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Friday, August 15, 2014

Pentecost 10: Jesus on Unclean food and Unclean people


Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.  What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”


Our journey with Jesus continues as Matthew takes us from Jesus’ confrontation with the storm on Galilee to a stormy confrontation with some “Pharisees and teachers of the Law from Jerusalem” (vs 1).  They question Jesus’ authority and in vs 7 Jesus calls them hypocrites who honour God with their lips, while their hearts are far from Him.


Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”


Oh......doodums!
Some religious hypocrites who have been elected as leaders in Jerusalem are offended because the preacher’s interpretation of Scripture doesn’t agree with their interpretation of Scripture.  The amusing thing here is that the disciples seem to think that Jesus would actually care that some (many) people were offended by the Gospel (because Jesus only preached the Gospel).  He warns several times in the Gospels that as preachers of the Gospel, people will often take offense at the message of the Gospel.  On another occasion, He says to them that when that happens they should leave and make sure that not even the dust from the place sticks to their feet.


He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.


He then goes on and says that these leaders are nothing more than blind guides......destined for the pit.


Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”


We have to feel for Peter here......he can’t really believe what he’s hearing......he doesn’t want to believe that leaders that he respects can be so stupid that Jesus (yes......Jesus) calls them hypocrites (to their faces, of course) and blind.  So in case he is missing something, he humbly asks Jesus to explain.


Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.


And now it’s Jesus who has to ask in the holiest way possible: “Are you doff?” ......actually......”Guys, are you still so doff?” You know....., goodness me, we’ve been together for a while now......when are you going to get the point about the Kingdom of God?


“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”


And so He goes on and says, “The things that defile us, that make us unclean, that make us dirty, that make us abominations, these things are not related to what goes in or what comes out......NO! ......all these things (murder, adultery, sexual immorality......) happen here (I’ll hit my heart) long before they happen here (now I’ll touch various parts of my body.)”  

Cleaness/uncleanness/holiness/sin has little to do with what you do or say or don’t do or don’t say......cleanness/uncleanness/holiness/sin has much to do with what is motivating the desires of the heart that cause us to act the way we do.  And, as you’ve heard me teach so often before, there are 7 motivations that give rise to every sin you and I have ever confessed: pride, anger, envy, lust, laziness, gluttony, greed. 

As long as you and I continue dealing with our actions rather than what motivates the action, we get nowhere in our journey to holiness and Christian perfection.


Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”


And then Jesus withdraws, but as Matthew tells the story, the teaching about clean and unclean continues as Jesus and the disciples go to Gentile territory and have an unclean woman (according to the Law, Jews were to have no contact with Canaanites)......they have this unclean woman nagging, nagging and nagging:
            “Have mercy on me......my daughter is suffering terribly.”
One would expect Jesus to respond......but......she’s a Canaanite....will He....won't He?  He has previously responded to a Samaritan woman, but Samaritans are half Jew......here we have a Canaanite. How will He respond?


Jesus did not answer a word.


Jesus says nothing.


So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”


So the disciples get involved.


He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.


“I’ve actually only come for the Jews and the occasional half-Jew......the disciples and the church are going to take this into all the world.  My time is little and it’s being taken up by having to convince unclean Jews that they need to become clean.  When they’ve become clean, they’ll go out to the unclean world.”


The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.


“Please help me......I can’t wait, my daughter can’t wait.”


He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.


“Woman, what little I’ve got I’ve got to give to the Jews.”


“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
 

Friends, I hope you’re learning from this that you must never stop pleading with Jesus......but learn from this lady who you and I really are: 
This unclean on the inside Canaanite knows/acknowledges her uncleanness – her doggedness, and thereby opens herself up to grace.
The clean on the outside religious hypocrites of Jesus’ day refuse to acknowledge the filth, the doggedness on the inside; they take offense at the one who points it out to them; and they shut themselves off from grace.


Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.


This grace on Jesus' part can be summed up in one word......LOVE.

Let me conclude.


                                                                 


Think very carefully and answer deep within yourself.  Is there in your heart: Pride, Anger, Envy, Laziness, Lust, Gluttony, Greed. 
Are you clean or unclean?

“Lord have mercy and change my heart, O God.”

Is there anyone that you look down on, despise, a person or a group whose actions you find abominable?
Is there someone you are currently staying away from?

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, claiming the authority that was conferred upon me by the laying on of hands at my ordination......I......ask, beg, implore, suggest, command you to go from here in the power of the Holy Spirit and demonstrate love in a tangible way to that person as Christ demonstrated love to the “unclean” Canaanite woman.

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