September 6, 2015: 14th Sunday After Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, humans like us look at the outward appearance of others and base our assessment of them on it. Thus, we’re swayed very often by superficiality and deceit. But You gaze into the human heart and make Your assessment of us based upon 100% certainty of what’s inside. Today we ask You to get us past the superficial and to cleanse our hearts in repentance and genuine faith in Your pure love and forgiveness. Amen


TEXT: Mark 7: 1-8, 14,15, 21-23

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Remember when you came in from playing outside and your mother said: “You’re filthy! Go in right now and take a bath!”? Or, how about that phrase: “Cleanliness is next to godliness?” The fact is: few people or animals like to be dirty. The local birds even take a bath every day in the bird bath in my backyard! My dog grooms her paws after a walk, if we don’t wash them first. And few people eat lunch without washing the garden dirt off their hands. Yes, God made us to be clean.

This concept of cleanliness is found throughout the Bible and is found in literally every culture. It’s almost as if it’s ingrained in our DNA—and it probably is! Of course, God built on this idea of purity by grafting it into OT religious ceremonies. Priests were ordered to ceremonially cleanse themselves before performing religious duties. People did the same in a lesser way at home. So, when some ultra-religious Pharisees saw that the disciples were diving into lunch with Jesus without first going through an elaborate cleansing ceremony, they had a bone to pick with Jesus. Our text says that they even would wash cups, pitchers and kettles before every usage, no matter what! These ritual cleansings were not proscribed by God. They were simply part of their religious tradition. And as an aside, note well that the word used for “washing” is: “baptize” in the Greek language. It means to apply water. So, that Godly cleansing from sin by water wasn’t a foreign concept to them, either.


“So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the traditions of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?’ He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

This may sound like a really tough answer to an innocuous question. But it’s not. It hits directly at the problem afflicting the Pharisees and many people today. We live in a society that is swayed by externals. We make snap judgments based on how a person is dressed, if they’re wearing jewelry, how well their hair is cut, what kind of car they drive, what their house looks like, and generally how groomed they are. And if all those items meet our expectations, then we accept them. That same mindset filters over into religion, too. And that’s where the problem comes in. For unlike Christ, we cannot read hearts. And unlike Christ, we put such externals above God’s truth. Yes, it’s easy to be a Pharisee in modern America!

“Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” Right there, Jesus is doing away with OT ceremonial laws that were so near and dear to the average Jew. Moreover He’s setting a new standard before them, which is really the oldest standard of all. In other words, a person’s words and actions truly reveal that attitude of their hearts. And as He says elsewhere: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God judges the heart.” And what does God see when He examines humans?

“For it is from within, out of a person’s heart that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”


Every newscast that reports some sorted crime has an interview with a neighbor. And it always seems to go this way: “Well, I saw him, or her, every morning coming out their house. They would always say: “Hello” and they seemed so nice. It’s a shock to hear what they did.”

Christ’s point in cataloging all the sins listed above is that each of us is that “average, nice, seemingly well-adjusted neighbor.” Every human hides behind a façade. We all put our best face forward when we think others are looking, but when we’re hidden, the real “beast within” comes out.

The old adage “what you see is what you get” is seldom true anymore. Women use make-up to hide their faults. Everyone uses clothes to alter attitudes towards them. Broke people often seem to live like kings. Greedy people talk a lot about generosity, but seldom dip into their own pocket. And in an age of “externals are everything” the real person remains hidden. O to meet a genuine person! Value them when you do. They’re rare.

Well, Christians are rare, because we actually are genuine. When we give our word, we keep it. When we pray, we actually mean it. When we admit our failings, we don’t hedge our guilt. And when we praise God, it comes from the heart and isn’t a mere: going through the motions.

We do this because we know that Christ sees all. He sees our sins, every one of them. And He has also graciously forgiven each of those sins by dying on a cross in our place, thus making us right with God. So, live in Christian humility over this and know that He has cleansed you from the inside out! Don’t hide your faith from the world, either. Instead, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven!” Such Cleanliness If Godliness! Amen