In this PODCAST, you are about to see a side of Jesus that you’ve likely never seen before.
Your love for Jesus is about to grow exponentially. And rightly so.
Let’s begin by reading Matthew 15:15-20 –
15 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.”
16 “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”
We have come to a defining moment in Jesus’ life and ministry. And clichés seem to abound.
Such as “Piling On”.
Emotionally, physically, an spiritually, Jesus was at rock bottom at this point of His story… to the point where he retreated to the North. He had been run out of His hometown of Capernaum, as He was run out of the town of His birth, Nazareth. He said Himself in Matthew 8:20,
“The Son of Man has no place to lay His head”
He was homeless and rejected.
He was also on the run. Herod had just killed His cousin, John the Baptist, and was now gunning for Jesus.
So, He looked to the local leaders of His religion – the Rabbis, Pharisees and Scribes of Jerusalem. They, after all, had traveled far from Jerusalem to be near Him. But, they didn’t come to offer Jesus comfort.
They came to “kick a man when he is down” and “shoot the wounded” (aka “pile on”). In fact, when they came upon Him, they didn’t offer condolences. They went on the attack:
Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, 2 “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.” (Matthew 15:1-2)
Now, I know that we don’t typically think of Jesus as being “down and out”, but He had His moments. The Bible tells us that when Lazarus died, “Jesus wept”. Not just cried a little, or shed a slight tear, but WEPT. So, it should be no surprise that He would feel the same when His cousin, partner in ministry, and person who baptized Him was put to death.
What Jesus really needed from His fellow Bible-believing Rabbis was a listening ear and kind word. But instead, they zealously criticized and condemned Jesus for allowing His followers to disobey their rules.
They just didn’t care.
They were more interested in being right than anything else.
It’s a lot easier to focus on how right you are and condemn someone than to focus on somebody’s redemption.
So, how did Jesus react? What did He say in regards to the hearts of the condemning religious leaders?
17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” (Matthew 15:17-20)
They thought that eating without observing their hand-washing rules was what would defile someone, but Jesus was not bound by their rules. He knew their hearts. He knew God’s rules. He knew what was truly required by God Almighty.
They didn’t hold anything back in their self-righteous condemnation; and Jesus, in Matthew 23, didn’t hold back in setting the record straight:
23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.
27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Let me share a bit about where my heart is, especially in regards to these passages.
Recently, acclaimed blogger Matt Walsh visited a church service near a convention where he was speaking. To be bluntly brief, Matt said that he didn’t care for the service. The music was too fluffy and the sermon had too many stories. So, Matt went into “blog attack” mode. Matt wrote:
If the faith is to regain lost ground in this country, it will only happen when Christianity is presented and understood as what it is: a warrior’s religion. A faith for fighters and soldiers. CS Lewis said it best (as usual):
Enemy-occupied territory–that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.
There. There it is, explained more compellingly in two sentences than many pastors can muster in a lifetime of sermons. This is frightening, militant language, but it’s exciting, it’s exhilarating, and it is, most importantly, accurate. As Christians, we are fighting a war against the Devil himself. We are advancing against the darkest forces of the universe, and we march with God by our side. And all the while, all around us, on a dimension invisible to mortal eyes, angels and demons and supernatural forces, both good and evil, work to defend or destroy us.
The stakes are infinite. Our souls hang in the balance. We are standing on a battlefield where the hope of eternal life awaits the loyal soldiers. The Psalms say “praise be the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands for war.” This is the feeling and the attitude that our leaders and churches should be stirring in us. This is the truth of this life and of this faith that we claim. It’s a ferocious, formidable, terrifying, joyful truth. It’s the truth that Scripture spends over 1,000 pages trying to explain. It’s the truth that should be shouted from the rooftops of every church and proclaimed from the mouths of every Christian.
I thought the Crusades were long over.
Isn’t this – declaring war against someone – exactly what the Pharisees did to Jesus 2,000 years ago? Did they read Matt’s blog?
As for me, I don’t want a call to arms. I just want to know God.
I reflect on Jesus’ words in John 1:17 –
17 The Law was given by Moses, but Jesus Christ brought us undeserved kindness and truth.
Imagine what the world would be like if we reacted with undeserved kindness more often. Imagine what the Biblical account would be if the religious leaders of 2,000 years ago would have reacted with undeserved kindness, instead of what we read in Acts 4:9-10
9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
The same religious leaders who Jesus confronted were now about to imprison Peter for showing undeserved kindness to a lame man. They weren’t concerned about anyone’s redemption. They were only concerned about Peter’s breaking of the rules, touching a lame man and defiling himself.
Did you know that the word “Kindness” appears in the Bible 354 times? Maybe that’s a clue for us.
Maybe we need more kindness… much more kindness; and much less condemnation.
I can’t put it any better than the Apostle Paul did in Acts 20:24 –
24 But I don’t care what happens to me, as long as I finish the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to do. And that work is to tell the good news about God’s great kindness.