Epistles to the Cyberchurch - Su Min

From: Su Min
Subject: Clean

Thursday 14 Nov 1996

GREETINGS

To all the saints in cyberspace, in the homes, in the offices, in the schools, at work or at play: grace, love and peace, in the MATCHLESS name of JESUS!

TEXT FOR TODAY

Matthew_15:1-20:_Clean from inside out. (See also Mark_7:1-23.) Being 20 verses I will not quote them here, but encourage you to refer to your bible.

THE QUESTIONERS

We read in Matthew_15:1_that a group of people had come from Jerusalem, travelling north to Capernaum, to question Jesus. We can assume that this was a case of "Big Brother" from big city, position of glory and might, seat of higher learning and holier religious teaching, coming out to the district, to the peripheral small village, to find out more about this famed itinerant healer. Pharisees and teachers of the law they were. From the distinguished seat of learning.

THE QUESTION

"Why do your followers break tradition by not washing hands before they eat?" (Matthew_15:2). They observed that the disciples did not follow to the letter of the law the ritualistic rules drawn up about hand washing before meals. The gospel of Matthew, originally targeted at a Jewish community, did not have to explain the intricacies of this problem. The readers would have been familiar with this background. The gospel of Mark was primarily to a gentile population: hence Mark goes on to detail the practice (Mark_7:3-4).

THE QUESTION BEHIND THE QUESTION

Why was this question asked? Was it an honest question in pursuit of the eternal truth? From the setting we learn it was not.

Why then, was this question asked?

The Pharisees and teachers of the law belonged to a politically strong group whose authority was being challenged by Jesus. He taught with such wisdom and authority. Theirs was a convoluted system of man- made rules, much more to burden the people and keep them oppressed and obliged to the Pharisees, rather than to keep them close in their relationship to God.

It would seem that this question was to put Jesus in his place: as his followers were not adhering to the rules, surely He Himself must belong to lower order of things, as compared to His questioners. Or so they believed.

IN ANSWER: A QUESTION

Our Lord answers the question with a question (Matthew_15:3) The Pharisees had questioned the break of the tradition of the elders. But worse than breaking tradition of elders, the Pharisees themselves broke the very command of God, as written in stone in the decalogue. Jesus quotes the command "Honour your father and mother" (Matthew_15:4) A command from God indeed (Exodus_20:12,_Deuteronomy_5:16) But the Pharisees had created a rule whereby a person could declare a property "Corban" (Mark_7:11), it seems that this rule assigned the property to God (probably into the hands of the Pharisees) and thus it became unavailable for the support or benefit of the parents. This so-called "giving to God" was often misused as a scheme to avoid supporting the parents. The Pharisees were in favour of this scheme as it benefited them. Following the letter of the law of menís rules was far from following the spirit of the command of God.

PUT IN THEIR PLACE

The hypocrites had come, intending to take Jesus down a peg or two. Throw mud in His face. Smear His name. But Jesus had taken this situation and reversed it. He tells them that they have nullified the Word of God for the sake of their tradition (Matthew_15:6). He identifies a scriptural portion which predicts the cheating ways of the Pharisees (Isaiah_29:13). They accused his disciples of breaking the rules of men. He pointed out that the Pharisees broke the rules of God.

TRUE CLEANLINESS

Jesus does not stop just with putting the Pharisees in their place. Ever the Good Teacher, he seizes this teaching opportunity (Matthew_15:10-11). They had complained about the absence of ritual washing.
Washing is about keeping clean.
You want cleanliness? I teach you about cleanliness.
Jesus called the crowd to him and said Listen and understand What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean' But what comes out of his mouth, that is what make him 'unclean'.

OFFENCE

The Pharisees were angered to hear this (Matthew_15:18) The rubbish that they spoke: the falsehoods that they spewed, these were dirt and uncleanness that reflected their inner disharmony and ungodliness..
They knew it, Jesus knew it, the crowd knew it, and the Pharisees took offence.
They did not like their faults being pointed out.
His disciple came to Him, telling him of the resentment that the Pharisees displayed. What should they do?

FINAL JUDGEMENT

Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots (Matthew_15:13)
Leave them alone (Matthew_15:14)

Plants planted by our heavenly Father will bear good fruit and will be left to blossom and grow, and flower, and bear good fruit: to God's glory, and to the furtherance of the kingdom.

Plans not planted by our heavenly Father with display their awful origin by the nature of fruit that they bear: their fate has already been determined: they will be pulled up by their roots: cast into the outer darkness where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth: cast onto the eternal fire.

PARABLE EXPLAINED

To some ears the parable was not clear: Why is it that eating with unwashed hands did not make a person unclean? It was not what went into the mouth but rather what came out of the mouth that made a person unclean: Jesus details the reason and the logic and the accurate thinking (Matthew_15:16-19).

ADD TO THE LIST

Evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander (Matthew_15:19).
Evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, folly (Mark_7:21)

It does not take much imagination to identify which of these we are capable.
It does not take much imagination to add to this list: other awful and horrid thoughts in our head and words that pour out of our mouth that reflect an inner dirtiness.

CLOSING PRAYER


For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min



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