“Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked,
2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat.” …
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand! 11What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean’, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’.” …
15 Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.”
16 Jesus said, “Are you still so dull?
17 Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?
18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’.
19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
20 These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean’.”
A Change of Heart!
The religious authorities came down from Jerusalem to investigate and interrogate Jesus. They criticized his lack of respect for the regulations governing religious purity. Jesus responded by transferring the spotlight from the externals of ritual to the state of their hearts. Their traditions had become an end in themselves, detracting from true morality, and enabling them to avoid their plain duty as taught in Moses’ law, such as providing for their parents.
The Pharisees emphasized ceremonial washing before eating, and avoiding “unclean foods” going into the mouth. Jesus reversed this image! The things that come out of our mouths, our words, reflect the source of our impurity, the evil that is in our hearts. Jesus listed some of these evils.
But can our hearts be changed?
Zacchaeus was a despised, greedy, corrupt tax collector, who became wealthy collecting taxes for the Romans from his fellow Jews in Jericho. His encounter with Jesus resulted in a dramatic and total change of heart, evidenced by changed behaviour. (Luke 19: 1-10) The Gospels record the stories of many individuals who were changed by their encounters with Jesus. The disciples were apprenticed to Jesus for three years, and became more and more like him as they walked in his footsteps. Today Jesus continues to change the hearts of those who come to him.
Prayer: “Create in me a pure heart, O God.” Psalm 51: 10. (Psalm 51)
See also “The Fruit of the Spirit” Gal 5:16-25
Geoff Francis is a retired General Practitioner, and the author and editor of this website.