Ash Wednesday: Midweek Minute in Mark Feb 17

Today’s reading is Mark 7:14-23

The context of today’s reading is firmly rooted in the reading from yesterday from Mark 7:1-13. The religious leaders there were quick to point out that Jesus’ disciples weren’t following the religious rules about hand washing prior to eating. Jesus responds by calling them hypocrites and calling their motivations into question. It is this same idea that he carried on within today’s reading looking at another topic: food laws. 

Jewish law (see Leviticus) had a number of rules when it came to what could and couldn’t be eaten, all for the sake of purity. Certain foods, especially ones customarily eaten by Gentiles (i.e. non-Jews), made you impure and should be avoided at all costs. The religious leaders would have been very conscious of these laws and watching what they ate. Jesus calls into question this understanding and cites the fact that an “unclean” food that is eaten, simply passes through the body and comes out in excrement, which actually wasn’t considered impure. i.e., The stomach will take care of itself.

However, what’s most important is one’s heart. In first century understanding, the heart was the source of one’s soul and the seat of all “sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites and passions.” That’s where all defilement really comes from, and it’s shown by one’s behaviors and actions. Specifically, Jesus lists a number of behaviors that all are connected to how we treat others; and he cleverly bookends the list with “evil thoughts” and “foolishness.” 

There is an invitation for all of us today, as we observe Ash Wednesday and look towards Easter, to take some time to observe what’s in our own hearts. Christ leads us not to behavior or surface-level change, but instead to a deeper identity change that roots our lives in a Resurrection life modeled after Jesus. Rather than DOING for God today, ask the Spirit who God has created you to BE. 

Grace & Peace