it’s not about clean hands

Matthew 15:1-20

This is my continuing journey through the gospels, standing among the disciples of Jesus, watching, listening and discovering Him anew.

There we were, surrounded again by hoards of people. Well, Jesus was surrounded. The people weren’t there to see us or touch our clothes. Good thing, since I think most of us were still stunned by the whole “He walked on water and oh my goodness He really is God’s Son” worship event that had taken place earlier. Our minds are blown and life is so different now and we’re just trying to keep up with this Man that everyone wants to touch.

So yeah, there we were, and here they came. You couldn’t miss them if you tried. Everything about them was intended to say “I am above you, get out of my way”. Pharisees. All dressed up, heads held way too high, making every attempt to not actually touch any of the unclean, common people. They came with a bone to pick with Jesus. “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” (Matthew 15:2)

I nearly bit my tongue off to keep from laughing at the topic of their confrontation. Hand washing? Really? That’s what has your robes in a bunch? Yes, yes it is. The great rule (tradition) of washing up before supper had been violated and someone had to answer for that. So Jesus would answer. I leaned in close so I could hear Him give it to them.

And give it to them He did.

“Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’  he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites!” (v. 3-7)

I suppressed a giggle and the urge to high-five my Savior. Which is good, because in a minute I wasn’t going to be in the mood for a high-five.

He called the crowd to Him and began to teach them…

““Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’”     (v. 17-20)

Suddenly I was alone with Him, encountering truth as He spoke to me…

“Karla, clean or unclean isn’t about your hands, it’s about your heart. Unclean comes from the inside, and eventually, it shows up on the outside. Because unclean doesn’t stay hidden safely away inside where others can’t see it. It comes out. People have different names for what makes them unclean. I give it one name.”

“I have a problem with my thought-life.”  “You have a heart problem.”

“I need anger-management.” “You have a heart problem”.

“I struggle with sexual issues.”  “You have a heart problem”.

“I need to learn to control my tongue.” “You have a heart problem.”

You can wash your hands all day everyday, but what you have is a heart problem.

But remember…

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:25-27

Stop staring at your hands. Bring Me your heart.”

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