Jesus was in Jerusalem and got into a heated argument with the Pharisees about hand washing. The Pharisees emphasized a ritual of hand washing to a priority place in their traditions that if you did not follow procedure they would call you out on it. And so they asked Jesus why his disciples did not ceremonially wash their hands before they ate. Jesus goes right after the Pharisees traditions that had become more important than the heart of the Law of God. The disciples are concerned that Jesus offended the Pharisees and ask him to explain his reasoning.
Matthew 15: 16 “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”
Jesus goes to the heart of the issue which is the heart. You can clean up the outside all you want for outward appearances but our hearts are the key. So think with me today what traditions Jesus might confront in our American church culture:
1. We are very offended by the language of our culture and we say we would never us certain profanities in the church. But Christians are some of the worst people about talking about other people in ways that are slanderous and hateful but we seldom object.
2. We are often offended by the inappropriate clothing people wear and we might say I would never wear that in public. But then we turn around and spend an extraordinary amount of money on clothing that is meant to impress other people.
3. Do not even get me started on our Christmas and Easter Traditions...
4. What do you recognize is tradition over heart in our American Christian Culture?
Guys hear me - I do not want you to wear your Speedo bikini swimming suit to church next Sunday or to come in dropping the F-bomb. Just like Jesus was not saying washing your hands before you eat was a terrible thing. Jesus just wants us to look at the heart of what we are doing and why we are doing what we do. The heart is really the battle ground for the enemy to trip us up and defeat us.