Matthew 15:1-20

Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?
For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God — then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.
Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.
Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.
Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.”
So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.

We desperately need to catch the depth of how Jesus felt about the religious leaders teaching man’s rules as if they were God’s laws. This is one of several times when the hyper-religious, super-spiritual and self-righteous provide their stark contrast to the purity and power of Jesus. Those events are in scripture so we can learn how to deal with that disease in ourselves as well as in others. A super-practical point of view is called for when dealing with super-spiritual motives and actions. When superficial things become “holy-plated” there is clearly a super-identity problem.

When God gave Moses the instructions for worship and the layout for the Tabernacle it was to start clearing up Israel’s identity problem. But it was just a part of the process. Continuing to give our attentions and allegiance to objects and rituals after discovering the person of Jesus, the One to whom all those objects and rituals were designed to lead us, clearly signals either a mental problem or just plain stupidity.

The last thing I want to hear Jesus say to me is,”Hey Stupid!” How about you? It makes me want to take inventory of things I think are “sacred” and make sure they are what He thinks is sacred.

We must ask ourself:
1. How much of my identity (or my identification of others) comes from my interpretation of actions or visual impressions because of mode of dress, hair style, race, accent, etc? Does the tone of someone’s voice or elevated language, or the fact they’re on TV, identify them as a godly person? Are you identified by the clothes you wear or the car you drive or the house you live in? Do you identify certain styles of music as “Christian” or “un-Christian? Is there a “dress code” beyond the boundaries of modesty for you to feel like you’re “in church”?

2. How much of my identity or my identification of others comes from Jesus’ identification? Not a cultural interpretation of Jesus. The real, living person – Jesus. Remember?… KNOWING HIM is identification with “eternal life”.

That “KNOWING” is exactly what we’re looking at here – identity. Identifying with Jesus in every aspect of life and personality. It seems safe to say that at sometime each of us has confidently done something we thought would be what someone else would want us to do, only to find that we were wrong. To learn from that situation to get more familiar with the person so we could avoid making that mistake again – that would be smart. It’s just plain silly to continue to guess and fake it! Especially when intimate relationship is available!

Intimacy is what Jesus was born, lived a human life, died, rose again and lives right now to make available to us. That Eternal Life-style has nothing to do with just guessing and faking it or mindlessly following cultural rules which, in every society in history, has eventually buried the reality and vibrant Life of the Church, capital C.

I’ll leave you with this clear picture of Jesus’ direct response to that kind of people: “Every tree that wasn’t planted by my Father in heaven will be pulled up by its roots. Forget them. They are blind men leading blind men. When a blind man leads a blind man, they both end up in the ditch.

Want to stay out of the ditch? Get better acquainted with the Truth, the Way, the Life, the Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Savior and Light of the world, the Friend who’s closer than a brother, who gave and was given so that you might be His Child and He might be your God, that you might KNOW HIM and worship Him in the beauty of holiness!