After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
The disciples are just like you and me. We hear something and pretend to understand it. Someone uses a word, and we scramble, trying to figure it out based on how it was used and the words that were next to it. Someone mentions something popular on the internet and we act as if it was so last year.
The truth is, we didn’t get it at all. It went right over our head and we’re too insecure to admit that we don’t understand.
But one thing the disciples have going for them is that they had the strength to ask Jesus what he was talking about. I know that we dump on them for being dumb, dull, and disinterested. But let’s give them their due this time. Or should we?
The reason I ask is that Jesus comes back at them pretty hard. He doesn’t ask a question to them but makes a defining judgement about them. He calls them dull. We might use the word dense, thick headed, slow.
Jesus says that they are foolish because they can’t put the pieces together. He has patiently put the pieces out there, explaining what they are, what they look like and how they fit together. But the disciples can’t seem to see the bigger picture. They can’t put the pieces together.
After Jesus pronounces the disciples dull, he goes on to explain why. He uses a very common, earthy example from their own bodies. We eat and then it’s “processed.” This doesn’t take a great deal of brainpower.
In the same way, it shouldn’t take a lot of mental effort to figure out this thing about washing hands for show. It’s not what we touch or eat that makes us unacceptable to God. After all, didn’t God make those things? So, how could touching something that God “saw that it was good” be sinful?
Jesus’ answer is brilliant! It’s not what we touch, but what comes out of us that removes us from being with our holy, perfect God and creator. And the list Jesus gives is pretty extensive.
Evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly.
Any of this sound familiar? And I’m not just talking about what’s on the internet, cable or network TV, movies, music. I’m talking about what’s inside of me. And I’m talking about what’s inside you.
I don’t know which one grabs your personal attention. But for me, it’s arrogance. This pride, my thinking that I’m better than other people. I hold myself up and above everyone else. My head is tilted and lifted up, my nose is in the air because I’m certain that I’m better, I’m smarter, I’m morally superior to them.
You’d be surprised, maybe you wouldn’t, at the prideful thoughts that run through my head and heart. It’s embarrassing to share them. For example, I drive the speed limit, so I’m proud of my moral superiority that I’m obeying the law. And when people pass me as I’m driving the speed limit, I shake my arrogant head at them, congratulating myself for being so much better than them.
Or a casual friend recently had a tragedy in their family. Rather than feeling empathy for them, I reviewed the sin in their lives in my head. I wondered to myself if this was God’s judgment on them for their disobedience.
But then I look at myself and scream, “O wretched man that I am!” I have received nothing but grace and mercy from God. He pursued me, sought me out, coming down from heaven to pay my eternal debt. Not because of who I am, but because of who he is.
This is grace. God extending, reaching, loving us. It’s all his idea, all his action, all his extended arms. Even to dull people like you and me.
Isn’t it time to stop being so dull? We need to immediately reach out and take hold of the arms of God.