. It was a common notion in antiquity that divine power did not extend beyond the territorial boundaries of the people who worshiped the divinity. Compare Naaman taking soil from Israelite territory so that he could worship Jehovah in his native Syria. (2 Kgs. 5:17.)" (S. Kent Brown, C. Wilfred Griggs, and Thomas W. Mackay, "Footnotes to the Gospels," Ensign, Feb. 1975, 51)

Mark 7:26 The woman was a Greek, a Syro-phenician by nation

Bruce R. McConkie

"She was a Gentile of the Gentiles, a pure Gentile, who could claim no descent whatever from Abraham; in whose veins flowed none of the believing blood of Jacob; and who was outside the royal lineage and could not be classed, in any sense, as one of the chosen people." (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 3: 10.)

Mark 7:29 For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter

Jesus had been instructed of his Father to minister only to the House of Israel (Matt 15:24). Yet, this Gentile woman shows such faithful tenacity that the Savior is placed in a position to decide between responding to the woman's faith and following the Father's instruction. It's a classic case: not a choice between good and evil but a choice between good and better.

How does the Savior respond? What can we learn from his dilemma? Did he respond with the letter or the spirit of the law? Knowing the character of God, Jesus knew what Elohim would want him to do. He would respond with compassion. The lesson is that people are more important than policy-that compassion is more important than conformity-that the spirit gives life to the letter of the law and not vice versa.

A latter-day analogy may be useful. Imagine yourself assigned to the recommend desk at the Salt Lake Temple. A bride's mother comes in but fumbles around for her recommend, unable to find it. According to your job description, you are 100% justified in forbidding entrance to the Temple. However, you know that people are more important than policies so exceptions are made. The temple presidency is contacted, a call is made to the sister's stake president, and the embarrassed mother is allowed in. Wouldn't the Savior have responded the same way?

"Jesus our Lord placed people first. People before programs, people before rules and regulations. For example, 'the sabbath was made for man,' he said, 'and not man for the sabbath' (Mark 2:27). There must be order and cleanliness in the kingdom of God, and members of the Church are expected to abide by the laws and statutes of a divinely established institution... Jesus our Lord also placed people before his own convenience. Jesus 'went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into a house, and would that no man should come unto him.' He was tired. He was weary. He needed, as do we all occasionally, a moment to himself. 'But he could not deny them; for he had compassion upon all men' (JST Mark 7:22-23). The work and glory of God are to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39). That is, God's work is people. People are ends in themselves, never means, no matter how noble the desired end." (Robert L. Millet, An Eye Single to the Glory of God: Reflections on the Cost of Discipleship [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 92.)

Mark 7:32-35 straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed

Many and marvelous are the miracles of Jesus, but Mark preserves for us a precious jewel. Nowhere else is the healing of a deaf man described, but Jesus had power over all physical deformities. None was beyond the pale of his healing powers. When necessary, he had a way of shoring up the faith of those who were afflicted. In this case, Jesus put his fingers in the man's ears not because the gesture was necessary to the healing process but because it gave the man more faith. We know that the Lord can do anything-even perform mighty miracles in our own lives, but we often forget that he can strengthen our faith when we are lacking. We must be wise enough to say, 'Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief' (Mark 9:24).

The latter-day version of this miracle is very common. Those who have been spiritually deaf and dumb can be miraculously transformed. As the Spirit begins to heal these individuals, ears that were hard of hearing become sensitive to the quietest whisperings of the Spirit. Similarly, spiritually mute investigators are miraculously transformed by the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Those who at first could barely utter any kind of prayer, find their tongue unloosed, 'then can [they] speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel' (2 Ne. 31:13). Whether physical or spiritual, it's difficult to say which kind of healing is more miraculous.