Mark 7 concludes with the words of Gentiles and half-breed Jews living in an area east of the Jordan River, across from Samaria (called the Decapolis). Their assessment of His mighty works? “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (ESV). The Decapolis was initially a province of ten cities built by Alexander the Great and modeled on Athens. They were originally populated with retired Greek soldiers and their families, and were meant as “incubators” to influence the Jews to adopt Greek culture. Idolatry and pagan immorality were their dominant influences. That the pagan people there praised Jesus contrasts sharply with the accusations of the religious leaders in Jerusalem in the earlier part of this chapter (vv. 1-5). Jesus had condemned their substitution of their own commandments for God’s (vv. 6-7), and censured them for trying to escape responsibility for their parents (vv. 9-13), declaring that they were “voiding” God’s word in this.
God had commanded the children of Israel to, “Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). In Ephesians 6:2, the apostle Paul also pointed out that this was the first of the ten commandments to include a specific promise. Instead of fulfilling this law by taking care of their aging parents, the Jewish rulers of Jesus’ day taught that the people could instead make a donation/offering to the temple in their parents’ names (“corban,” vs. 11), and thus be absolved of their responsibility. Jesus pointed out at the end of verse 13 that this was just one of many areas where they had created “substitutes” for God’s commandments! What they did then is no different than those in “christendom” who claim “liberty” to alter the pattern of instructions in the new testament simply because “times have changed” or “we like it better this way” (the excuses used to justify the use of instrumental music in worship are a good example here). How much better off we would be, to simply follow the Lord’s example and aspire to do “all things” well according to the Father’s will!
Jesus’ words in Mark 9:1 make absolute liars of some of the most prominent and influential religious teachers of our era. One of the common doctrines of modern Protestantism asserts that Jesus somehow failed to establish His kingdom in this world, being crucified when He expected to be crowned. This doctrine (millennialism) claims that His purpose was to rule an earthly kingdom from Jerusalem for 1,000 years before taking the saved into heaven. It goes on to claim that He must now return to earth to “complete” His task of establishing God’s kingdom. Jesus Himself, however, told His own disciples that some of them would live to see the arrival of that kingdom “with power” in Mark 9:1. His words here mean that either;
1. He lied (or was wrong) about them living to see His kingdom come, or;
2. Somewhere in the world of the twenty-first century some of these apostles are still alive in the flesh (now being about 2,000 years old!), or;
3. His kingdom came, fully, during their lifetimes in the first century!
If point one or two is true, we dare not believe what Jesus said about anything else (such as salvation), for He clearly did not know what He was talking about, and was therefore a false messiah! If the third possibility is correct, then one of the fundamental beliefs of modern denominationalism is absolutely wrong (and it is; in Colossians 1:13, first-century Christians were IN that kingdom!). Millennialism should be rejected and discarded without a second thought by every person with a good and honest heart.