Today, we land in Matthew 15 and we’re going to be looking together specifically at verses 10 and 11. First, let me set the scene. In this chapter we see a group of Pharisees come to Jesus and his disciples and accuse them of disobeying their age-old traditions. Namely, they’re ignoring the tradition of the ceremonial washing of hands before they eat. There’s this back and forth as Jesus defends the actions of his disciples, making plain the hypocrisy of the Pharisees whilst offering an insight into the workings of the Kingdom of God. So here’s verse 10 and 11:
“Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
(This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.)
Jesus has an issue with the Pharisees. He sees their hypocrisy. He can see straight through their gimmicks. They have taken God’s law, which is good and true, and abused it to make themselves seem righteous and holy. More so than anyone else. They have added so much to the law that it is almost impossible to maintain, and so when they do keep these commandments, they seem even better and more righteous. So in come the Pharisees and other teachers and they challenge the disciples over their upkeep of the traditions of their people.
Plain and simple, Jesus says that it is not what is done to the outward appearance, it is not the following of the rules, it is not the upkeep of tradition or the maintaining of customs that makes someone clean, that makes someone righteous. It is nothing to do with the outward appearance. Jesus says that it is all to do with the heart. It is all to do with what is on the inside.
His warning and challenge here is that our lives become what our heart is full of. We must come to the Lord to fill our hearts with things that are good and holy, to replace the desires of the flesh. The internal state of our hearts manifests in the external through our words, our thoughts and our deeds. We need God’s continual forgiveness and love to wash over our hearts again and again.
You see the Pharisees had made the law about them. They had made it about how good they were and how holy they were. Through their own actions, their own strength and their own will. That was never God’s plan. The law was created by God to point back to himself, to show that he was the one who made them righteous, following him was what made them clean. But the Pharisees had taken this into their own hands. That was never where it was supposed to be.
It was supposed to be in the hands of God.
That’s why when Jesus was crucified, her bore the weight of all our sin and shame. In his hands he took everything that separated us from the Father, all of our muck and our dirt and our filth. Just as Christ was buried, so was all of our sin. And as Jesus rose from the grave, as the stone was rolled away, he left all of that stuff in the tomb. Romans 5 says that just as one sin of Adam brought condemnation to all, Christ’s one act of righteousness has brought new life and a right relationship with God to all.
Jesus has done all of the work. Our righteousness is in his hands. We can not earn it. We can not work a little harder to achieve it. Jesus has already done it for all. All we have to do is accept his gift, his gift of grace.
Now does that mean we have a free pass to do whatever we want? Well, later in Romans, Paul goes on to address this question. He asks, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not!
He writes that since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?
Let this be my encouragement for you today. Jesus’ triumph on the cross has crippled the power of sin in our lives once and for all. Our righteousness is found in Jesus Christ.
BIBLE READING: Matthew 15:1-11
Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!’
Jesus replied, ‘And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, “Honour your father and mother” and “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is “devoted to God,” they are not to “honour their father or mother” with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
‘“These people honour me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.”’
Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.’