In Mark 7, once again the leading religious type get it wrong. They see Jesus’ followers did not wash their hands before eating! And like a tattle tale child, they go to tell Jesus, flaunting the fact that they indeed wash their hands–as it is tradition.
Jesus berates them, saying that their worship is empty. Their lips make noises about God but their hearts are millions of miles away. He criticizes them for holding man-made tradition (hand washing) higher than God’s law (parent-honoring).
Jesus then seizes the opportunity to clarify: everyone is already bad. The Pharisees feel a person is spiritually dirty if they eat “unclean” food with “unclean” hands. But this is an incorrect premise. People are born in iniquity; they don’t become sinful.
“There’s nothing that can enter you and defile you. Sin, evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness RISE UP from WITHIN or INSIDE the heart, character, attitude of a person,” Jesus said (with my paraphrase).
So this encounter over the issues of already-present inner-dirt and vain, empty washing of hands begs the question: HOW can sinner then be made clean? If we’re already dirty and the ways of the leading religious are vain practices, then how?!
Jesus of course is our answer here.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation! The old has gone! Behold the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
We’re all already bad. We have offended a holy God. But this God loves us with the heart of a father. He didn’t just leave the Pharisees with their vintage cleansing techniques, nor does he leave us with our own (new ageism, positive thinking, commenting “happy birthday” to all your Facebook friends, etc.).
God in Jesus rescued us from these ways. When we trust him and his life and death and resurrection, we don’t just become better people. We come NEW.
Thank God the perfect Jesus IS our cleansing liquid for sin. Any other way is just vain.