August 8, 2021

Stop Seeking a Scapegoat Out There

Pastor KJ Kim

Mark 7: 14-22

In today’s passage, the Pharisees had been following their rules a very long time—both the written Torah, given to them directly by Moses, and the oral Torah, developed by faithful rabbis over hundreds of years. They were lay people, not priests, but they adopted priestly standards for themselves.

For the Pharisees, most of the concerns and laws were about the issue of purity. They thought that physical impurity was a sign of moral impurity, so that the dirty hands pointed to a dirty heart.

Imagine how Pharisees felt when Jesus touched and laid his hands on a dead body, a leper, or sent a bunch of pigs over a cliff. How about the moment Jesus sat down to supper with a house full of sinners and violated the Sabbath?

For the Pharisees, touching unclean things may carry not only physical germs but also spiritual ones too. That is why the Pharisees were so upset when Jesus’s disciples dug into their lunch without washing their hands first. It was not just bad manners, but it was bad faith.

As a matter of fact, Jesus did not seem to care about the purity laws. Rather, Jesus cared for other things instead—forgiveness, self-sacrifice, and the power of love.

So, when the Pharisees criticized his disciples, Jesus taught today’s lesson in the passage, verses 16-17, saying, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

What today’s passage tells us is that the danger is not out there, with the people who frighten and disturb us. The danger is in here, in the part of us that wants to cut ourselves off from them.

Jesus knows the full potential of our hearts for good and evil. Meanwhile, Jesus volunteers himself to everyone who still needs a scapegoat. And Jesus took the blame, and even invites us to bring him what we hate, what we fear out there and in here, reminding us, “We do not need to be afraid of getting dirty because of Jesus Christ.”

Another really, inconvenient truth for our faith journey is that the enemy, the one that prevents us from following Christ, is not out there, but the real enemy is in here inside of us.

Let’s stop making and seeking a scapegoat out there.

And let’s keep fighting a good fight to follow the Christ by checking the enemy inside of us.

Amen.