My thoughts that follow are a silly attempt to make sense of the wisdom of Christ, but bear with them. My hope is that if anything, this will help us join the multitudes that marveled at the wisdom of the Jesus. I won’t expound this whole incident so know that’s not my attempt.
For a few days now, I have been chewing on the interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees and scribes in Mark 7:1-23. The whole altercation between the Pharisees and Jesus’ disciples for not washing their “defiled” hands is incredible. Quick run down; the issue of Jesus’ disciples not washing their hands meant on the one hand that Jesus Himself did not abide by this tradition either. That didn’t sit well with them. Second, that the Pharisees’ frustration came not from a refusal to wash their hands to obey God, but that they did not follow the tradition set by men from history of old. What happens next is Jesus accusing these religious men of being “hypocrites” and using the OT to define them, “This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” Jesus was using God’s words through the prophet Isaiah 29:13 and then summed up it for them. The Pharisees and scribes were well acquainted with this text and probably would have never thought to hear it used against them. You can practically hear the voices in the streets in the distance as those who stood in close proximity drew quiet with the silent blazing gaze of the man who was God cutting straight to the hearts of these religious men as He does to me as well.
Since I’ve read that some days ago my heart continues to wrestle with the reality the Pharisees were in and the accuracy of Christ’s words about them and I. It’s a dangerous place to be; to attempt to give honor to the perfect God of the universe with your lips and yet have your heart remain distant from the one who knows its condition best(v14-23). I’ve asked the typical question before of, how could I respond to God with honor if my heart is far from him? Later Christ explains that there is nothing more deceptive in me than my own heart; “From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”v21-23. The adherence of hand washing to not be defiled before God was like trying to put a band-aid on a cancer patient and telling them they are well.
What haunts me is the place I have often found myself lately and that’s the tradition of words. Trying to sprinkle my defiled self with them to be clean before God, but my attempts have and will always be futile. My fear brothers and sisters, is the creation of a Christian culture and a tradition of Christian words that are easy to fling around. For example I was in a conversation with a friend that used the word, “theological” several times in a phrase and never once properly. Words such as sanctification, propitiation, and repentance are precious, beautiful words that convey a powerful testimony of the work of God, but are in need of us looking into before we show them about. For others, this may sound like the “typical” bible answer you give that you’re sure is correct, but hold no conviction in. Either way, it’s easy to hide behind a barrage of terms and just get to the edge of the real issue; our ugly defiled hearts that soil us entirely and much more than any amount of dirt on our hands.
We are not saved by the amount of grace we can discuss. But by grace you have been saved through faith. (Eph 2:5)
What is beautiful about the whole interaction in early Mark 7 is the relationship between the phrases, “and their hearts are far from me [God]”v6 and “for from within, out of the heart of man,….they defile a person.”v21-23. The relationship is that God wants these ugly, nasty, putrid, evil, lustful, idolatrous, murderous, prideful, foolish hearts close to Him, to honor Him. Not our words!!! Our ability to talk will never justify us enough to bring our hearts to God. What does?
At this point (and daily) we can relate well to the words of David in Psalm 51; “create in me a clean heart, O’ God.”v10.
Praise God for this next truth, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”Hebrews 9:13-14
O precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow…
I’m not at all against using words that are more than one syllable and end in “tion” when talking with people. But when used for the sake of trying to convince ourselves and others we are near to God when all we do is mask the reality that our hearts were and are far from God without Christ and can fog the gospel.