Scripture: Matthew 15:1-2, 10-14 (alternate reading: Matthew 14:22-36)
1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat." 10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, "Listen and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles." 12 Then the disciples approached and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?" 13 He answered, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit."
Meditation: Which is more important to God - clean hands or a clean mind and heart? The Scribes and Pharisees accused Jesus' disciples of breaking their ritual traditions. They were concerned with avoiding ritual defilement, some no doubt out of fear of God, and others out of fear of pleasing other people. Jesus points his listeners to the source of true defilement - evil desires which come from inside a person's innermost being. Sin does not just happen or force itself upon us. It first springs from the innermost recesses of our thoughts and intentions, from the secret desires which only the individual soul can conceive.
Only Jesus can free us from sin and guilt
God in his mercy sent his Son Jesus Christ to free us from our sinful cravings and burden of guilt, and to restore us to wholeness of life and goodness. But to receive his mercy and healing, we must admit our faults and ask for his forgiveness. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-9).
Let Jesus be the master of your heart and desires
When Cain was jealous of his brother, Abel, God warned him to guard his heart: "Sin is couching at the door; it's desire is for you, but you must master it" (Genesis 4:7). Do you allow any sinful desires to enter the door of your heart and mind? We do not need to entertain or give in to sinful desires or thoughts, but instead, through the grace of God, we can choose to put them to death rather than allow them to be the master who controls our way of thinking, feeling, and acting.
The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness
Only God can change our hearts and make them clean and whole through the power of the Holy Spirit. Like a physician who probes the wound before treating it, God through his Word and Spirit first brings to light our sinful condition that we may recognize sin for what it is and call upon God's mercy and pardon. The Lord is ever ready to change and purify our hearts through his Holy Spirit who dwells within us. His power and grace enables us to choose what is good and to reject what is evil. Do you believe in the power of God's love to change and transform your heart?
"Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and make my heart like yours. Strengthen my heart and my will that I may I choose to love what is good and to hate what is evil."
Psalm 81:1, 12-16
1 Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob.
11 "But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.
13 O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!
14 Then I would quickly subdue their enemies, and turn my hand against their foes.
15 Those who hate the LORD would cringe before him, and their doom would last forever.
16 I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you."