This post is one in a series of reflections for Lent. I invite you to go back and read the previous reflections.
The religious leaders have once again come to Jesus to attack and discredit his ministry. They have seen the disciples eating without ceremonially cleaning their hands. The law had been revealed through Moses, and the leaders had spent hundreds of years adding to it. The washing of hands was not a part of God's law. This was a tradition that had arisen through time. Jesus laments that the leaders have really missed the point. He called them and he calls us to get real. He said that the leaders acknowledge God with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Someone recently asked me if I was religious my whole life. I hate the world religious. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I pray that God will never allow me to be religious. The religious leaders were religious. I want to follow after Christ. Christians have the same sort of nonsense that they pass off as the law of God. When I was growing up, our pastor insisted that men serving communion must wear ties. No where in scripture is that idea taught. I have insist on wearing a collared shirt to church. I go to a very casual worship service, but I always wear a collared shirt. If I were to insist that everyone was required to wear a collared shirt, then I would be guilty of the same thing that Jesus is upset about in this passage.
What are we called to obey? Are we called to follow the law of God, or the traditions of men. That is off course a ridiculous question. It is obvious that the answer is to follow the law of God. Jesus says that the leaders acknowledge God with their lips, but their hearts are far from God. They put on this big pious show, but inside they are covering up all types of wickedness. The most obvious sin of people in this position is self-righteousness. It is such an easy sin to fall into.
The leaders were so concerned that eating with unclean hands would defile a man. Jesus turns that idea on it's head. He says it isn't what goes in that makes a man unclean. What comes out of man's heart is what makes him unclean. The heart of man is full of all kind of wickedness. It is the wickedness that comes from a man's heart that makes his repugnant to God. It has nothing to do with what he eats at all. Jesus is calling us to humble ourselves. It wouldn't matter how many things that we were to abstain from. In the end, we have to cast ourselves before the throne and beg the mercy of a holy God. Jesus, Son of the living God. Have mercy on me, a sinner! May God expose our wickedness and cause us to abandon our pride and rely only on him.