Our sermon for last Sunday was based on Mark 7:14-23, in which Jesus says that it isn’t what comes from the outside that makes us unclean but what comes from the inside. Pastor Douthwaite first applied this to the Pharisees who were interrogating Jesus and then he started doing that Law & Gospel thing:
We see the same thing in our world today, whenever another shooting happens in a movie theatre or school or college or shopping center. Sometimes there were signs that something was wrong, but often times the news is filled with interviews about how the person seemed so normal, so good, so clean, and how shocking and surprising that such an awful thing could come out of such a good, clean-cut person, who smiles and is so friendly, who loves animals and helps little old ladies across the street.
And then there’s all the uncleanness in our hearts. The uncleanness that comes spewing out when someone cuts you off in traffic, or you don’t get what you want or think you deserve, or when you feel slighted or insulted by someone, the uncleanness that comes out when we know we can do something and get away with it. The thoughts that shouldn’t be there, the murder of someone’s reputation, the pride that wants others to change for me instead of me changing or helping them, the jealousy. The presumption of guilt when it comes to others but the presumption of innocence when it comes to me. The impatience, the condescending, the get out of my way. It’s all in there and more, isn’t it? And while it might surprise the person next to you if they knew all that was percolating in your heart, sometimes if even surprises us what comes out, the shameful sins and impulses deep down.
But Jesus is not surprised. It’s why He came. And not with gloves on, to protect Himself from our sins; but in our flesh and blood. And He came to fill not a bucket, but to fill fonts and chalices and pulpits with His blood to clean us. To clean us from the inside out. That in every baptism, every communion, every sermon and absolution, the Holy Spirit do His cleansing work and wash away the guilt of our sins. All of them. None hidden from His sight or too deep for his cleansing. Sometimes we may wish God didn’t know all our sins, but if He didn’t, how could we know they are all forgiven? But if He knows them, He died for them. If He knows them, He took them upon Himself and paid for them. If He knows them, He forgives them. From the littlest of them to the most shameful of them. All of them.
For you see, on the cross, the anti-Scribes and Pharisees, the anti-you and me takes place. For there, the One who was completely clean and pure on the inside, the One who knew no sin, the One whose heart percolated only love and life, not only looked like sin, looked like the criminal we are, but became sin. For you. All that’s inside you is outside Christ on the cross, your shame showing His love, that His blood shed there now fill our eyes and ears and mouths and hearts and make you holy. His I forgive you filling us with faith and giving us the deep cleaning that we need. The deep cleaning we can get nowhere else. . . .
But just as we are surprised by the evil that comes out of clean-looking folks, so we are surprised at this truth – that even though this is what we see on the outside, you are clean, you are forgiven, you, dear sinner, are a child of God. That is the truth. That is the truth of our new reality baptized into Christ and His forgiveness. The reversal of Christ’s resurrection now means a reversal for us. A wonderful reversal, that even though we die, yet shall we live. For we are His, bought with a price; bought and cleansed by His blood.
Now satan will do everything He can to make you forget that. To reverse that thinking and make you think that if everything’s good on the outside you must be good on the inside, or that if everything’s bad on the outside you must be bad on the inside. It kind of makes sense. But it’s not the truth. Christ has changed everything for you. . . .
And so we prayed this morning in the Introit: Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin . . . Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. We prayed that, we asked for that, for this is the Lord’s work. Only He can do it. Only He can create something out of nothing, can create a child of God from sinners like us. And so we come back here every week to pray for and receive His forgiveness. We go to Him every day to pray for and receive His forgiveness. And He does. Forgiving and cleansing us, restoring us, and renewing us. That baptized into Christ, what is inside Christ may show itself outside of us.