Jesus takes us beyond outward observation into the very heart of our lives. A special envoy of Pharisees from Jerusalem has come to interrogate Jesus but He confronts them with their confusion about what defiles and the heart of true spirituality with God:
Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (Matthew 15:10b-11)
Jesus wants to take His hearers, and us, deeper than mere outward observance. While there is so much more to Jesus’ ministry, there are three things that Jesus intends to do through His teaching and ministry here:
- to bring us to the end of ourselves and our power where we know we need an intervention from God
- to transform us from the inside out through the saving intervention of Jesus Christ on the Cross
- to grow us in the abundant life with God through obedience as we walk by faith under the influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit
The Pharisees have missed the point about what defiles human life. To have something defiled, meant that it was not holy and could not be in God’s presence or was displeasing to God. The Pharisees had become so enamored with ritual purity that they thought it was primarily what came into a person that defiled them. Now, it wasn’t just food that could defile someone. One could also be defiled by skin diseases, bodily fluids, or contact with someone who was unclean. But the principle the Pharisees lived by was that the external was what defiled. They are blind guides who will lead the blind astray.
Jesus brings it back to a deeper level. He says it’s what comes out of us that defiles us. Our words, yes, but more deeply, what comes from our hearts; our inner life. Hear those words again:
But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Matthew 15:18-19)
We must turn to our hearts. Again and again, Jesus drives toward the human heart. In Matthew 12, He says:
The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. (Matthew 12:34b-35)
Jesus is a spiritual cardiologist of sorts, a spiritual heart doctor, and He is trying to get us back to that place with the living God. So how would Jesus diagnose our hearts? What soul-surgery would He recommend? How might we invite Him to do what’s necessary in the deep places of our lives?