August 26, 2018
Isaiah 29:11-19 & Mark 7:1-13
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Some things never seem to change. One of those things in the Dietrich household is telling our sons to wash their hands. When the weather is nice (which pretty much means as long as it isn’t raining, sleeting, or snowing and sometimes those standards don’t apply) they boys want to play outside. That’s a good thing. And when it comes time for lunch or dinner we “herd them like cats” and corral them into the house. Upon entering they are told to take off their shoes and wash their hands. Did I tell you it’s like herding cats…
The usual answers are no… my hands aren’t dirty… ooooohhhh….and they will finally go in to wash their hands. This is good. But then the questions are… “did you use soap?” “Did you make bubbles with the soap?” “Did you dry your hands off?” Often…they will go back to do the job again after asking. And it’s not just Aaron… Luke is the same way. The problem for Luke… while he can barely reach the handles to turn the water on…he can’t reach the soap. So every time he tries to wash his hands…well…they don’t look any cleaner when he’s done.
The worst reaction is when the child says they have already washed their hands…just like they were supposed to…but when you go to check the sink is dry and the hands are still black from playing in the dirt and burn pile.
The Pharisees and Scribes knew all about the need for cleanliness. The law had prescribed ceremonial washing of people and things. You washed your hands and your whole body. You washed your cups and pots and even your couches. They believed that uncleanliness was transferrable to other people, plates and cups, and clothes, so there were laws to make sure you didn’t transfer your germs. When you’re sharing your roasted tomato hummus with the guy who just trimmed his sheep’s hooves and then wiped his nose with his sleeve, you want to know he’s obeyed the purity laws.
Not only did the Pharisees and Scribes follow the law…they followed many man-made laws written in Talmud and other scholarly works. They would create laws to make sure you were following other laws. They thought that they were keeping the law perfectly. They kept the law in front of everyone to see. They prided themselves in it! They didn’t just wash their hands… they washed their hands three times and each time better than you!
“Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” (Mark 7:1-5)
Hey Jesus… you talk a good game… but if you’re so focused on fulfilling the law… why don’t your Disciples wash their hands? Why do your Disciples work on the Sabbath? Why did you pick men that cuss like sailors to be your Disciples? Why do you eat with tax collectors? How can you claim authority to forgive sins? Who do you think you are?
The Pharisees and Scribes were so caught up in their outward appearance of being perfect and keeping all of the laws right down to the letter…that they missed seeing the true Jesus. They were so focused on the law that they missed the point of God’s Word. They were so intent on what they were doing and how they were keeping the law that they missed the promise of salvation through Christ Jesus the very Messiah. They gave God lip service. They agreed with God’s Word but only as far as it was within their ability to fulfill it themselves.
In our Gospel Jesus quotes our Old Testament lesson. “And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” (Mark 7:6-8)
You Pharisees are so focused on your own laws; your own working of salvation…that you are missing the forgiving grace God has given. You Pharisees and Scribes are so focused on yourselves that you don’t even see the prophecy given through Isaiah: “Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest? In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 29:15-19)
That day has come. Jesus gave the deaf hearing, the blind sight, and the meek joy. God was with His people. He had brought good news…salvation would be won through Christ; forgiveness would be won by Jesus.
Dear Christians. Don’t get distracted from the truth of God’s Word. Don’t become inflated by your own deeds and work. Don’t focus inwardly. Don’t just go through the motions and give God lip service. Instead come to the Lord’s altar. Come to this place where Christ gives you Himself; where Jesus gives you life and light in the midst of death and darkness. Come receive forgiveness and strength. And ponder anew what the Almighty has and continues to do for you. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.