Date: August 29, 2021
Sermon Title: "Now It’s Clean"
By Minister Kim Braxton
Focus Scripture: Mark 7 (NASB)
Supporting Scriptures: James 4:8 “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Psalm 51
Observations: 1) Jesus calls out Hypocrisy. 2) Defines true cleanliness. “Fellowship with God is not interrupted by unclean hands or food but by sin.”
Mark 7:1-23: That Which Defiles 7 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” 6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” 9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the 2 | P a g e commands of God in order to observe[c] your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[d] and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[e]
11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” 14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”  [f] 17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 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.) 20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” 3
The title of today’s lesson is “Now it’s Clean”
Some 200 years ago John Wesley, the co-founder of the Methodist tradition coined the phrase in a sermon “Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness”. Historians and scholars aren’t sure how the connection was made but it must have found it’s foundation in the scripture that was are examining today. In the 21st century we have so many ways to make ourselves clean externally and internally. For the reliable standing shower to the luxurious soaking tubs with an infinity edge to showers with multiple shower heads and to the old fashion claw foot tubs there is no reason that a speck of dirt should reside anywhere on our epidermis.
However, a few weeks ago there was a hashtag that was trending in social media world called “showergate”. For those of you that have managed to avoid getting sucked into the social media world, count yourselves as blessed and highly favored! But let me bring you up to speed so you can use up a few brain cells with useless information like I did. Apparently a celebrity couple that gave an interview in which they stated that they only bathe their young children once a week. Their belief was that kids don’t get that dirty and it’s better for their skin. In fact they don’t bathe everyday….. Instantly the social media world was split between people who were horrified by their lack of hyenine and those that 4 | P a g e sought to justify their lack of basic cleanliness and hyenine practices. Pop up surveys went up by a very popular blogger asking people about their respective hygiene practices and the responses will curl your toes. I won’t elaborate on the examples of flith that was detailed but let’s just say that I was horrified but I couldn’t look away. The filthy drama had sucked me in. In fact, couple’s lack of cleanliness and the stories that followed in support of their filthy folly actually set off a purchasing boom of Sapo body sponges. All because people read about this couple’s uncleanliness, where repulsed and then decided they would go the extra mile to scrub themselves until they glowed with a healthy exfoliated squeaky-clean luminescence. I can’t say that cleanliness is next to godliness but cleanliness is very important.
Think about the beginning of Covid. There were videos made giving people instructions on their hands properly in order to prevent the spread of the virus. There were demostrators in white latex gloves using colored soap showing people how every inch of the hand and part of the wrist needs to be covered and rinsed clean. Now when people exit bathrooms now they look like extras from a medical drama like Grey’s Anatomy. Hands are scrubbed, dried and elevated not to touch another surface in the restroom. Why? Because external cleanliness is important.
Very important, However, this is not the type of cleanliness that our text is addressing this morning. In Mark’s account of this encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees he was highlighting their traditional ceremonial washing practices that the Pharisees performed prior to eating. They executed these elaborate steps not because of a compulsive need to be spotlessly clean but because they believed that if they were not ceremonially clean what they ate would somehow defile them internally and make them spiritually “unclean”. They would be considered “defiled” and according to Levitical law once you became “unclean” there was another ritual to perform to make you “clean” again. The Pharisees had all these outward practices that supposedly showed the world how righteous, how clean and how very pious they were before man and ultimately before God. So when the Pharisees approached Jesus with their question in verse 5 what they really wanted to know was why Jesus allowed his disciples to “defile” themselves making them sinful in the eyes of the law. They viewed them as “unclean” and “sinful”.
Try to visualize the scene - - Jesus was with His disciples, minding His business, not bothering a soul and the judge-y Karen-esque Pharisees came over to start some mess and instigate a conflict with Jesus and the disciples. If they had a smartphone they probably would have taken it out and started a live stream for everyone in the synagogue to see…. “Look at them! Just dirty and defiled. Eating in public with unclean hands!” However, in their attempt to shame Jesus and the disciplines about the freedom they were enjoying what they didn’t realize that Jesus “had the time” to deal with them. Allow me to translate – in the African American lexicon the phrase “I have time today” is generally used as a warning and is usually not a good sign for the receiver of this particular brand of wisdom. Upon further exegesis it means that the deliverer is in the mood to debate/argue about any topic. In other words on this day Jesus “had the time” to set them straight and call out their blatant hypocrisy.
The type of a hypocrisy that elevates man-made rules over God’s commands. The hypocrisy that is distilled from impure motives that implies that “unless you’re doing it our way you aren’t right with God. You are sinful and unclean. The type of hypocrisy that would elevate a group of people to lord over the people they were called to serve with rules and regulations created to subjugate people to man made traditions instead of elevating them to worship the Lord their God and to serve Him only (Deut 6:13; Luke 4:8). Yes, Jesus came to address their hypocrisy, to set them straight and to set the captive free! In Verse 6 Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah in reference to the Pharisees “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ 8You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” The Pharisees where offering up lip service to God instead of heart service. They were so focused on observing Human traditions that they neglected practicing God’s law. And today this type of hypocrisy that still occurs. In the Year of our Lord in 2021 AD it is well past time for the Church to stand up and “have the time” no, to “make the time” to call out these inconsistencies that have tainted our society.
You may be wondering, “Well preacher, what are you referring to?” Well, allow me to start with an easy one - - the pledge of allegiance, we all know it. We were forced to memorize it. “One nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” How is it as a nation we are unable, unwilling, in capable, of holding up this basic tenant of our American philosophy? It has been proven time and time again that “Liberty and Justice” is not available to all. “Liberty and Justice” is reserved for the wealthy, the privileged, people with access, and if you are a cis-gendered, heterosexual, european descended male the benefits of the pledge of allegiance are yours to claim your birth rite.
Here’s the hypocrisy… If you are an American that happens to fall outside of this narrow categorization you are experiencing the hypocrisy of America. How else can you explain that in the year of our Lord 2021 AD Post George Floyd that group of domestic terrorists can storm the capitol of the United States and Black Lives Matter Protesters were met at the same capitol with armed, unmarked, unidentified military force. Hypocrisy! And please don’t accuse me of not loving America. But in the words of James Baldwin, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” When we back away from confronting and calling out this type of hypocrisy it shifts our focus to a type of respectability politics that keeps us bound up and constricted in a system that from the very founding of the nation was not built to accommodate ALL of us equally. The system as it exists now was created to breed division, to keep us from uniting and working together to achieve true freedom, full liberty and unfettered access to justice for EVERYONE - old and young / rich and poor / straight, gay, trans, non-binary / black, brown, indigenous / male and female - - all people! Say “Everyone” Yes, Jesus had the time to deal with the devil in His midst on that day and the church can learn from His example and make the time to deal with the devil of division and any signs of hypocrisy in her sphere of influence. And I’m looking at the white evangelical Christians that would rather support “freedom from mask oppression” than the “freedom for all to have access to vote”.
The ones that profess to be “pro-life” on one hand and “pro-death penalty” and “anti-vaxx” on the other. Hypocrisy! But I will make time for that lesson on another day. Back to the text. Another final point… it is easy to pass judgement on a person based solely on external appearances and actions. In the pharisee’s tradition you could call someone “defiled” if they did not participate in a ceremonial handwashing or if they ate a particular food.
It’s easy. You don’t have to take time to speak to a person, to get to know them, to build a relationship with someone who came from a different background that follows different traditions. They can just look 10 | P a g e at them and from that limited worldview they were raised in they felt they had the authority to pronounce someone as “unclean”, “defiled” and “sinful”. Let me give you a true modern-day example. I have a girlfriend I have known for over 30 years. She is my “sister from another mister”. A few weeks back we had a clothing swap and one of the items I gave her was a red dress. Later on I asked her if she found anything she liked in the clothes I dropped off. She told me she loved everything, even the red dress. She said it looked good on her but that she could never wear it. Confused I asked her, “Why not?” I was concerned that it was stained or torn. And she told me that her mother raised her with the belief that only “harlots and hussys” wore red. ::pause:: I had to take a minute and think about this.
I scrolled through my memory I had to admit that in all the time I’ve known her I have never seen her wear red. NEVER. But I never thought that my friend held this strong belief about a color. A color. Then I had had to tell her, “Well, you know red is my signature color.” And then I dropped the bomb and told her wore a red dress to preach on Easter Sunday morning. He has risen indeed and liberation has come to my friend’s closet! But in all seriousness my friend knows I’m not a hussy or a harlot so she didn’t judge me as such. But I had to think to myself if someone else had that belief how easy it would be to classify my entire moral being based on something as inconsequential as a color choice on a Sunday morning. A human made traditional belief used to measure someone’s morality and salvation status with the Creator of all Creation. But back to the text. After Jesus completely called out the Pharisee’s hypocrisy, he was not done speaking truth. He explained to his disciples that what you eat doesn’t make you unclean.
They were free from the imposed dietary restrictions and the man made traditions that determined if a person was clean or sinful and defiled. It’s what comes out of a person that defiles you. Verse 21-23 “ For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Jesus came to let us know what really defiles someone is what comes out of them. The bible states in Proverbs Chapter 4 verse 23 that we are to “guard our heart with all diligence because from it flows the issues of life.” Remember David’s prayer after his sin of adultery in Psalm 51. Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin. 3 For [b]I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. 4 Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You [c]are justified [d]when You speak And [e]blameless when You judge. 10 Create [j] in me a clean heart, O God, And renew [k]a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit. Ask God to create a clean heart within you and then guard your heart. It’s easy to subscribe to modern-day respectability police. To hide behide a neutral-colored conservative traditional suit, wear your hair in a socially acceptable style, dye your hair it a socially responsible conservative color, wear the right hard bottom shoes or conservative wedge heels, stay quiet and not work on what really matters.
Most people will give you a pass because you look the part. You are outwardly “clean” and socially acceptable. However, as Kerese says you are just “a solid 7 fronting with a filter”. Jesus is not content to leave you just looking good.
A He wants us to deal with the issues in our hearts to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5 verses 22 to 23, “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” My final example. There is an Instagram page that has become my new obsession it’s called, “Now it’s clean”. The page contains instructional videos on how to really clean your home. Prior to discovering this page I thought I was a neat person and that I kept a tidy home. But compared to this woman I am filthy, vile, unkept, and the health department should come to my home and board it up for violations. In one video this woman moved her dresser to clean the baseboards behind it. I’ll see if I can load the video - - with a firm paint brush, a cleanser, a microfiber cleaning cloth, a wet mop and a dyson cordless vacuum with a LASER light attachment that highlighted the microscopic dirt particles so she wouldn’t miss a single speck.
And after she CLEANED that baseboard to a standard that left me speechless (and feeling slightly judged) she announced “Now it’s Clean!” Ma’am you think? I mean you used a laser….. Now just imagine if we took the same amount of energy, focus and determination and turned it inward to work on our hearts? Our deeper, hidden issues? Just imagine what it would look like when we really took the time to get to those root issues to really clean up our hearts so that we can live a life of faith that fully reflects the Savior we confess and serve. The final illustration from this message is to allow the Lord to clean the “baseboards” of your life. Give Him permission to move aside those things that are hiding the dirt and grim that you don’t want anyone to see and that you don’t even want to acknowledge yourself. Allow Him to get in there with his spiritual laser dirt finder to perform a deep, cleansing restorative work. Do the work and at the end of the process you will be able to step back and look at your progress and proclaim, “Now it’s Clean”. AMEN