Thanks to all of you who prayed for me and my family this week. I had to take a quick trip to Wyoming to help arrange some things with my dad. He has significant life challenges as a result of years of alcohol and drug abuse. I felt your prayers and deeply appreciate your encouragement. I look forward to sharing with you about what God has been teaching me.
As we have already seen in Mark’s Gospel, the Jewish leaders were convinced that purity and closeness to God was found in following laws, rituals and traditions. They demanded that everyone must hold this standard. If someone wanted to be clean, they had to follow the external rules, not just a few, but all of them...even the ones made up by some rabbi from the past... A pure heart? Pure intentions? Clean and pure attitudes and desires? Not so much… It was all about the rules. This was not God’s way for them to find purity. The Old Testament has so many places that focus on the purity of heart, which were apparently not as important. Take a look at Psalm 24:3-5...
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Mark 7:3-4 is a parallel passage to Matthew 23:25, where Jesus clearly described their problem…
For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly,
holding to the tradition of the elders,
and when they come from the marketplace,
they do not eat unless they wash.
And there are many other traditions that they observe,
such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.
The Beatitude we want to discuss this week is:
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Matthew 5:8 ESV
This statement would have absolutely shocked the crowd listening to Jesus. It wasn’t shocking because they were unfamiliar with the rules, rituals and traditions surrounding the purity of heart. The shocking part was that Jesus’ statement would have been incomplete. How in the world would anyone be able to “see God” if they weren’t ritually and traditionally clean?
Purity of heart is not something to be achieved by outward, forced actions. It’s not a matter of “have to”, but a matter of “want to”... As James wrote:
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands,
you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:7-8 ESV