The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Mark 7 :14-23
 And he called the people to him again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand:  There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him."
  And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable.  And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him,  since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" ( Thus he declared all foods clean.)  And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him.  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,  coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." Mark 7:14-23 (ESV)
Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled? (Thus he declared all foods clean.) and he said what comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and they defile a person.
Most of us have little concern for what we eat and drink and how that might defile us. The Jews did worry. Even the early church in Corinth had a few worries about this, but then we don’t have food offered to idols being sold at Albertsons. The only thing keeping us from eating lobster is the price tag. We are so far removed from the culture in which this was said we can hardly understand the scandal, that Jesus would declare all foods clean. We might think it some how immoral to eat horse, but we would be hard pressed to answer why, except that we think they are so pretty. One is hard pressed to apply this to the use of drugs and alcohol also.
Jews, even today understand the scandal. And do not eat pork. I remember touring Israel in college. We were in Joppa and went to eat at a restaurant that had quite a German menu, even serving beer mixed with coke. ( I have to be honest here, I don’t understand that aspect of German culture or cuisine.) I ordered a schnitzel and was perplexed when the waitress asked me in Yiddish “Mit chem?” I didn’t understand why that was a question, and answered, “Ja, mit chem.” Yiddish for pork, or ham. Yiddish and German are fairly similar, but chem is not German for pork. “With pork.” Only later did it dawn on me that she was trying to keep me from defiling myself. We don’t understand that, the way they do.
However, we do tend to think often of sin as something that attacks us from the outside, temptation and so forth that enter our hearts and lead us astray. Jesus says it is the opposite. It is because sin is already in our hearts that we are so weak in the face of temptation. Indeed it isn’t Satan or the world that are guilty of tempting us to sin, so much as it is our very own hearts. Now this is anethema to modern sentimentality, which thinks of our hearts as bastions of purity. How many of us have not been instructed at one time or another to follow our hearts desire. Coming from the heart seems to be the biggest stamp of approval one can give to a person’s convictions.
Lets be honest here. We don’t think of sexual immorality, theft and murder as things coming from the heart. We tend to think of our hearts as love pumps. Love comes from the heart so we think. We would like to think that with every decompression of the aorta, a little more love for humanity is squeezed out of that little organ. We like to think that our hearts are capable of love for humanity, and maybe even for God. We feel love beating in our hearts. And what could possibly be wrong with love?
True love, genuine love, though does not come from our hearts, but from the Holy Spirit. Now I’m not saying here that too people can’t learn to love each other as husband and wife without being Christian and so forth. But the love that comes from our hearts will always be tainted with sin. The love that is found in our hearts, always loves self more than neighbor, and even wife and kids. I dare say that all the sins Jesus listed off that come from the heart, are actually manifestations of love for self over others. Who here isn’t guilty of those? Who here hasn’t had an evil thought? Who here hasn’t been tempted by sexual immorality? Theft? Murder? Adultery? Coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy? Who hasn’t been guilty or Pride, and foolishness. Pride and foolishness are probably synonymous here, as we are foolish to have any pride in our sinful selves.
Most murders, believe it or not, are motivated by love. That is why the spouse is always the first prime suspect in a murder case. But the love really isn’t for the spouse that was murdered, but the selfish love of the murderer. Our hearts find it impossible to love anyone as much as we love ourselves. We all to often let that love for ourselves cloud our vision as to what true love is. Primarily because true love really isn’t found in feelings. Our feelings are incapable of bringing us to truly love. Love is a verb. We love by doing. True love would never break any of the ten commandments. That is why the law is summed up in love. Yet we would justify breaking the sixth commandment, committing adultery by invoking love. In the name of love, we break the commandments. Would you steal a loaf of bread if your family was starving? If your family was starving, wouldn’t love compel you to steal that loaf of bread? Do you see how corrupt our hearts are?
“There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him.” This is what Jesus says concerning food, the eating of lobster, and blood sausage, or pudding. I have to say the thought of blood pudding has always sort of grossed me out to begin with, I think it was the stories of Emil, my Swedish uncle gave me that referenced that when I was a kid. Gross as it may be to our wasteful American minds that cannot find a better use for blood than fertilizer, Jesus here declares it clean. Some day perhaps I can bring myself to try blood sausage at an Oktoberfest. I hear it is good, but I may need a few beers, and the sanctity of ignorance before I eat it.
It seems to me though that what Jesus says here, that “there is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him” is really only half the story, half the truth. That is because there is something outside a person that by going into him can make him clean, can sanctify him. Or perhaps to say something, is wrong here. There is rather, someone, The Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. And there is also a food and a drink that by entering us, cleanses our hearts. It is true of most foods we eat that they enter our stomach, and are expelled. Prunes tend to speed that process up.
The Holy Spirit comes to us in many different ways to accomplish his purpose of sanctification, of cleaning our hearts and making us Holy. He comes to us through the spoken word, entering through our ears and bringing us to faith. For faith comes from hearing. And this faith leads us to these holy waters of baptism where the Holy Spirit is also promised, and from Baptism we are lead to the altar to eat Christ’s Body, and drink his blood, true food from heaven, through which the life of Christ enters our hearts cleansed of sin by the work of the Holy Spirit. For faith is not found in our hearts before the operation of the Holy Spirit. Our hearts of themselves are incapable of faith, but only of sin, that manifests itself in what we say and do, the things that come out of us.
But when the Holy Spirit has had his way with us, even some of the things that come out of us have sanctifying power.
For it may be true that from within, out of the heart of man come evil thoughts etc. But the Holy Spirit also makes his abode in our hearts, and therefore it is with our hearts that we believe and are Justified, and with our mouths that we confess and are saved. (Rom. 10:10) And this the work of the Holy Spirit, that enters us in the name of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins he one for us on the cross. For the heart of our confession, that which we believe is that Jesus Christ, the man who died on the Cross, is Lord, Yahweh of Israel. That it was not a mere man who died on the cross, but God himself making that blood shed there the atonement for all sin. And no one can say that “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. And in that confession we reveal the faith of our hearts, and find the forgiveness of sins. Amen.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.