What Defiles a Person?
As we continue our look at various encounters with Jesus found in the Gospels, we’ll be in Matthew 15 this week. In this narrative, Jesus is confronted by some cranky Pharisees bent out of shape over his disciples’ (lack of) hygiene: “They do not wash their hands when they eat” (15:2). This is clearly intended to discredit Jesus’ ministry. How could someone supposedly dedicated to being holy and clean before the Lord approve of such defilement?! As you might expect, Jesus has some thoughts, and he offers them quite bluntly. In the end, the Pharisees walk away offended, but Jesus’ audience—including us—gets a glimpse of something both incredibly sobering and ultimately freeing: defilement (and by extension cleanness) is a matter of the heart not the hands. It’s inner holiness, not outward appearances and rituals, that takes center stage here.
I’m eager to dig into this text with you on Sunday!