3.4.2015 Wednesday of Lent 2 Mark 7:1-23 A good heart is the source of a good life
Once again Jesus comes into conflict with the scribes and Pharisees over the Law and Tradition. To keep from breaking the Law, the scribes announced detailed laws and interpretations. The body of these pronouncements was known as the “oral law” or the Tradition of the Elders. Later the oral law was put into writing and is known as the Talmud. Jesus distinguishes between the law of God and the traditions of men. Jesus is asked why He does not require His disciples to observe the tradition by washing their hands before eating. Jesus points to the heart as the source of good living. It is not a matter of dirty hands but a dirty heart. Vices come from a filthy heart and they make a person unclean. On the other hand, a good heart will produce good deeds.
Do not use religion to avoid the demands of faith. Leadership of Jesus day built for themselves a religion of traditions and proceeded to use tradition to escape the demands of faith. Jesus has a word for this – hypocrisy. Whose voice will you listen, the voice of God or the voice of the church? That was the issue of the 16th Century. Certain reformers repudiated those traditions that they found contrary to the word of Scripture. Is the church today in need of another overhaul? Some believe that a reformation is long overdue. If so, who is to be the arbitrator? At all costs, we need to avoid making religion our religion.
We need a religion based on the clear word of the Lord.
His Word will not fail. What does His Word teach us? It teaches us that mere ritual, washing, or clean living will never do. However, His washing will always make us clean.
St. Paul reminds us, “When we were baptized into Christ Jesus, we were baptized into His death. We were buried with Him by our baptism into death that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we were united with Him in a death like His we will certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” Romans 6:4-5
In Baptism you were incorporated into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ is the only one who has ever live a perfectly good, clean life before God. He alone is the spotless Lam of God. He never soiled Himself with the stain of sin, even though He was tempted as you are.
His Word gives salvation and life. Jesus chose to cover Himself with the entire dirt and filth of your sin. The Father chose to give Him your punishment for that sin and to give you His cleanliness. Now in the waters of Baptism the Father give you Jesus’ clean, holy life as your own and washes away the stain and dirt of your sin.
This is the Father’s idea of godliness. Not what we can do to look impressive before God rather it is what He has done for you. The power of forgiveness in Baptism we are able to really do what the leaders of Jesus’ day and our own hypocritical nature can only mimic – offer a life to God that is also externally clean and godly.
In Jesus Christ all our actions as God’s people – from the rituals of our worship to the duties of our daily lives are now clean in God’s sight. No wonder the Scriptures call Baptism a “washing of regeneration” and “a renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
O God, you so loved the world that you gave your only begotten Son to reconcile earth with heaven; Grant that we, loving you above all things, may love our friends in you, and our enemies for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.