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Reflections On “A Ransom For Many” — 8

Daniel Tan



Mark 8:1–30


The idea of being clean is quite foreign to us for the most part. Not in the sense of bathing or in the sense of being hygienic, but the word ‘clean’ stems from the Hebrew concept of pureness or without blemish. The word as used from the time of Noah is tahowr (pronounced ta-hore). Rather than a physical cleanliness, it is about the ceremonial aspect of the being. In other places of the Bible, the question ‘is it without defect’ might be asked.


The reason being that animals with defects were seen as not pure enough for sacrifice to the gods or God in our case. This harkens back even to Cain and Abel, where only the pure and unblemished were sacrificed. That was probably why year-old animals were sacrificed rather than old ones. At that point, animals were likely at their prime. It could’ve been a marker that those animals, which would have otherwise been prized as livestock, were instead being offered to God as a symbol of our relationship with Him and His constant providence.


Therefore being clean was much less about the ceremonial and the physical aspect. It was really about the relationship and what being clean signified for that relationship. After all, you would not go dirty to a meeting with friends and especially not to a meeting with an important person. In the same vein, you would not present something unclean to God. That goes without saying.

But God doesn't just look at the outside. He has vision into our psyches and souls. The outside is probably less important than the insides after all. If God was so concerned about the outer being, Jesus would not have talked about “white-washed tombs” (Matthew 23:27-28), which look great on the outside but within contain only death and decay. The warning is that if we do not ensure the cleanliness within ourselves, there is a risk of becoming like white-washed tombs who only care about outward presentation.


That said, if we're not careful even a bit of the wrong mindset can influence us. Jesus likens the Pharisees’ teachings to yeast (Mark 8:15). Jesus' greatest condemnation of the Pharisees was always their lack of compassion and their fervent adherence to the law to the point that it superceded all else that God had commanded in terms of faith, love and grace. Yeast has the property of being living and therefore as long as you don't kill it, just a bit of yeast and sugar can work through an entire dough.


Yeast is great for baking and fermenting things, but it can also do detriment if you add too much and can go out of control. Also, not all yeast is the same. Bakers' yeast is different from the yeast you add to kombucha. Jesus uses the analogy of yeast both to describe the teaching of the Pharisees and the Kingdom of God. You need to apply the right kind of yeast to the right kind of situation. In the same vein, there's probably a place to be structured and keep tally of doings like the Pharisees. Jesus never faulted them for being righteous. In fact, he tells the disciples they have to be at least as righteous as the Pharisees. However, he admonishes that their self-righteousness leads them to blindness and to apathy.



Daniel Tan

Daniel is currently and forevermore will be a student and a learner, trying to delve into the deep conundrums of life and seeing where the path leads. He enjoys linking different things in life back to God through strange and seemingly random connections.