Jesus is challenged about his disciples’ failure to observe the ritual/ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. Hand washing prior to meals was required not for hygiene reasons or to slow down a pandemic but to represent symbolically the need to be spiritually clean.
Jesus’ response is that it isn’t the external things that matter. Their legalistic rule following is mere lip service. God is concerned with the heart. In fact, they deliberately twist and abuse Scripture/God’s Law in order to find ways to disobey God on what really matters (7:1-13).
Food doesn’t affect the heart -it gets digested and passes through. Defilement is caused not by outside things coming in but works from the inside out. The problem is with corrupted, sinful hearts (7:14-23)
We can then see how the next two miracles relate to this. First, Jesus meets a woman who is a Gentile -this would mean she was considered unclean. She didn’t meet external requirements. Her family are being oppressed by an unclean spirit. Their conversation brings out what really matters. Some people think Jesus is rejecting her on racial lines but this would suggest fallibility on his part. I believe he is deliberately, with clear humour drawing out a point. She may be a Gentile on the outside but from the inside comes faith. This brings healing to her household (7:24-30)
Jesus then heals a man who is deaf. Again, outer health defects do not have anything to say about the condition of the heart (7:31-37)
Big Theme – It’s the State of the heart that matters
Questions for consideration
- The conversation between Jesus and the Gentile woman is worth digging into.
- What is the condition of our hearts? Do we ever fall into the trap of paying lip service only?