Chapter 12: Mark 5–7

New Testament Student Manual, 2014


Introduction and Timeline for Mark 5–7

Chapters 5–7 of Mark’s Gospel advance themes that were introduced in Mark 1–4. Mark’s accounts of the Savior’s miracles reveal the Savior’s great compassion and teach eternal truths about the plan of salvation. The opposition toward the Savior (see Mark 2:1–3:7) intensified with the death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod Antipas (see Mark 6:14–29)—an event that foreshadowed the Savior’s own impending suffering and death, as well as the future martyrdom of many of His disciples (see Mark 8:34–35; 10:38; 13:11–13). As some Pharisees continued to find fault with Jesus Christ and His disciples, the Savior reproved them for placing their traditions above the commandments of God (see Mark 7:1–13).

lesson 12 timeline

Commentary for Mark 5–7

Mark 5–7. The Savior’s Miracles Teach Eternal Truths

The miracles discussed in Mark 5:1–43; 6:30–44; 7:31–37 give important insights into the truths the Savior taught. Miracles were “an important element in the work of Jesus Christ, being not only divine acts, but forming also a part of the divine teaching. … They were intended to be a proof to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ (Matt. 11:4–5; John 2:11; 10:25; 20:30–31). Many of them were also symbolic, teaching such divine truths as the result of sin and the cure of sin; the value of faith; the curse of impurity; and the law of love” (Bible Dictionary, “Miracles”). Thus, a profitable way to study the Savior’s miracles is to remember that each miracle points to something larger than the event itself, and to look for specific truths about God and His work that the miracle affirms (see the commentaries for Mark 5:1–20, for Mark 5:22–24, 35–42, and for Mark 5:25–34).

Mark 5:1–20. Jesus Christ Cast Out Devils and Allowed Them to Enter a Herd of Swine (see also Matthew 8:28–34; Luke 8:26–39)

Though Mark and Luke identified the location of this miracle as Gadara and Matthew identified it as Gergesa, it is clear that the miracle took place on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, which was inhabited by Gentiles. This explains the presence of swine herding in the area—Gentiles could eat pork, but Jews could not, for eating pork was forbidden by the law of Moses (see Leviticus 11:1–8). The possessed man called himself “Legion,” a word that in New Testament times referred to a division of the Roman army usually composed of 3,000 to 6,000 soldiers. Mark and Luke clarified that the name “Legion” meant that the man was possessed by “many” evil spirits (Mark 5:9; Luke 8:30).

After Jesus cast out the devils, they asked Him to be allowed to enter a herd of swine. Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles identified several truths that we learn from this miracle:

“This particular instance of ejecting spirit beings from a stolen tenement is set forth in detail by the gospel writers to show:

“(1) That evil spirits, actual beings from Lucifer’s realm, gain literal entrance into mortal bodies;

“(2) That they then have such power over those bodies as to control the physical acts performed … ;

“(3) That persons possessed by evil spirits are subjected to the severest mental and physical sufferings and to the basest sort of degradation—all symbolical of the eternal torment to be imposed upon those who fall under Satan’s control in the world to come;

“(4) That devils remember Jesus from pre-existence … ;

“(5) That the desire to gain bodies is so great among Lucifer’s minions as to cause them, not only to steal the mortal tabernacles of men, but to enter the bodies of animals;

“(6) That the devils know their eventual destiny is to be cast out into an eternal hell from whence there is no return;

“(7) That rebellious and worldly people are not converted to the truth by observing miracles; and

“(8) That those cleansed from evil spirits can then be used on the Lord’s errand to testify of his grace and goodness so that receptive persons may be led to believe in him” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:311).

For more insight into accounts of Jesus Christ casting out evil spirits, see the commentary for Mark 1:23–27, 34; 3:11, 14–15, 22–30.

Mark 5:19. “Go Home to Thy Friends, and Tell Them”

In many instances, the Savior commanded a person whom He had healed not to spread news of the miracle (see the commentary for Mark 8:30). After casting out the legion of devils, the Savior did just the opposite and told the man, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee.” Perhaps this was because the miracle occurred in the Gentile region of Decapolis, away from the influence of Jewish leaders.

Mark 5:22–43. Narrative of Two Miraculous Healings

The account of the raising of Jairus’s daughter from the dead is interrupted by the account of the healing of the woman with an issue of blood. By relating events in this way, Mark may have encouraged his readers to consider the two miracles together. Jairus, “one of the rulers of the synagogue” (Mark 5:22), would have been socially respected; the unnamed woman would have been an outcast (see the commentary for Mark 5:25–34). The two miracles together show that the Savior’s compassion and power to heal are extended to all, regardless of social standing.

Mark 5:22–23. A Ruler of the Synagogue

In Jesus’s day, synagogues were presided over by a council of elders under the direction of a chief ruler, such as Jairus. Though he was held in high esteem by the Jews, Jairus showed great reverence to the Savior. The laying on of hands described in Mark 5:23 is the same ordinance of healing used today in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Mark 5:22–24, 35–42. Jesus Christ Raised Jairus’s Daughter from the Dead (see also Matthew 9:18–19, 23–26; Luke 8:41–42, 49–55)

This account of the healing of the daughter of Jairus is one of only three recorded instances when Jesus brought the dead back to life in anticipation of the great Resurrection, when He will bring all mankind back to life (see also Luke 7:11–15; John 11:38–44). Each of these accounts allows us to see the Savior’s tenderness toward those who grieve. President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95) analyzed the account of the healing of Jairus’s daughter and pointed out several truths the account teaches us about the Savior:

Christ Raising the Daughter of Jairus

Christ Raising the Daughter of Jairus, by Greg K. Olsen

“Nowhere else in the scriptures does this man [Jairus] or his name appear except on this occasion, yet his memory lives in history because of a brief contact with Jesus. Many, many lives have become memorable that otherwise would have been lost in obscurity had it not been for the touch of the Master’s hand that made a significant change of thought and action and a new and better life. …

“… The tremor we hear in Jairus’s voice as he speaks of ‘My little daughter’ stirs our souls with sympathy as we think of this man of high position in the synagogue on his knees before the Savior.

“Then comes a great acknowledgement of faith: ‘I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live’ [Mark 5:23]. These are not only the words of faith of a father torn with grief but are also a reminder to us that whatever Jesus lays his hands upon lives. If Jesus lays his hands upon a marriage, it lives. If he is allowed to lay his hands on the family, it lives. …

“… When they got to the home of the ruler of the synagogue, Jesus took the little girl by the hand and raised her from the dead. In like manner, he will lift and raise every man to a new and better life who will permit the Savior to take him by the hand” (“Reading the Scriptures,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 65).

video iconTo help you visualize the scriptural account of Jairus’s daughter, review the video segment video icon (3:26) from The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos, available on LDS.org. This segment covers Mark 5:22–24, 35–43.

Mark 5:25–34. The Healing of a Woman with an Issue of Blood (see also Matthew 9:20–22; Luke 8:43–48)

The Gospel accounts do not define the exact nature of the woman’s “issue of blood” (Mark 5:25). However, under the law of Moses, someone with an issue of blood was considered ritually unclean (see Leviticus 15:19–33), meaning that the woman would have been socially ostracized and excluded from the synagogue and the temple during the 12 long years of her ailment. The desperation she felt about her situation is suggested by the statement that she “had spent all that she had” seeking a cure from physicians (Mark 5:26).

The Savior’s question, “Who touched me?” (Mark 5:31), created the opportunity for the woman to acknowledge her act of faith and the miracle of her healing. The Savior’s response helped the woman and others present avoid the misconception that the miracle had resulted from any miraculous power in His garment itself—“Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole” (Mark 5:34; italics added). It also declared to the woman’s neighbors and the townspeople that she was now healed and no longer subject to the social and religious exclusions that had been imposed upon her for so many years. God’s power can restore both purity and wholeness.

woman touching Christ’s robe

Trust in the Lord, by Liz Lemon Swindle. “If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole” (Mark 5:28).

While serving as a member of the Seventy, Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander spoke about how the woman in this account acted in faith to come to the Savior:

“Among the crowd was a woman. … Outwardly, there was little to distinguish her from any other person in the crowd. No one tried to stop her from moving toward Jesus. Certainly, the Apostles neither noticed her nor made any attempt to stop her. But there was something that set her apart from all others in the crowd that day. Though buried among the thronging mass, she resolutely and quietly pressed forward with a single purpose in mind: to come to the Savior, having faith that He had the power to heal her, that He cared about her and would respond to her need. In this one thing she set herself apart from the crowd. The crowd came to see, but the woman came to be healed. …

“… All of us are among the crowds of this world. Almost all of us are like the woman who, despite the crowd, comes to the Savior. We all have faith that just a touch will bring healing to our aching souls and relief to our innermost needs.

“… In all of life’s circumstances let us quietly and resolutely press forward to the Savior, having faith that He cares about us and has the power to heal and save us” (“One among the Crowd,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 101–3).

Mark 5:30. What Is Meant by “Virtue Had Gone Out of Him”? (see also Luke 8:46)

Some translations of Mark 5:30—including the English King James Version and the Spanish Reina-Valera version of the Bible—state that “virtue” (Spanish virtud) went out of Jesus Christ when the woman was healed. In the original Greek text of the New Testament, the word corresponding to virtue is dunamis, which means “power” or “strength.”

The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) recorded an experience that helps us understand the “virtue,” or spiritual strength, that is required of a priesthood holder when administering to others: “Elder Jedediah M. Grant enquired of me the cause of my turning pale and losing strength last night while blessing children. I told him that I saw that Lucifer would exert his influence to destroy the children that I was blessing, and I strove with all the faith and spirit that I had to seal upon them a blessing that would secure their lives upon the earth; and so much virtue went out of me into the children, that I became weak, from which I have not yet recovered; and I referred to the case of the woman touching the hem of the garment of Jesus. (Luke, 8th chapter). The virtue here referred to is the spirit of life; and a man who exercises great faith in administering to the sick, blessing little children, or confirming, is liable to become weakened” (in History of the Church, 5:303).

Mark 5:35–36. “Be Not Afraid, Only Believe”

One can only imagine the devastation Jairus must have felt at the unexpected declaration that his daughter was dead. Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles used Jesus Christ’s comforting words to Jairus at that moment of devastation to teach the important principle that following Jesus involves choosing to keep our faith when faced with doubts or fears: “Challenges, difficulties, questions, doubts—these are part of our mortality. But we are not alone. As disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have enormous spiritual reservoirs of light and truth available to us. Fear and faith cannot coexist in our hearts at the same time. In our days of difficulty, we choose the road of faith. Jesus said, ‘Be not afraid, only believe’ [Mark 5:36]” (“You Know Enough,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 14).

Mark 5:38–40. “Them That Wept and Wailed Greatly”

When a family member died, it was a custom of the Jews of Jesus’s day to mourn with loud wailing and lamentation. Wealthy or prominent families like Jairus’s often hired people to lament with them (see Jeremiah 9:17–18; Amos 5:16). At Jairus’s house, it was likely a group of professional mourners who laughed scornfully at Jesus and who were asked by Jesus to leave (see Mark 5:40) to ensure reverence while the miraculous healing took place.

The raising of the young girl was witnessed only by her mother and father and by Peter, James, and John. While the faith of these five individuals was rewarded, those who had laughed at Jesus forfeited the opportunity to better know Him and witness His power.

Mark 5:41. Jesus Spoke in Aramaic

Aramaic was the language commonly spoken by the Jewish people in the first century A.D., and it is the language the Savior spoke. Mark recorded the actual Aramaic words the Savior spoke to the young girl (see Mark 5:41). Talitha is an Aramaic word meaning “young girl” or “damsel” (and may have been a nickname applied to a young girl in a moment of tenderness), while cumi is an Aramaic word of command meaning to “stand” or “arise.” After the Savior’s words, the young girl immediately arose.

Mark 6:1–4. Rejection in Nazareth

For insights on the rejection of Jesus by the people of Nazareth, see the commentary for Luke 4:22–30.

Mark 6:5, 13; 7:32. Healing by Laying on Hands and Anointing with Oil

The Gospel of Mark contains more references than the other Gospels to Jesus and His Apostles healing people by the laying on of hands (see Mark 1:41; 5:23; 6:5; 7:32; 8:23–25; 10:16; 16:18). Mark is the only Gospel to mention that the Savior’s Apostles anointed the sick with oil when administering to them (see Mark 6:13).

Christ Healing a Blind Man

Christ Healing a Blind Man, by Sam Lawlor

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that miraculous healings happen today, just as in biblical times, through the power of the priesthood:

video icon“Miracles happen when the authority of the priesthood is used to bless the sick. I have experienced these miracles. As a boy and as a man I have seen healings as miraculous as any recorded in the scriptures, and so have many of you. …

“The Old Testament frequently mentions anointing with oil as part of a blessing conferred by priesthood authority. Anointings were declared to be for sanctification and perhaps can also be seen as symbolic of the blessings to be poured out from heaven as a result of this sacred act.

“In the New Testament we read that Jesus’s Apostles ‘anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them’ (Mark 6:13). The book of James teaches the role of anointing in connection with the other elements in a healing blessing by priesthood authority:

“‘Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

“‘And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up’ (James 5:14–15).

“… When elders anoint a sick person and seal the anointing, they open the windows of heaven for the Lord to pour forth the blessing He wills for the person afflicted” (“Healing the Sick,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 48).

Mark 6:7–12. Sending Out the Twelve

For more information about the Savior sending out the Twelve Apostles to preach the gospel to the house of Israel, see the commentaries for Matthew 10:1–5, for Matthew 10:2–4, for Matthew 10:5–6, and for Matthew 10:9–10.

Mark 6:11. “Shake Off the Dust under Your Feet”

For insights on what it means to shake the dust off one’s feet, see the commentary for Matthew 10:14.

Mark 6:13. Symbolism of Olive Oil

Throughout the scriptures physical objects, such as olive oil, are used to represent sacred powers and practices. For example, President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) taught: “We find through all the prophetic writings that olive trees and olive oil are emblems of sacredness and purity” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. [1957–66], 1:152). In ancient times, anointing with oil was a symbol of sanctification. As described in Leviticus 8:12, Moses “poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron’s head, and anointed him, to sanctify him.” And sanctification leads to receiving the Holy Ghost (see Alma 13:12; 3 Nephi 27:20; see also Exodus 28:40–41; 29:36; 40:10–11; Leviticus 8:12).

Olive oil, which is exuded from crushed olives, can also be seen as a symbol of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated: “In the garden bearing the Hebrew name of Gethsemane—meaning ‘oil-press’—olives had been beaten and pressed to provide oil and food. There at Gethsemane, the Lord ‘suffered the pain of all men, that all … might repent and come unto him’ [D&C 18:11]. He took upon Himself the weight of the sins of all mankind, bearing its massive load that caused Him to bleed from every pore” (“The Atonement,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 35).

Mark 6:14–29. The Death of John the Baptist

“John preached and baptized for about six months before he baptized Jesus. He then continued about six to nine months afterward until he was imprisoned by Herod Antipas. During the imprisonment John was probably tortured, scourged (see Matt. 17:12–13), and bound with chains, for such was the ancient custom. … After nine to twelve months in the dungeon, John was beheaded at the order of Herod, who in his lust for Salome, a dancing girl, had fallen prey to a murderous scheme of Herodias to destroy John. (See Mark 6:17–29.) …

“Thus John died as a martyr, as have many of the Lord’s servants” (Robert J. Matthews, “‘There Is Not a Greater Prophet’: The Ministry of John the Baptist,” Ensign, Jan. 1991, 16–17).

In the Gospel of Mark, John the Baptist’s death is given more emphasis than his ministry (compare Mark 1:4–9, 14 with Mark 6:14–29). Mark recounted John’s death between accounts of the sending forth of the Twelve Apostles (see Mark 6:7–13) and their return (see Mark 6:30)—another “interrupted narrative” like the account of the healing of Jairus’s daughter. The effect is to underscore the potential cost of being a servant of God. Since John the Baptist was the forerunner of the Messiah, his death at the hands of wicked men foreshadowed the Savior’s own impending suffering and death (see Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33–34) and illustrated the persecution and violence many of the disciples of Jesus Christ would eventually face (see Mark 8:34–35; 10:38; John 15:20; 16:2).

Mark 6:17–20. Herod Antipas and Herodias

While visiting Rome, Herod Antipas became infatuated with Herodias, who, at the time, was married to Herod’s brother Philip. Herod proposed that Herodias leave Philip in order to marry him. That being done, Herod Antipas divorced his wife to marry Herodias. Herodias and Philip, however, were never legally divorced. When John the Baptist condemned the marriage as a violation of the law of Moses (see Leviticus 18:16), Herod had him put in prison (see Mark 6:17–18).

From Matthew 14:5 we learn that when Herod desired to put John to death, he feared to do so because the people knew John to be a prophet. The Joseph Smith Translation adds that Herod knew John to be “a just man, and a holy man, and one who feared God and observed to worship him” (Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 6:21 [in Mark 6:20, footnote b]). Despite his knowledge that John was a righteous and holy man, Herod chose to order John’s execution, thereby ending the mortal life of one of God’s greatest prophets—a dreadful choice for which Herod will be held accountable by God.

Mark 6:21–29, 34–44. Two Feasts

Mark 6 presents contrasting accounts of two very different feasts: the self-indulgent and licentious birthday feast of Herod Antipas, which resulted in the death of John the Baptist, and the Savior’s miraculous feeding of a multitude of five thousand. Thus a worldly king brought death, while the King of kings sustained life.

Mark 6:32–44. The Feeding of the Five Thousand (see also Matthew 14:15–21; Luke 9:12–17; John 6:3–14)

The Greek text of Mark 6:44 makes clear that the phrase “five thousand men” meant five thousand males. Matthew 14:21 makes this unmistakable by adding the statement “beside women and children.”

The feeding of the five thousand is one of the only miracles besides the Resurrection that is found in all four Gospels. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles identified an eternal truth we learn from this miracle: “Don’t worry about Christ running out of ability to help you. His grace is sufficient. That is the spiritual, eternal lesson of the feeding of the 5,000” (Trusting Jesus [2003], 73).

two fish and basket

Mosaic depicting two fish and a basket containing round loaves of bread. The mosaic is from the floor of a church built in the fifth century A.D. at the traditional site of the feeding of the five thousand. This miracle showed the compassion Jesus had for the people (see Mark 6:34).

Similarly, Elder J. Devn Cornish of the Seventy taught that the feeding of the five thousand is one of the scriptural accounts that “can teach us symbolically of the power and abundance of the Savior’s atoning grace. … His grace is truly abundant and more than sufficient to meet all our needs” (“Learning How the Atonement Can Change You,” Ensign, Apr. 2002, 23). This truth can be appreciated by noticing the sequence of statements and actions:

  1. 1.

    The Savior gave a commandment beyond the disciples’ present ability: “Give ye them to eat” (Mark 6:37). The impossibility of this task is reflected in the disciples’ response, found only in Mark. They said that the amount of bread needed to feed such a multitude would have been “two hundred pennyworth,” or two hundred denarii—roughly eight months’ wages for a common laborer.

  2. 2.

    The Savior asked the disciples what they could provide: “How many loaves have ye?” (Mark 6:38). The disciples told the Savior they had found five loaves and two fishes.

  3. 3.

    The Savior instructed, “Bring them hither to me” (Matthew 14:18).

  4. 4.

    The disciples gave the Savior what they had.

  5. 5.

    The Savior blessed and multiplied what the disciples were able to provide, miraculously meeting and surpassing what was needed.

This sequence mirrors a pattern in our relationship with the Savior. On our own, we fall far short of the perfection and glory of God (see Matthew 5:48; Romans 3:23). But when we offer our whole souls to the Savior, the abundant power and grace of His Atonement will more than compensate for our shortcomings (see 2 Nephi 25:23; Omni 1:26; Moroni 10:32–33).

Jesus and disciples

The disciples found a boy with five loaves and two fish, by Paul Mann

President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency taught that the Savior’s power to multiply the loaves and fishes shows that He will magnify our faithful efforts to serve in His Church, even if we feel that our efforts are equal to only a few loaves and fishes:

video icon“Many nameless people with gifts equal only to five loaves and two small fishes magnify their callings [in the Church] and serve without attention or recognition, feeding literally thousands. … These are the hundreds of thousands of leaders and teachers in all of the auxiliaries and priesthood quorums, the home teachers, the Relief Society visiting teachers. These are the many humble bishops in the Church, some without formal training, but greatly magnified, always learning, with a humble desire to serve the Lord and the people of their wards. …

“A major reason this church has grown from its humble beginnings to its current strength is the faithfulness and devotion of millions of humble and devoted people who have only five loaves and two small fishes to offer in the service of the Master” (“Five Loaves and Two Fishes,” Ensign, May 1994, 5–6).

Mark 6:46–53. The Savior Walked on a Stormy Sea

Mark pointed out that the disciples’ fear and amazement came because they had not fully understood the miracle they had witnessed the previous day. For insights about the account of the Savior walking upon the sea, see the commentary for Matthew 14:27–31.

Mark 7:1–13. False Traditions Can Lead People to Reject or Neglect the Word of God

The washing of hands described in Mark 7:1–5 refers to a ceremonial washing for the sake of ritual purity. Under the law of Moses, many aspects of daily life were divided into categories of “clean” and “unclean.” Uncleanness referred to being ceremonially or ritually unclean and did not mean that the person was either unsanitary or morally unclean, though ritually “unclean” persons were excluded from certain religious and social activities until they were purified. By New Testament times, Jewish concern for ritual purity had given rise to many traditions, including the ritual washings described in Mark 7:1–5. These traditions in Jesus’s day were oral (not written) and were passed down from rabbi to rabbi and to their followers or students. They later became incorporated in written form in the Talmud.

When the Pharisees found fault with the Savior’s disciples for not observing these traditional rituals, the Savior reproved the Pharisees for professing devotion to God while placing a higher priority on man-made traditions than on God’s commandments. Such inconsistency was hypocrisy (see Mark 7:6). An example of this hypocrisy was the Pharisees’ observance of the tradition of “corban” (see Mark 7:10–13). Corban meant “given to God.” A tradition of the elders held that if a man had money or other resources he intended to give to God or the temple, those resources could be declared “corban” and need not be used to care for his aging parents, even though God had commanded, “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12). Placing man-made tradition above the word of God in ways like this showed that traditions had taken precedence over the word of God (see Mark 7:6, 13).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks declared that as members of the Church, we must be willing to give up “all of our practices—personal, family, ethnic, and national—that are contrary to the commandments of God”:

“The teachings of Jesus also challenged the traditions of different groups. … ‘Hypocrites’ is what He called those whose adherence to their traditions kept them from keeping the commandments of God [see Mark 7:6; Matthew 15:7]. …

“The traditions or culture or way of life of a people inevitably include some practices that must be changed by those who wish to qualify for God’s choicest blessings.

“Chastity is an example. … Always the prophets of God have condemned whoredoms. Yet these eternal commands have frequently been ignored, opposed, or mocked by powerful traditions in many lands. … Sexual relations out of wedlock are tolerated or advocated by many. So is the rapidly expanding culture of pornography. All who have belonged to these cultures of sin must repent and change if they are to become the people of God, for He has warned that ‘no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom’ (3 Nephi 27:19). …

“Another example is honesty. Some cultures allow lying, stealing, and other dishonest practices. But dishonesty in any form—whether to appease, to save face, or to get gain—is in direct conflict with gospel commandments and culture. God is a God of truth, and God does not change. We are the ones who must change” (“Repentance and Change,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2003, 38).

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that we will find greater happiness and peace when we make sure our family and cultural traditions align with the gospel of Jesus Christ: “I testify that you will remove barriers to happiness and find greater peace as you make your first allegiance your membership in the Church of Jesus Christ, and His teachings the foundation of your life. Where family or national traditions or customs conflict with the teachings of God, set them aside. Where traditions and customs are in harmony with His teachings, they should be cherished and followed to preserve your culture and heritage. There is one heritage that you need never change. It is that heritage that comes from your being a daughter or son of Father in Heaven. For happiness, control your life by that heritage” (“Removing Barriers to Happiness,” Ensign, May 1998, 87).

Mark 7:4. The Washing of Cups

limestone dishes

First century A.D. limestone plates and cups found in Israel

Photograph by James Jeffery

Mark recorded that Jewish traditions about ritual purity included ceremonies for purifying “of cups, and pots, brasen [brass] vessels, and of tables” (Mark 7:4). Limestone vessels were valued because they were believed to retain ritual purity over other kinds of vessels.

Mark 7:6, 14–23. Purity of the Heart

As recorded in Mark 7:6, 14–23, the Savior directed His disciples’ attention away from outward rituals to the condition of one’s heart (see especially verses 6, 19, 21, 23). The Joseph Smith Translation emphasizes this: “There is nothing from without, that entering into a man, can defile him, which is food; but the things which come out of him; those are they that defile the man, that proceedeth forth out of the heart” (Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 7:15; compare Mark 7:15, footnote a). For more insights on this aspect of the Savior’s teachings, see the commentary for Matthew 15:8.

Mark 7:21–22. That Which Defiles a Man

While speaking to the Pharisees, the Savior identified various violations of God’s law that prevent a person from being pure, such as evil thoughts, immorality, murder, theft, covetousness, deceit, pride, blasphemy, and foolishness (see Mark 7:21–22). After quoting Mark 7:21–22, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles warned against the dangers of modern-day “foolishness,” one of the “evil things” that defile a person:

“The definition of the Greek word translated as ‘foolishness’ in Mark 7:22 includes ‘senselessness’ and ‘egotism.’ It is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘mindless,’ ‘stupid,’ ‘ignorant,’ ‘egotistic,’ ‘rash,’ or ‘unbelieving.’ Most of the scriptures that use the word imply lack of wisdom. These are all serious matters in their own right.

“But I think there is an additional reason ‘foolishness’ was included by the Savior with other, more serious conduct. Foolishness often accompanies and leads to more serious transgressions. Think of all the pranks of which you are aware and how many cross over the line of propriety and become coarse, indecent, raunchy, and smutty. For some time I have worried about the frivolous and immoral exhibitionism that is so prevalent in modern society. Celebrities, sports and movie stars, and participants on the Internet engage in conduct and set examples that are at the very least decadent. …

“When there are so many needs in the world to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, spend wholesome time with our family and friends, house the homeless, feed the poor, heal the sick, improve the environment, love our neighbors as ourselves, then time spent in foolish endeavors is seen in its true light” (“Choices and Challenges” [evening with Elder Quentin L. Cook, Feb. 27, 2009], 6–7; si.lds.org).

Mark 7:24–30. The Healing of the Daughter of a Gentile Woman

For insights about the healing of the daughter of a Gentile woman, see the commentary for Matthew 15:21–28.

Mark 7:31–37. The Healing of a Deaf Man

Before performing this miracle of healing, the Savior took the deaf man aside privately, touched his ears and tongue, and looked up to heaven (see Mark 7:33–34). Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained, “The Lord is dealing with a believing soul who cannot hear his words or give fluent answer to them. And so what is more natural than to make use of common signs, known to and understood by the deaf and speech inhibited man, to indicate what the Master could and would do in accordance with the law of faith?” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:373).

The Savior’s communications to the deaf man reflect the scriptural teaching that “the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3).

Mark recorded that, at the Savior’s word, the deaf man was immediately able to hear and that “he spake plain,” meaning he could speak clearly (see Mark 7:34–35). Thus there was more to this miracle than the restoration of hearing. The deaf man had been described as both deaf and having “an impediment in his speech” (Mark 7:32). The Savior’s healing enabled this man to speak immediately and plainly.

    Points to Ponder

  • After the Savior healed the man who had been possessed by devils, He told him, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee” (Mark 5:19). What “great things” has the Lord done for you that you could tell your friends about?

  • Compare Mark 7:9 with Alma 3:8 and Doctrine and Covenants 93:39. What can result from false traditions? What traditions do you encounter that conflict with the gospel of Jesus Christ?

    Suggested Assignment

  • Study each of the following miracles and create two lists—one identifying eternal truths you learn from each miracle, and the other listing details that show the Savior’s compassion for people in need: casting out devils (Mark 5:1–20); raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead (Mark 5:21–24, 35–43); healing a woman with an issue of blood (Mark 5:25–34); feeding the five thousand (Mark 6:34–44); and healing a man who was deaf and could not speak (Mark 7:31–37).