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Then the Pharisees returned to talk with Jesus, and with them came some of the scribes and scholars from Jerusalem.

Scribes and Scholars (seeing the disciples eating): Your disciples are eating bread with defiled, unwashed hands.

Now you need to know that the Pharisees, and all Jews for that matter, held the tradition of their ancestors that hands must be washed before eating to avoid being ritually unclean. Likewise, they washed when they returned from the market and followed similar purity teachings as well, from the washing of their food to the washing of their bowls, cups, and kettles.

Scribes and Pharisees: Why don’t Your disciples follow the traditions passed down to us? Why do they eat their bread with defiled hands?

Jesus: Isaiah prophesied wisely about your religious pretensions when he wrote,

    These people honor Me with words off their lips;
        meanwhile their hearts are far from Me.
    Their worship is empty, void of true devotion.
        They teach a human commandment, memorized and practiced by rote.[a]

When you cling blindly to your own traditions [such as washing utensils and cups],[b] you completely miss God’s command. Then, indeed, you have perfected setting aside God’s commands for the sake of your tradition. 10 Moses gave you God’s commandment: “Honor your father and your mother.”[c] And also, “If you curse your father or your mother, you will be put to death.”[d] 11 But you say to your aged parents, “I’ve decided that the support you were expecting from me will now be the holy offering set aside for God.” 12 After that he is not allowed to do anything for his parents. 13 Do you think God wants you to honor your traditions that you have passed down? This is only one of many places where you are blind. 14 (to the crowd that had gathered) Listen, all of you, to this teaching. I want you to understand. 15 There is nothing outside someone that can corrupt him. Only the things that come out of a person can corrupt him. [16 All who have ears to hear, let them listen.][e]

17 When they had come in from the road, His disciples asked Him what He meant by this teaching.

Jesus: 18 Do you mean you don’t understand this one either? Whatever goes into people from outside can’t defile them 19 because it doesn’t go into their hearts. Outside things go through their guts and back out, thus making all foods pure.[f] 20 No, it’s what comes from within that corrupts. 21-22 It’s what grows out of the hearts of people that leads to corruption: evil thoughts, immoral sex, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wicked acts, treachery, sensuality, jealousy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All of these come from within, and these are the sins that truly corrupt a person.

Although Mark specifically states that Jesus is overriding the Old Testament dietary laws and declaring all foods pure, it will be a long time before the disciples are willing to act on that message. One of the biggest controversies in the early church will be the question of dietary restrictions and how the Old Testament laws ought to be observed by Jewish and non-Jewish Christian believers. However, Jesus makes it clear in this passage that His main concern has nothing to do with what people eat. Instead, He is concerned about the hearts of His followers.

24 From there Jesus and His followers traveled to the region of Tyre [and Sidon][g] on the Mediterranean coast. He hoped to slip unnoticed into a house, but people discovered His presence. 25 Shortly after He arrived, a woman whose daughter was filled with an unclean spirit heard that He was there, so she came directly to Him and prostrated herself at His feet.

26 The woman was not a Jew, but a Syrophoenician (a Greek) by birth. All the same, she came to Jesus and begged Him to cast the unclean spirit out of her daughter.

Jesus (shaking His head): 27 I must feed the children first. It would do no good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.

Syrophoenician Woman: 28 Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table may eat of the children’s crumbs.

Jesus (smiling and nodding): 29 This is a wise saying. Go back home. Your daughter is free of the spirit that troubled her.

30 And when she returned to her house, she discovered that it was as Jesus had told her. Her daughter lay on her bed, in her right mind, whole and healthy.

Although Jesus at first answers the Greek woman harshly, He ultimately responds to her request. By healing her daughter, He demonstrates that God’s loving presence has come to all people and not just to Jews. It’s one of the first glimpses in this Gospel of the truth that will become clearer later—the truth that, through Jesus, God is making all people, and not just one chosen nation, clean and whole.

31 Jesus traveled on His way through Tyre and Sidon, eventually returning to the region of the Sea of Galilee. From there He pressed on to the area of the Ten Cities.[h] 32 Among the sick who were brought to Him was a man who was deaf and could barely speak at all, and those who brought him begged Jesus to lay His hands on the man. 33 Jesus took him aside from the crowd, alone, and touched his ears with His fingers. Then after spitting on His fingers, Jesus touched the man’s tongue. 34 Looking heavenward to God, Jesus sighed and commanded,

Jesus: Open up[i] and let this man speak.

35 [Immediately][j] the man could hear, his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. 36 Jesus ordered those who had witnessed this to tell no one; but the more He insisted, the more zealously people spread the word.

People (astonished): 37 He does everything so well! He even returns sound to the deaf and mute.


  1. 7:6–7 Isaiah 29:13
  2. 7:8 Some of the earliest manuscripts omit this portion.
  3. 7:10 Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16
  4. 7:10 Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9
  5. 7:16 Some manuscripts omit verse 16.
  6. 7:19 The earliest texts say “Jesus declared all foods pure.”
  7. 7:24 Some manuscripts omit this portion.
  8. 7:31 Literally, the Decapolis
  9. 7:34 Aramaic, Ephphatha
  10. 7:35 Some of the earliest manuscripts omit this word.

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