Monday, August 15, 2011

What Comes Out of Your Mouth?

Matthew 15:10-20

        I can hear my mother calling me, “Tom, time to eat.  Go wash your hands.”
I’d come in from playing – climbing trees, playing soldier (which meant getting ‘shot’ and rolling down the hill) and most likely I’d been catching grasshoppers or toads or snakes.  So in I come and dip my hands into water and dry off on a towel.
       “No, go back and use soap!” Mom would scold.
       Funny, MY kids were the same way;
always in too much of a hurry to ‘scrub’ away the dirt before coming to the table.
       Parents are always concerned with what goes into their kids’ mouths. “Get that out of your mouth.  You don’t know where that has been!”
       We are concerned about cleanliness because we are concerned for their health and well being.
       We are also concerned about what comes out of their mouths  What are we teaching them – by word and by example?
       “What did you say, young man! Don’t make me wash your mouth out with soap!”
       Yes, I’ve had my mouth washed out with soap!  And I’ve washed my son’s mouth out with soap.
       Oh, I wish it were really that easy to cleanse the heart.
       Here Jesus called the crowd and said to them, “Listen and try to understand!
What goes into a person’s mouth doesn’t make him unclean.  It’s what comes out of the mouth that makes a person unclean.”
       This is one of the most straight-forward statements Jesus ever made.  No parable was needed to make this point.  He just says, “Listen up! What you eat will not harm you as much as what you say!”  No further explanation should be needed. Right?
       But then the disciples said to him, “Do you realize that when the Pharisees heard your statement they were offended?”
       Yes, the Pharisees were offended.  Jesus had, once again, dismissed one of the Mosaic laws of cleanliness.  Or at least that is what they heard.  They had a scroll full of things that could make a person unclean!  Who was this Jesus to come along and say that eating unclean animals, like pork, would not make you unclean!
       Jesus didn’t actually say that we should not wash our hands before we eat or that it was okay to eat just anything that we picked up off the ground (no 7 second rule here).  He was trying to get the point across that what we say (and by extension what we think) can have far more impact on our lives than a little dirt eaten with our lunch.
            I’ve often been amazed at the number of times it is recorded that there was such a conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees.  Because, of the various sects of Judaism, the Pharisees were closest to teaching the same things that Jesus taught.  In Matthew 23:3 Jesus even tells his listeners, “So be careful to do everything they tell you.”         However, He quickly adds, “But don't follow their example, because they don't practice what they preach.”
       I have four children with very different personalities.  My oldest son would never argue with me.  I’d tell him to do something and he say, “Okay.”  He wouldn’t do it – but he didn’t argue.  My Oldest daughter would argue with me.  I’d tell her what to do and she’d give me 50 reasons that it can’t or shouldn’t be done.  Then she’d go do it.
       Which is better?  To argue and obey?  Or to agree and disobey?
       Here, Jesus was saying that the Pharisees did not argue with the commands of God, but they did not follow them.
       Here is what Jesus said about the Pharisees in today’s reading, “Any plant that my heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted. So, leave them alone! They are blind leaders. When one blind person leads another, both will fall into the same pit.”
       Finally! A parable! I imagine Peter has been sitting on his hands, bouncing in his seat just waiting for a parable so he can say, “Explain this illustration to us.”
       To this Jesus said, “Seriously, Peter? Don’t you understand yet?  Okay, I’ll be a little more graphic for you. Don’t you know that whatever goes into the mouth goes into the stomach and then into a toilet?
       Listen, whatever goes out of the mouth comes from within.  It shows what kind of a person you truly are and that’s what makes a person unclean.  Here are examples of the unclean things that I’m talking about, evil thoughts, murder, adultery, other sexual sins, stealing, lying, and cursing.  These are the things that make a person unclean, Jesus said.

       I praise God that Jesus’ blood can wash away these impurities that make us spiritually unclean.
       Without His grace we could never stand in the presence of the Father.  Our sins would keep us forever separated from the holiness of God.  But because He paid the price of our sins, God no longer sees them.
       So we can come to God any time any place – even if we have dirt under our fingernails.
       Glory to God. Amen.

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