This passage begins with the religious people challenging Jesus because his disciples are not following the religious tradition of hand-washing. Jesus points out that their emphasis on tradition causes them to act against what the Bible teaches. He calls them hypocrites as they worship God in their religious activities, but not in their hearts. Jesus then explains to the crowd and in more detail to the disciples that customs and traditions do not make you acceptable to God (“clean”). It is what comes from our hearts that counts: “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a person ‘unclean’.”

This is an interesting list as ultimately the Pharisees were to show evil thoughts, murder, false testimony and slander against Jesus. If we consider Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5v27-30 about lust, they probably fell down on the adultery and sexual immorality too. And Matthew 23v23-26 indicates they would effectively steal in ways which were religiously acceptable. Their religious deeds were camouflaging a sinful heart.

On the one hand Jesus teaching, causes us to thank God for the good news of the Gospel – that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us; that through Christ’s death we are made “clean”, holy and acceptable to God – we could not do it ourselves. On the other hand, this is also a call for us to examine ourselves: it is easy to become religious and it is easy for us to self-justify our thoughts and actions. Is what comes from my heart evidence of the power of God in my life or evidence of something else?

May we each be made clean in Christ, and have the Spirit’s clean thoughts and actions flowing out in our daily lives,

Roland

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