Jesus' Concept Of Holiness vs. Boycott/Shunning Concept
Jerry Bowyer Chief Economist of Vident Financial, Editor of Townhall Finance, and President of Bowyer Research
- 2020 Mar 17
As we've seen heretofore in this series (here, here, and here), The Pharisees and the scribes which they employed attacked Jesus repeatedly for violating their understanding of unholiness via social engagement with sinners. They saw someone who benefited economically from a person who had gotten money corruptly as participating in, or being otherwise tainted by, the sinful way in which the money was made. This is an example of one of the teachings of the elders. It is not something taught in the Torah directly, but interpreted from it. This practice of adding commandments is something which Jesus sees as emblematic of the Pharisee/scribe coalition.
The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered together around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?" And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. 'But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'…
Mark 7:1-7 NAS
Jesus, on the other hand, has a very different approach to social exchange, material benefits and holiness. He inverts their holiness concept, arguing that it is not what is in-coming (income) or received which conveys defilement, but rather what is out-going.
…there is nothing outside the which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man….
And He said to them, "Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him; because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?" (Thus He declared all foods clean.) And He was saying, "That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.“ For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. "All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man."
Mark 7:15, 18-23 NAS
A perfect example of this principle is shown dramatically in the incident with the woman who had a hemorrhage:
And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind Him, and touched the fringe of His cloak; and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. And Jesus said, "Who is the one who touched Me?" And while they were all denying it, Peter said, "Master, the multitudes are crowding and pressing upon You." But Jesus said, "Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me…
Luke 8:43-46, 48-49 NAS
Note that under the traditional understanding she would have rendered Jesus unclean, and perhaps even the whole crowd. But in this case she is made whole. Note the direction, the vector, of power. Instead of her uncleanness being contagious, His cleanliness is. Even though something is flowing out of her in an unclean and unhealthy way, what flows out of Him is what determines the outcome. Power goes out of him. While the temple could be defiled by what is brought into it, Jesus, the true and final temple, cannot. Out of Him flows life. As the title of Craig Blomberg's book puts it, Jesus possessed 'Contagious Holiness.'
It is noteworthy that immediately following this, Jesus will be called upon to deal directly with the corpse of a young woman, and will once again show that the flow of power is from Him outwards into the uncleanliness of death, rather than the other way around.