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Summary: A very pratical definition of Holiness

The Holy Toothbrush

Mark 7:1--23


† In the Name of Jesus! †

Grace and Peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!

The Sacred Toothbrush

There are many words that we use in church language today, that I do not think we truly understand. We might have an idea, but if asked to explain them, we would stagger a bit, stammer a bit, maybe even say, well, my pastor can explain it better than I, let me get him to come over. To be honest, I don’t mind, because I love to share the meanings of these words, to make them come alive – because they are incrediblee. Not only that, it provides a bit of job security for me.

Often they are really big words, multi-syllable words that take about a page of notes and scripture quotes to define. Things like redemption, sanctification, or propitiation! When we really want to sound really “churchy”, we combine a few of them, making comments about forensic justification, eschatological prophecy, or substitutionary atonement, or put them in a different language, like Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, or Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Christo, Sola Scriptura. Each one of these words, really has an incredible meaning for us, for they attempt to describe aspects of our faith, but in the maze that is our language, that meaning gets lost.

There is a simple four letter word, that I think we lose the meaning of, all too often. It is at the core of today’s gospel reading, it is what the Old Testament reading calls the people of Israel to, and when we are this, the whole armor of God protects us, that we may remain so. The word is,


Being Holy is, I think, made far too complicated in this day and age. Part of that is do to how difficult holiness is to envision. That is because it is a state of being, not something we do, or attain. In today’s gospel, the lack of holiness is so easy to describe. Often, in today’s passage, the word that means the opposite of Holy is defiled.

There is a really easy, visible illustration of what being defiled means. It uses the “holiest” item in your house, or in mine. It is what our sermon is titled, except, I left a blank for you to write it in, in your notes.

It is, the Holy…… TOOTHBRUSH!

This is Kay’s toothbrush, and I will now defile it….

(put toothbrush in transmission oil, then in the dirt)

Anyone want to borrow my toothbrush to use to brush your teeth with?

I imagine that brushing one’s teeth with this toothbrush right now, would be horrible. It is not clean, it is defiled, it has not been used for that which it was created. To be holy, means to be set apart to a task, a special usage. This toothbrush can no longer be used for what it was created to be used for. It is unclean, defiled, and will never be used for what it was set apart to do.

When we talk about a person being defiled, we are talking about the effect that sin has on us. Both our own individual sin, and the corporate sin of humanity.

The Problem of being Defiled/Common

Pharisees saw this as an outward problem

We do today, as well, don’t we?

The Filth Jesus was concerned about

That doesn’t come from not washing hands

A great deal of the Old Testament, was written about being Holy. When Israel marched through the wilderness with Moses, the commandment specified that those who were defiled, that became unclean, were to be kept outside the camp, cut off from the people of God, until they could be considered clean again. The scriptures also tell of how long it took, for a person to be considered clean again.

Somewhere along the line, the leaders of Israel, the scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees, started to really go overboard with this idea of cleanliness. They assumed that physical cleanliness equaled Godliness. If a person ate or drank something out of dirty cup, or off a dirty plate, or sat on a dirty couch, this could result in being unclean “spiritually”. They therefore had all of these ceremonial washings, literally ceremonial baptisms, of things they considered unclean.

Their problem Jesus notes, when confronted by the accusation that his disciples were defiling themselves, because they didn’t perform the ritual hand washing. WE are not talking about just washing your hands as you come in for dinner, but a special prayer with rituals that God didn’t create. But the Pharisees and scribes note that the disciples did not set themselves, especially their hands, to eat. They are convinced that not doing so, that eating without this proper cleaning, will result in the disciples becoming unclean, and they confront Jesus with this. He will take a few moments now, to clarify the question of being holy, of being clean, of being undefiled.

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