Summary: It is one thing to clean your hands and quite another to clean your heart. The first you can do, but the latter only God can do; if we will only give him a chance!
Text: Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23 (NIV)
1. The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and
2. saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were "unclean," that is, unwashed.
3. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders.
4. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles. )
5. So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with `unclean’ hands?"
6. 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.
7. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’
8. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."
14. Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.
15. Nothing outside a man can make him `unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him `unclean.’ "
21. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,
22. greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.
23. All these evils come from inside and make a man `unclean.’"
It might surprise you to hear this, but couple of years ago I served in a Church where during the Lord’s supper, the Pastor wore a pair of latex gloves and used a pair of scissors to cut pieces of the bread as she served communion to the people. Obviously, this bothered me a lot and when I asked her about this, she mentioned that she did it for health reasons. Apparently, she did not want any germs from her hands transfer to the people and likewise did not want any germs from the people to come to her. The body and blood of Jesus when taken in faith is meant to cleanse and heal whereas in this situation the people were thinking of how it might cause health problems! I do not know how you would respond, but to me the sanctity of this holy act got lost in the traditions of “men” that Jesus was talking about. What a loss it is to observe the Lord’s supper in subjection to laws of health!
The Pharisees seemed to have a similar problem with Jesus’ disciples who ate without washing their hands. This issue evolved shortly after Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the 5000. The people had eaten bread and fish with unwashed hands and in that sense, they had broken Jewish ritual cleansing laws. These man made laws were being used to challenge God! Ultimately, the breaking of this law became one of the justifications to crucify our Lord and Savior. Isn’t it a shame that the only thing the people saw in the miracle was the breaking of a human law! The gospel of Jesus Christ is hidden from the hearts of those who do not believe. It is sad, but eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of men and women, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.
Washing of hands before eating food is not just an ancient Jewish custom. It continues to be a tradition in the East among a majority of Muslims, Hindus and other Asians of today who still use their fingers to eat. In fact, most restaurants in many of these countries have several hand washing sinks in the dining area. Personal hygiene and cleanliness is a great thing but it does nothing for the soul. Here in the United States we might not be washing our hands before we eat but certainly all of us take much care to see that we keep our bodies clean. Not only do we shower pretty much everyday, we also supplement this with deodorants, perfumes and clean clothing. I am sure that all of you have taken much care to make yourselves look good and presentable for Church this morning - you not only want to look good but you also want to smell good and that is great! You are clean outside, but ask yourself if the same can be said about your inside?
Jesus is not so concerned about cleaning our hands as he is about cleaning our hearts. In verse 15 He said “Nothing outside a man or woman can make them `unclean’ by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a man or woman that makes them `unclean.’ " And what are some these things on the inside? Scripture tells us they are evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. It is easy to cleanup on the outside but how many of us can boldly say that we are clean inside from all these things?