Day 16: Mess & Perfection
Summoning the crowd again, he told them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
We live in an age where media airbrushes most people. In an image obsessed culture, it’s understandable. There’s a pressure on each and every person in the public eye to look perfect. Celebrities might get the full on photoshop treatment, but most social media offers selfie filters now, so that anyone can make themselves appear better. Human hearts strive to impress others and portray a certain appearance. We could use any number of means to impress others, it could be actions or gestures, clothes or jobs, achievements or knowledge – we can do anything to put up a façade.
Jesus was questioned by some Pharisees and scribes about hand-washing. It wasn’t to do with covid guidelines, but rather ‘the tradition of the elders.’ Jesus’ disciples weren’t following the traditional ceremonial hand washing before eating, so the rule-keeping elite wanted to know why. Jesus told them their traditions were a façade.
‘This people honours me with their lips, But their heart is far from me.’ (6:6)
He quoted the prophet Isaiah and applied it to these religious experts. They were living a façade. They thought they were clean before God because they followed traditions, but really God was concerned about their hearts. They said the right things, but for the wrong reasons. They looked perfect, but they were a mess. They had clean hands, but dirty hearts.
‘For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.’ (6:21-23)
Sin is a problem of the heart. Yes, it leads to actions, but it is born in the very core of each of us. Yes, there are temptations all around, but if we didn’t have sinful desires we wouldn’t be tempted. No amount of outward efforts can change what goes on inside us. Inwardly, we are a mess.
By contrast, Mark chapter 7 ends with this comment about Jesus:
‘He has done everything well.’
An astonished crowd made this remark after Jesus made a deaf and mute man hear and speak, but it sums up Jesus’ life - he did everything perfectly. His heart was clean. He had no sin. His actions flowed from pure motives. He was the true and better Adam, perfect in his humanity.
Our sin-defiled hearts mean we cannot come near the holy God. In his perfection, he cannot allow any stain of sin in his presence. There’s no façade we can put up to convince God otherwise. So, Jesus, the perfect, spotless man offered himself as the perfect sacrifice to take the place of his sinful people. In the great exchange, Jesus took on the place of sin so that those who put their trust in him could be given his righteousness. Only then could our messed up hearts be cleaned and made new.
No façade can mask who we truly are. None of our efforts to impress will ever mask who we truly are. No amount of turning up at church, singing hymns, having bible knowledge or doing good deeds can cover up our hearts before God.
Find freedom today by living in constant, honest confession of sin, with the knowledge that in Jesus we are secure and considered righteous in God’s sight.
Passage for today: Mark 7:1-37
A thought to remember: Jesus’ perfection is ours by faith.
A question to ask: Examine your heart today, where are you putting up a façade?
A song to sing: Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery