August 30, 2015
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS
INI + AMEN.
Unwashed hands. That’s what had the Pharisees all up in arms last week. Jesus had taught His Disciples by word and most likely by doing it Himself that eating with unwashed hands was just fine. Why would a Rabbi with strong teaching and great miracles break these long-standing, ancient, well-intentioned customs?
The teachers of the Law were offended by what they saw, but St. Paul helps us out. Jesus lives it; Paul proclaims it. “Christ is the end of the Law for all who believe.” Christ is the end, the finishing, the completion, the final stop, the τέλος of the Law. He fulfills it: He does it for you. He does what we can’t. The Law is complete in Christ Jesus for all who believe. No need to work our way into God’s good graces. Through His life, His death, His resurrection the Law is done for. That’s what Paul says: Christ is the τέλος of the Law. That’s what Jesus says on the cross: “Τετέλεσται: It is finished.” Jesus is the “it is finished” of the Law. That’s what we see Jesus living out and preaching here in Mark 7.
It’s a good thing that Jesus is the τέλος of the Law, the “It is finished” of the Law. Every single one of us has a problem, and it’s not a knowledge problem. We know what the Law says. It’s a heart problem.
(3.) Our hearts need to be cleansed.
They need to be cleansed because our hearts aren’t as clean and nice as we like to think they are. We have all sorts of ways of talking about our hearts and what comes out of them in a positive way. That’s what we want to hear. Do we really want to hear how dark our hearts really are? We NEED to hear it, but that doesn’t mean we want to. The world doesn’t want to hear it either! The world wants hearts that are always in the right place. Hearts that are clean slates that only become bad because of circumstances outside of that person’s control. We want hearts that are maybe a little bit off but good enough to be something that we should give to God, as if it’s something He wants as a gift.
But if that were the case, then Jesus is a liar. Do we ever have to teach children bad behavior? Do we have to teach them to steal toys away from their siblings? Do we have to say, “Johnny, when you get ready tomorrow take up all the time so your sister only has 5 minutes to get ready”? No, it’s quite the opposite. You have to teach children, against their nature, to share because what’s in their hearts is also in ours: “thefts,” among many other things. The heart’s capacity for evil knows no bounds, and Jesus isn’t lying when He says, “From within, out of the heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
For this reason Jesus needs to cleanse our hearts, and He does! Jesus says through the prophet Ezekiel, “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” The old, dead heart that produced old, dead works—sins and evil innumerable—is taken away. Jesus fulfills for us the prayer “create in me a clean heart, O God,” even before we ask it. He wins for us a pure and clean with His pure and clean heart being pierced by a spear at His death. He then delivers the cleaning, the purifying, the washing that our hearts need through the water and blood flowing from His pierced side. Washed at the font, purified with His blood your heart is clean because of Jesus.
We know that. We believe that and rejoice in it. We also believe, teach, and confess—we also rejoice that
(2.) Jesus cleanses our hearts from sin against God’s Law.
All the sins that we commit (every last one) and all the evils that the heart produces (every last one) are against God’s Law. Listen to what Christ says again, “Out of the heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” As Christians we can all agree that all those things are bad and that they’re against God’s Law. We can also agree that we’ve sinned in thought, word, and deed in many of these ways. But—thanks be to God!—Jesus cleanses us from all these sins. Whatever the sin is, it’s forgiven, the heart cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
Now, Jesus also cleanses our hearts from something else, and this is where Jesus is really pointing us to. Yes, our hearts need to be cleansed—they’re not as nice as we want to think. Yes, Jesus cleanses us and our hearts from all the sins and wickedness that flow from our hearts that are against God’s Law. But Jesus also
(1. Jesus) cleanses our hearts from self righteousness.
This is what Jesus is driving at. We make up our own laws, or we follow other men’s laws and judge others by them. We may even take God’s Law, lessen it so we can do it, and then judge others by how they measure up to our standard. First, let’s think about our Gospel text example. God’s standard has always been a clean and pure heart. “Well, I can’t quite do that. So, how’s about I wash my hands before I eat. How’s that, God?” To this Jesus says, “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him.” Second, let’s think about ourselves. I know I’m supposed to be humble, but at least I’m not rude and as arrogant as that guy. I know I’m supposed to “not despise preaching and [God’s] Word but hold it sacred.” I know that means I go to church to hear His Word and receive His gifts and not go do whatever else I’m doing, but at least I’m more regular in my attendance than she is.
That’s what we really need to repent of. We need to repent of our self-made righteousness. Our measuring sticks that we use to make ourselves look and feel holy. The same measuring sticks we use to beat up others and knock them down. Our defiled hearts want to do that. Christ must cleanse us from this, and He does.
JESUS CLEANSES OUR HEARTS FROM SIN, EVEN OUR SELF-MADE RIGHTEOUSNESS.
He washes us clean at the font. He purifies our hearts with His blood in the Supper. As a wise pastor named Cyprian said, “Because I am always sick, I always need the medicine.” So Christ cleanses you and me. He cleanses our hearts until our hearts, souls, and bodies are pure in the resurrection on the Last Day. He does this because He is the τέλος of the Law, the “it is finished” of the Law. He fulfills God’s Law. He wipes it out for you who believe in Him. He’s the end even of our laws. For there is no law which makes you better or your heart clean and pure before God. Only Jesus does that.
INI + AMEN.