1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" 6 He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.' 8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile." 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."
The word defile means “to make common.” When we think about all of the things that go on around us as part of the culture in which we live, we have to acknowledge that we are influenced by those behaviors. It was not long ago that people would not use some language in public or in “mixed company” yet today it seems like we are the ones who should be embarrassed if we are offended by such words. Our television shows are loaded with scenes that do not promote care for others or appropriate expressions of love and respect for others. Our legal and societal systems are skewed to favor certain groups, especially those in power (and may not even be aware that they have any greater power than anyone else). That which is common is clearly not holy. God sets us apart to be holy as He is holy.
So how do we go about living a holy life when we are surrounded by the common? We have to look at how Jesus lived; obedient to God’s commandments while not overtly defiant of human laws. The custom of washing one’s hands before eating was symbolic of washing away that which might make a person ritually unclean. But what about washing away that which is in our hearts that is tainted by the world? We don’t have a scrub brush for that save in Jesus Christ, who fills us with God’s Holy Spirit and returns us to righteous living.
As the rain washes away the dirt from the air and leaves a fresh smell, so God cleans and refreshes us with the Holy Spirit. But we have to be willing to accept that cleansing. It is a deep cleaning, and sometimes it will hurt, but in the end we are born anew in Christ, purified inside out.
1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" 6 He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.' 8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition." 14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile." 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."
Jesus informs us, the readers, that nothing defiles us going in, but what comes out makes defiles us. The Greek word we translate as defile is also translated elsewhere as “to make common.” I like this definition, because it helps us to understand what is being said. Perhaps if we reword the thoughts from this passage we would see that no matter what is happening around us, if we lower ourselves to be common, that’s what we are. That means we have to give the situation to God for a response before we respond in an ungodly and probably inappropriate way.
When we think about all the shows on TV, or the graphic video games, or the language we hear used in the public areas of our towns, it is difficult to accept this Biblical teaching that what we take in does not defile us. If we accept Jesus’ words as the truth (and I do), then we have to consider this means that we are only defiled if we give in to what we hear going on around us and drop to the same level. Too many times the Christian Church has sounded just like the world and God’s voice does not ring clearly. How about in our personal lives? How do we keep the world from influencing how we live out our Christian faith?
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
So when we put on the whole armor of God we are challenged to represent God’s word to the world. We are guarded by God’s righteousness, soaked in his grace, supported by God’s word, and protected by shield and helmet. God’s takes the brunt of the blows sent against us when we speak about God and the eternal kingdom. If this is true, why do we shrink from that task and feel unqualified? Moses certainly didn’t feel qualified, yet God equipped him to lead the people from Israel into the land God had promised. I frankly can’t think of a person in the Bible who felt qualified when God called except Jesus, who is God with us.
It is a real challenge in our society to speak the truth. In fact, there are some who would tell us they don’t want to hear the truth. Truth is, though, that God is real and working for our best interest, even when we are not. The breastplate of righteousness is not our own righteousness, but that of God. When we put on the armor of God, not only is God protecting us but God is encasing us in his grace, further separating us from the world so we can be part of his kingdom. Isn’t that what we want? The disciples understood this as we can tell from their response – where else would they and who else could they follow because they knew that Jesus was the Son of God?
So how do you use the belt of truth? Do you use God’s word in your conversations or thoughts throughout the week? Can you withstand the stuff the world throws at you behind your shield of faith? How do you represent God throughout the week?
56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father." 66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" 68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
Our look at what it means to be purified continues with this passage and our reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In this passage from John’s gospel we read Jesus’ words as he continues talking about the Communion experience at the Last Supper and about eating of his flesh and drinking his blood of the new covenant. Notice how Jesus is aware that many are struggling with his words. It is difficult for many of us to consider accepting Christ into our lives and surrendering our very personhood to God, yet that is what is asked. However, we don’t grasp that we are being offered something even better than what we have already. This is one of the reasons the gospel message appeals to impoverished people and is harder to proclaim in prosperous lands. People who think they have it made already often don’t feel they need a god to set them right, while people who lack material wealth are hopeful of the promises this passage makes.
Notice also that some followers (verse 66 uses the word disciple, but this should not be confused with the twelve) left Jesus because they did not believe earnestly that Jesus was offering eternal life through his flesh and blood. Peter’s reply to Jesus’ question should be our reply too: If we were to leave Jesus, whom would we follow? Perhaps, if we look closely at our lives and consider that we might be following the path to prosperity or some other earthly goal, then we are not following God. This does not mean that we should abandon prosperity, but we should be working so that we are able to help others more as well as ourselves. That’s what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. Along with helping others is the proclamation of God’s word. Again, Jesus is proclaiming the Kingdom of God through his flesh and blood as well as his teaching and healing. We are made holy by God of Heaven for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel message, which might be different in different contexts. Each person needs to know that God is for them in every situation.
Purification is justification – being made right by God and restored to the image of God in our spirit so we reflect God’s Spirit in our words and actions. God equips us with tools, knowledge, and words to proclaim the simple message that the eternal kingdom is open for us through Jesus Christ. People can experience that taste of Heaven through us if we just let God work through us, and that means surrendering to God’s purifying touch.
15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today’s sermon leveraged Paul’s analogy of being filled with the Spirit as being similar to being filled with wine – that we don’t have control of our words, or actions, or even our thoughts. In fact, the more we surrender to the Spirit and permit God to live in us, the closer we come to the heart of Christ. We considered a term – LUI (Living Under the Influence).
Living Under the Influence, unlike a DUI (Driving Under the Influence), is something we should be striving for. Living Under the Influence of the indwelling and ever-present Spirit of God within us restores the relationship that God intended at the very Creation. God breathed in his Spirit and seeks to restore that perfect union with each person as God had with Adam and Eve.
Living Under the Influence also opens our perspectives to God’s kingdom instead of being manipulated by the “wisdom of this world.” So, how do you escape the wisdom of the world and live for the glory of God’s reign and let the world know that you carry the divine relationship in your heart?