At Odds With Christ (Mark 6:53-7:13)

At Odds With Christ (Mark 6:53-7:13)


I.) Know the Pharisees, Understand the Christ

There is much talk these days throughout the universal church about Pharisees. This is generally heard in at least two ways:

1.) Christians today are called Pharisaical legalists for lovingly exposing and confronting sin in the life of fellow believers.

2.) Teachers are called legalists for pointing lost humanity to the Law of God, so they may know they have fallen short of His glory.

It bothers me to hear a believer refer to another believer as a Pharisaical legalist, especially when it is:

1.) Directed at one striving to do their duty as a brother or sister in Christ.

2.) Used against men and woman who rightly use God’s law to reveal the need for Christ.

There is no such thing as an Evangelical legalist in the purest sense of the word. A legalist is someone who teaches you must earn your salvation via good works. In other words a legalist is a heretic, and a heretic is not a Christian.

A legalist is not one who beckons you to holy and righteous living due to your eternal life in Christ, Who appeased God with His life. A legalist is one who requires holy and righteous living in order to appease God and earn eternal life.

If we are honest, many people declared legalists today are those beckoning others to realize their true liberty in Christ.

We in Christ have been freed from sins power; therefore, we are not to obey the sinful desires of our hearts. We are to consider ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God.[1] We are not to let sin reign within our mortal bodies.[2] Sin is no longer our master, Christ and His righteousness is.[3] We are free to obey Him having been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.[4]

Listen to the Scripture:

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I AM Holy.’”[5]

Far too often the legalist card gets thrown out at people, because sins that ought to be abhorred by ones heart are loved and lived out. In pride, rather than repenting one reviles their brother or sister in Christ, by labeling them a legalist.

This stems from a serious misunderstanding of Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees. I would contest that all the talk going around shows that some do not understand the basics of the Pharisees or legalism. If we do not have a correct understanding of the Pharisees, we are going to have a skewed and idolatrous view of Jesus. Our understanding of the Pharisees is critical to our worship of Christ and our being sanctified in Him.

It basically boils down to this: Know the Pharisees, and understand the Christ. Misunderstand the Pharisees, and misconstrue the Christ.


II.) You Have Heard it Been Said

We have probably all heard it been said that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because “they were too focused on the Law of God.” They were too “Old Testament” so to speak. This is not true. If you have been under that kind of teaching you have been taught a lie. If you believe that is why Jesus rebuked them, stop for it is detrimental to your very walk with Him.

If Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for upholding the Law of God, not only do you have division in the God-head, but you have a Christ:

1.) That cares nothing of God’s Holy character, which is the very thing revealed in the Law.

2.) That cares nothing of your sanctification, where Christ empowers you to love His righteousness and hate your sin.

Sanctification conveys being set apart from sin and set apart to God, meaning to be holy.

Now our sanctification is a rather broad topic in that there are three phases:

1.) We are sanctified, which positionally occurs with our justification by faith alone in Christ’s finished work.[6]

2.) We are being sanctified, which progressively occurs throughout the life of every believer justified in Christ.[7]

3.) We will be sanctified, which permanently occurs when Christ glorifies every believer He justified.[8]

It is important we understand that when we hear of sanctification this morning we are dealing with the second phase of it. This is because our being sanctified does require our effort. We are to work out our salvation with fear, for God is at work both to will and work for His good pleasure.[9]

Remember, “Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also…”

A faulty understanding of Jesus’ issue with the Pharisees will inevitably undermine our progressive sanctification in Him.


III.) Market Driven Falsehood

This faulty understanding is being massed produced within evangelicalism. The false narrative of Jesus reproving the Pharisees for teaching the Law of God fits perfectly within seeker sensitive thinking.

Seeker sensitive teachers rightly conclude the lost hate the Law of God. What better way to draw lost people in then to teach that Jesus hates the very people who uphold the very thing they hate. This is the poisonous depths of relevancy many have sunk to. It will draw a crowd, because at that point every lost person will be able to relate to Jesus. The lost will not flock to a Christ who upholds that which they hate, the Law. They will flock to a Christ who downplays what they hate, so they may continue in what they love, sin. The tragedy is that professing believers adhering to this false narrative do the same.

Based on the narrative, anyone who teaches the revealed Law of God fulfilled by Christ is therefore a Pharisee. If we think about it, Christians are being conditioned to hate God Himself, because the Law is an expression of His unchanging character.

In this teaching both salvation for the lost, and believer’s sanctification will be hindered.

Understand these two things:

1.) There is not a single person on this earth that can put saving faith in Christ without being confronted by God’s character in the Law.

2.) There is not a single believer on this earth who is being sanctified without considering God’s character revealed in the Law.


IV.) Oh, How the Tables Have Turned

Jesus did not rebuke the Pharisees for teaching the Law of God. In fact, He did the exact opposite! He rebuked the Pharisees for disregarding the Law of God, and elevating man’s law. They were not imposing God’s Law upon the people; they grossly distorted it into a man-centered self-righteous works system. A system they regularly violated while hypocritically imposing it.

If you have felt confused by Jesus’ rebuking of the Pharisees, Mark 7 will give you clarity. Before we go there, however, I want us to look at a time when Jesus tells the people to “do and observe” what the Pharisees say.

Matthew 23:1-3

Q.) Why were people to do and observe what they said when sitting in the seat of Moses?

A.) When they sat in the seat of Moses they could only speak the Law of God.

They were not free to expound upon the distorted traditions they enforced.

Let’s now turn our gaze to Mark 7, because Mark clearly defines Jesus’ issue with them. We see Jesus and the disciples have crossed the sea and are now at Gennesaret:

Mark 6:53-56

Jesus continues to demonstrate His power. Scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem are amid the crowd and take issue with matters:

Mark 7:1-2

The issue is self-explanatory: Some of Jesus’ “disciples were eating their bread with unwashed hands.”

Thankfully for us Mark’s Roman audience is showing, because he explains the issue:

Mark 7:3-5

The issue is Jesus and His disciples do not follow the tradition of the elders. The tradition of the elders was oral teachings separate from the Law of God established during Babylonian captivity. The teachings were later compiled into the Talmud in the 2nd century A.D. It contains extensive man-made regulations that attempted to preserve the Law, but it actually did the exact opposite through time. It not only obscured and nullified it, but it established a system that superseded the Law itself.

Jesus provides an example of this:

Mark 7:9-13

He is comparing God’s Law on caring for parents to the tradition of corban. God’s Law commanded people to honor and respect their parents, and to always make a priority caring for them. Corban was a way of saying your resources would be used for sacred use, thus making them forbidden to anyone. One who declares corban can keep possession of the material, and is not required to donate it. A person could even reverse corban whenever they wanted the possession for their own use. A circumvention of the law occurred. People were thus permitted to break God’s Law for honoring parents, while simultaneously maintaining an appearance of loyal worship. People turned aside from the Law believing outer conformity to the traditions saved them.

Look at Jesus’ indictment against them:

Mark 7:6-8

Q.) What is Christ’s issue with them?

A.) They neglect the Law of God, and turn to the teaching of men.

In other words, they deny the sufficiency of the Word of the Living God! They do not think it is enough, so they look elsewhere. Since they neglect the Law of God: Their hearts are far from Him. They worship Him in vain.


V.) Remember His Prayer for You

I fear that a majority of mainstream Christianity falls under this indictment. God’s Word is treated and declared insufficient for:

1.) The Christian

2.) The Church

3.) The Times

Q.) What then is the outcome if we believe and live as if the Word of God is not enough?

A1.) Our hearts are far from Him.

A2.) We worship Him in vain.

Q.) Is it not ironic that those who brandish Pharisee the most towards others are actually defined as one by Jesus Christ Himself?

If we do not believe God’s Word is enough we find ourselves at odds with Christ! I have but one point of application for you: Remember His prayer for you in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth, Thy word is truth.”


[1] Romans 6:11

[2] Romans 6:12

[3] Romans 6:18

[4] Colossians 1:13

[5] Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Peter 1:14-16

[6] 1 Corinthians 1:30;6:11; Ephesians 1:4

[7] Romans 8:13,29; 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:20-24; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4

[8] Romans 8:29-30; Philippians 3:12; 1 John 3:2-3

[9] Philippians 2:12-13

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