“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
Their rules and rituals infuriated Jesus. The Master of mercy, the King of compassion, disdained fabricated religion that overturned the message of the Kingdom. Jesus had come for helpless children and broken men, for honest seekers and repentant women; hypocrites made him furious.
He made certain the Pharisees got his point. Their lips pretended to honor God, but they only masqueraded as his followers with their hearts “far from” him (Mark 7:6). Focused on millions of mindless minutia, they ignored and rejected the commandments of God. Consumed with ensuring their traditions were meticulously maintained, these religious elite completely cancelled the truth and the worth of God’s Word.
Purity on the outside was paramount to the Pharisees; cleanliness and copious washings were mandatory. Jesus clarified that he was far more concerned with purified hearts than with clean hands and dishes. He explained that it was useless to continually wash the exterior when the interior of our hearts was the real trouble. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts…all these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23).
Jesus emphasized that his Kingdom had different rules. The ones eager to be first, had to be willing to be last. In order to be a great leader, you had to make serving others a priority. The road to being exalted was paved with humility and contentment. If you really wanted to be considered great, from Jesus’ perspective, you had to be willing to be the least and to care for those others hardly considered. Jesus made it clear that he valued the heart filled with these qualities.
Christ rocked the Pharisees neatly ordered world. And he went on to revolutionize the entire world forever when he fulfilled every rule himself. He was the only one with the cleanest heart who was capable and willing to wash us “white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18) and “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). He was the Master Servant who sacrificially surrendered everything he was and everything he had to make certain he could transfer his perfect heart to us.
Elizabeth A. Mitchell
Photo Credit: Paul Westell