Tuesday, September 8, 2015

“Clean Hands or Clean Hearts” Mark 7:1-5

S-1511 13SAP/3B 8/23/2015 Hymns: (O) #865; (S) #527; L.S #633; #618; (C) #587

Texts: Isaiah 29:11-19; Ephesians 5:22-33; Mark 7:1-13

Theme: “Clean Hands or Clean Hearts” Mark 7:1-5

Question: “What is more important: Clean Hands or Clean Hearts”? (2nd sermon at Trinity)

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost is the Gospel reading. “Now when the Pharisees gathered to [Jesus], 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)

Most precious people of God, there are sermons that are easy to write and to listen to both for pastor and people. But on the other hand there are those sermons that are difficult to write and preach. These sermons don’t permit you to say, “So and so need to hear it! Or I wished she was here to hear this message that is just want she needs!” This sermon is for pastor and people alike because it hits us right between the eyes and there is no escaping it.

The text before us from St. Mark is one that brings to our attention the life of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who often complained about the disciples that they didn’t have their hands washed before they ate. These Pharisees and Scribes were more concerned on the outside but not the inside. Therefore the question that I asked you earlier was this: “Which is more important to have clean hands or clean hearts?” That is the question that is before us today, and we, God’s blood-bought people need to know what God teaches us.

To help us with this, I share with you a true story that played out in the lives of a very wealthy man and a poor couple. So here it goes.

This man was rich beyond measure. He had livestock of every shape and kind, land, property and servants attending to his every need. In the public square he was well respected and esteemed. However, behind closed doors he lived another life. On the surface his hands were very clean (at least he thoughts so) but his heart wasn’t at all.

He was a peeping tom, slept with a woman who wasn’t his wife, and when he discovered she got pregnant he attempted to make her husband sleep with her so that it doesn’t appear that someone else fathered the child. But when the husband wouldn’t do it, he put the order out to kill him.

All the people saw was this good man whose hands were clean (at least he thought so), but his heart was far from it. You know the man very well. As a matter of fact you know the story well. It is in the Scripture in 2 Samuel 11. It is the story of King David, taking Bathsheba Uriah’s wife, fathering a child with her and then giving the command to murder her husband. He did everything right for the people to see, but his heart was filthy. PAUSE.

That is the story of the text before us today. The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day as well as ours put so much emphasis on what is visible on the outside—clean hands and good behavior, but very little on matters of the heart. The Lord Himself sent Samuel to Jesse’s home in Bethlehem to choose the next king of Israel, and told him as Jesse was parading his sons before him: “Don’t look at his appearance or how tall he is, because I have rejected him. God does not see as humans see. Humans look at outward appearances, but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Jesus Himself condemned the acts of the Pharisees and Scribes by telling them: Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites in Scripture: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is pointless, because their teachings are rules made by humans’” (Mark 7:6-7).

How often are we as guilty as these Jewish leaders? We, too, judge people by appearance. We determine who is guilty and who is not. We see the fault of others and don’t see our own. We sit as judge and jury and make ourselves better than others. It is as the picture in the catechism book that shows a man looking at his neighbor’s sin and sees a small bag, but on his back there is a huge bag. We really play “god” because we focus so much on the outside, but not on the inside.

Certainly we can wash our hands as Pilate did when he condemned Jesus to death saying: “I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves” (Mt. 27:24b). But the fact of the matter is no matter how hard we try to clean our filthy hands from sin, they will never be truly cleansed! No matter what we use, even Gojo, bleach or stain remover, it can’t remove the sins. It may remove dirt and grime from the hands but it can never remove the grime of sin from the heart.

In order for the sin to be removed from the heart, we listen to the peeping tom—David, who when confronted with sin by the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12), didn’t attempt to come up with excuses, or blame someone else, or the condition of the environment. No, he confessed right away that he was guilty. He is the one who sinned against God, Bathsheba, Uriah and his military personnel. He was so moved to sorrow that he wrote Psalm 51 in which he cries out to God to help him remove the sin he committed. Listen to this repentant man: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…[and this beautiful verse] Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (1-4, 10). PAUSE.

Thank God the cleansing is done by the blood of Jesus shed on Calvary’s cross. It is Jesus who purifies us from all of our sins. As the Apostle John reminds us, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

Jesus is the One who cleanses us, purifies us and makes us whole. In the waters of Baptism He takes our filth—all of it and removes it from us. He does this by taking the filth of our sin on Himself and gives us His holiness and righteousness in exchange! He continues to offer us this cleansing week in and week out here through His mighty, powerful and strong Word and Sacrament. In the presence of this unbounded grace, He gives us the confidence to confess our sins and acknowledge our dependence on Him alone.

No matter how much we try, we can’t remove sin from us. That is why Jesus needed to come to earth and be our Savior. That is why He chose to suffer the punishment we deserved and was willing to endure the torment resulting from our sin and disobedience. That is why He was willing to give His flesh to the floggers, His hands to the soldiers to be pierced for us to redeem, cleanse and present us pure and holy to His heavenly Father,.

Beloved in the Lord, today by the grace of God the Holy Spirit has brought you here. Today, in the Divine Service you spoke the words: “In the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.” Some of you even made the sign of the cross on your forehead to remind you of your baptism. And that is so very important. Why, you may ask? Because the word that is used in the original text to wash the hands is “Baptizen”, from which we get the word to baptize. Small Pause.

(Lean at the pulpit and point at the saints), Beloved in the Lord, I want you to ponder this thought. If the Lord God almighty, can look at the peeping tom, the adulterer, the murderer, the liar and deceiver—David and declare him, “A man after my own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22), how much more will He look at us sinners for the sake of Christ, our Savior and declare us holy and righteous in His sight forevermore.

Today, beloved, may we, in true humility confess our sins before God and know that for the sake of the shed blood of Christ on Calvary’s cross and His mighty resurrection that we too, are counted as a man/woman after God’s own heart and also precious, cleansed, forgiven and made saints. Amen.

Now the peace…


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