What Really Makes
10Jesus called the crowd together and said, “Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. 11The food you put into your mouth doesn't make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.”
12Then his disciples came over to him and asked, “Do you know you insulted the Pharisees by what you said?”
13Jesus answered, “Every plant that my Father in heaven did not plant will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Stay away from those Pharisees! They are like blind people leading other blind people, and all of them will fall into a ditch.”
15Peter replied, “What did you mean when you talked about the things that make people unclean?”
16Jesus then said:
Don't any of you know by now what I am talking about? 17Don't you know that the food you put into your mouth goes into your stomach and then out of your body? 18 But the words that come out of your mouth come from your heart. And they are what make you unfit to worship God. 19Out of your heart come evil thoughts, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, vulgar deeds, stealing, telling lies, and insulting others. 20These are what make you unclean. Eating without washing your hands will not make you unfit to worship God.
How can someone who works so hard at his scholarship, studying the Word of God, become a blind guide? I don’t know about you, but that’s a terrifying thought for someone in leadership. Recall the stern admonition from James 3:1 that teachers will be judged more strictly. Jesus adds in Luke 11:52, “You teachers of the Law of Moses are really in for trouble! You carry the keys to the door of knowledge about God. But you never go in, and you keep others from going in.”
Jesus never shrinks from challenging the Pharisees’ leadership. While many Christians are too nice to confront a leader who is in the wrong, Jesus knows the stakes are too high for sheep whose shepherds are blind.
Recall how, in John 9, Jesus healed a man born blind. The man’s journey to physical sight was instantaneous, while his journey to spiritual sight was more gradual. Meanwhile, the Pharisees remained spiritually blind. The story ends with a sharp exchange between the Pharisees and Jesus.
‘I am here to give sight to the blind and to make blind everyone who can see.’
When the Pharisees heard Jesus say this, they asked ‘Are we blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But now that you claim to see, you will keep on being guilty.’ (John 9:39-41)
How is your eyesight? Do you claim to see? We often criticize the disciples for not understanding, but here Peter chooses a path of wisdom. Better to take the attitude of a learner. No matter our pedigree or position, there’s always more to learn and see.
There’s encouragement here as well. Ultimately, the Pharisees were blind because they never knew the Father, not because they lost their way. We may lose our way at times but we can be assured that our Father knows us and will give spiritual sight when we humble ourselves before him.
Lord Jesus, you are the Way, the Truth and the Life. We want to see, and so we come to you in humility, asking that you explain your ways to us so that we can teach them to others. For the sake of your name, Amen.