Summoning the crowd, He told them, “Listen and understand: It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
Then the disciples came up and told Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard this statement?”Â Â Â Â Matthew 15:10-12 (HCSB)
The lectionery texts this week are about â€œbrothersâ€, about God’s family. Family relationships, whatever kind they are, certainly need Jesus in them!
Too often I think that my â€œspiritual familyâ€ relationships should be smooth sailing with common goals and good communication. I forget that the family is still made up of people who are like me â€“ less than perfect.
In the Matthew text, Jesus says, â€œLISTEN AND UNDERSTAND!â€. Jesus is giving me a heads up that what He is about to say is important. It is important not just to me but in relationships. Jesus tells me that what is in my heart will overflow out of my mouth. What kind of spiritual food am I consuming? What is flowing out of me to others? Am I taking in God’s goodness, kindness, gentleness, joy, love, self-control, peace, patience, and faithfulness? Am I going to His buffet?
Not a shock that the religious leaders would be offended that their buffet of eating the â€œrightâ€ food in the â€œrightâ€ way and at the â€œrightâ€ time was seen as defiling to them. They wanted to use their knowledge and relationship with God as a way to manipulate and control people. They wanted to make it impossible for people to have joy in their relationship with God and use whatever power they thought they had to get more power and more status in their community.
Jesus set the example for me. He looked to God to tell Him who He was. He didn’t care about the judgment of other people. I am shown that He spent â€œalone timeâ€ with God. He did that because He needed it! I believe that because He did, He had infinite patience and compassion for the people. Jesus saw them as children, as sheep without a shepherd. He showed me His way of ministering. He showed me how to share His Good News with the power of His Spirit right there with me.
Jesus had little patience with synagogue leaders who manipulated, lied, and generally misrepresented God by their examples. They were not about bringing God and His children closer together. Jesus showed by His example that leaders were to serve others. He said that the greatest in His Kingdom were those who are servants in the Kingdom (Mark 10:43). Jesus washed not only Peter and John’s feet but Judas’ feet. Jesus specifically says that if I love only those who love me â€“ there is no spiritual ‘credit’ for that (Luke 6:32-36).
Matthew’s passage in this lectionery includes the story of the Canaanite woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter. The dialogue between Jesus and the woman can be puzzling as He seems to say that because she is not a Jew, she isn’t worthy of His time or healing. I think that Jesus’ tongue is set firmly in His cheek. He is sarcastically pointing back to the Pharisees who say that those who are not Jews, even most Jews who aren’t â€œrightâ€ in their eyes, are not worthy of God’s blessings. The truth is â€“ NONE of us are worthy of God’s blessings. Again, Jesus gives me the example that when I serve others, judgment of whether they are worthy of my service does not enter into it. Jesus sends me to serve whomever He wills.
How good and pleasant it is when brothers can live together!
It is like fine oil on the head, running down on the beard, running down Aaron’s beard, on his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon falling on the mountains of Zion.
For there the LORD has appointed the blessingâ€”life forevermore.Â Â Â Psalm 133 (HCSB)