Jesus said, “There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man” (Mark 7:35).
Commentators generally miss the point of vs. 15–23 by applying them to the problem of clean and unclean flesh foods as distinguished in Lev. 11. The circumstance makes definitely clear that Jesus was not calling into question in any way principle of the Old Testament, but rather was negating the validity of oral customs (Mark 7:3), and here definitely the custom that stated food eaten with hands unfittingly washed (in a ritualistic sense) became the cause of defilement (see on v. 2).
It was always, and fully, “the commandments of men” (v. 7) against which Jesus objected, in sharp distinction to the “commandment of God” (v. 8) as set forth in the Scriptures. To apply vs. 15–23 to the matter of clean and unclean meats is to overlook the context completely. Had Jesus at this time eradicated the distinction between clean and unclean flesh foods it is clear that Peter would not later have replied as he did to the idea of eating unclean flesh foods (Acts 10:9–18, 34; 11:5–18).
It should be stressed that the problem under debate between Jesus and the Pharisees had nothing whatever to do with the kind of food to be eaten, but only with the way in which it was to be eaten—whether with or without customary hand washing (vs. 2, 3). According to Jewish guidelines, even meat that was clean according to Lev. 11 might still be measured as unclean by reason of contact with unclean persons (Mark 6:43).
Here Christ confirms that moral desecration from breaking “the commandment of God” is of much greater significance than ritual desecration, mainly so when the latter is based entirely on “the tradition of men” (vs. 7, 8). To defile the soul, Jesus says, is a far more severe matter than ritual desecration of the body, induced by contact with persons or things that are ritually unclean.
In His service,
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