"He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior."
Titus 3:5-6 (NIV)
I attended boarding school 600 miles away from home in seventh grade. School started at 6:30 a.m. (yes, that was before breakfast!) and went until 8:00 a.m. when we took a break for breakfast. After breakfast, we had the daily task of cleaning our rooms, which included making our beds (our bedspreads had raised lines on the outside and those lines needed to be straight!), sweeping the floor, dusting, as well as generally tidying up clothes and clutter. After school resumed around 9:30 a.m., our dorm parents would check our cleaning and either give us the coveted smiley face in the day's box on our cleaning chart or mark a number where we had failed to clean satisfactorily. We didn't want there to be too many numbers over the week or we would have to sit inside on Friday night when the whole dorm got to go outside and play games and stay up half an hour later than normal.
I am in a desperate place of needing to encounter Jesus. Actually, I am always in that place, but I am just more acutely aware of my need right now than at other times. I am thoroughly enjoying the gospel accounts in my One Year Chronological Bible. I get to read the same event one right after the other in this way. It greatly helps me glean more out of a parable or miracle to read like this.
Today's reading dealt with yet another encounter Jesus had with the Pharisees. They just couldn't leave Jesus alone with questions asked with the intent of trying to trip Him up. He never succumbed to their trickery and many times left them smarting with a rebuke that offended them. Such was the case today. The Pharisees started grumbling about why Jesus' disciples didn't go through ceremonial washing before they ate. I seriously doubt they anticipated Jesus' response to them. The reason behind their question was not out of curiosity, but mean-spiritedness. Expecting Jesus to get caught up in defending the disciples, He instead turned on the sin in their own lives.
Oh, girlfriends! I am a firstborn. I love order and rules. Give me my boundaries and I will try to stay within them. Like everyone else, I have a rebellious streak and am a sinner to my core, but I do get caught up in the letter of the law instead of being concerned with the spirit behind the law. I can be legalistic and lean toward self-righteous pride. Jesus' words stung me today, because I could have easily been a Pharisee who cared more about the rules being broken than the bigger heart issue that Jesus brought to the Pharisees' attention. Listen to the conversation:
Then 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!"
3Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' 5But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' 6he is not to 'honor his father' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8" 'These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.'"
10Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen and understand. 11What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' "
12Then the disciples came to him and asked, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?"
15Peter 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? 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.' "
Matthew 15:1-12, 15-20 (NIV)
There are some days that I get up and decide everything is horrible. Nothing is right in my world, not because that is the truth, but because I want to see the world that way. Instead of praise, I can only gripe, whine, and complain. I can look clean and presentable on the outside, but the words of my mouth reveal how long it's been since I have had a heart inspection. There is nothing clean going on inside. Those are the days when I am too self-absorbed to see the hurts and needs of others. I can only see all the reasons I am justified in having a major pity-party.
I may have clean hands, but do I have a clean heart today? The way to tell is by what is coming out of this mouth of mine.
Jesus, I am too often concerned with how I present myself on the outside. It is so easy to fool others and hide the raging dissatisfaction and ugliness that are going on inside of me. Too often I forget that Your eyes see everything. Nothing is hidden from You. It's time to just confess the dirt on the inside and allow You, the Living Water, to cleanse me from the inside out. Thank You that You are waiting with open arms and no condemnation for me when I am finally ready to really be clean.