stop and washI wonder how many times we have asked our children, “Did you wash your hands?” When they are young, there is also a follow up question, “Really?” “Let me smell.” Actually, I never really asked for the “smell test”, but I did feel their hands to see if they had at least passed through water. Now add grandchildren to this scenario. If I had a dollar for every time I asked…as my father would say…I’d be rich!
As a first grade teacher for many years, this question multiplied exponentially. It was so often asked, I reduced it to code and gesture, holding up my hands in the air with one word, “Hands?” Of course the teacher look accompanied the gesture and the one word. After using the rest room, after a messy project, after playing outside, etc., the question was asked, “Did you wash your hands?” AND this was before COVID. Now, washing our hands is the topic of the day for ALL humans, young and old.
washing handsIt was the topic for Jesus disciples, too. Washing hands was a ceremonial production for the Jewish leaders. It wasn’t about ridding yourself of germs with soap and water, it was all about showing how pure you were for all the world to notice. It was a heart issue more than a hands cleansing as Jesus will pointe out.
Let’s see how Jesus turned the tables of thinking on the accusation, “they don’t wash their hands…!”
Matthew 15
That Which Defiles
Matthew 15 ceremonialThen some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
Matthew 15 follow the rules8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
Matthew 15 hands13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
Matthew 15 clean heartJesus told the leaders the Truth. Mike dropped.
The young disciples were concerned because Jesus confronted the leaders. You can almost hear the fear between the lines as they gather around Jesus. “Ooh, Jesus, you’re making them angry!” “We’ll wash our hands, no big deal.”
Then Jesus explained to his disciples and everyone else listening in what he meant. Believe and Follow Truth which is the intent of the Law of God. Do not follow leaders with evil heart conditions who only say and do what pleases them and gives them glory and power. Jesus gives this clearly understood warning for all to hear, including the leaders;
“…you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”
Matthew 15 see God
But then there’s that one kid in the classroom of life…”Wait, what?” Peter wants and receives clarification and gets it! Jesus explains…It’s about your heart, not your hands! We have to assume that Peter will always ask what the others are thinking, too. I am grateful for Peter, aren’t you?
What goes in, comes out. If we feed our hearts pride, selfishness, and other lies, we will behave with related outcomes that are bad for us and all others around us. This is not God in us. This is not truth.
Matthew 15 pure heartWash your heart, then your hands. All will be well.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We are a selfish, prideful people in need of repentance. Cleanse our hearts and make us holy before you as only You can. I don’t want to be a fake or a hypocrite. I want to be like you, developing your character. Help me to bear the fruits of Your Holy Spirit. Thank you for your patience in our development.
In Jesus Name, Amen

About randscallawayffm

Randy and Susan co founded Finding Focus Ministries in 2006. Their goal as former full time pastors, is to serve and provide spiritual encouragement and focus to those on the "front lines" of ministry. Extensive experience being on both sides of ministry, paid and volunteer, on the mission fields of other countries as well as the United States, helps them bring a different perspective to those who need it most. Need a lift? Call us 260 229 2276.
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