Scripture reading for January 22nd: Matthew 15:1-28, Psalm 17:1-7, Proverbs 4:5-9
Religious people often bothered Jesus. They were following Him around and looking with a magnifying glass at His actions to find out if He was keeping their laws. They were so focused on His actions, that they missed who He was and entry into the kingdom of heaven. Today, we have opportunity to see how Jesus dealt with religious people and to check our own hearts for traces of this kind of hypocrisy!
“You Hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips; but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teaching are but rules taught by men.'” (Matthew 15:7) The Pharisees and teachers of the law had come to Jesus questioning why He and His disciples did not wash their hands before they ate, as was the tradition of the elders. Jesus turned the tables on them and questioned as to why they broke God’s commands to satisfy the traditions of the elders! He confronted their hypocrisy by quoting Isaiah the prophet. Hypocrisy is play-acting. It is saying we stand for truth and obedience to God’s commands but fail to live correctly ourselves.
These religious leaders were saying that they honored and worshiped God, but Jesus said their worship was in vain. It was empty and useless because it did not come from a heart that was sold out to God and dependent on His mercy. Their worship was based on tradition, not humble obedience to God’s commands! True worship in it’s essence is complete obedience and lip service is not true worship!
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 makes him ‘unclean.'” (Matthew 15:11) Washing hands cannot cleanse a heart that is unclean! Only repentance and faith in Jesus can do that! Jesus had offended the religious Pharisees with his strong statements. But Jesus had acted in love, hoping to wake them up and save them and their followers from sin and death. We must check out our own hearts and actions. Do we give lip service to following Jesus, or have we repented and put our trust in God’s mercy? Religion is bondage but faith brings liberty!