New and Clean Hearts
Mark 7:14–23 (ESV) And Jesus 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.”
“New hearts” is a theme in the Old Testament reading and Psalm of the Day for the Seventh Sunday of Easter. In Psalm 51:10, we pray (as we do in the Offertory every Sunday), “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Ezekiel 36:25-27 points forward to the answer for that prayer in the New Testament: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
We need new hearts created in us! In Mark 7, Jesus makes clear that what defiles us, what makes us impure and unclean before Him, is a wicked heart and its wicked thoughts, words, and deeds. Your heart is the source of all your sin, and it is the culprit that provokes God’s wrath. Some preachers tell you to give your heart to Jesus, but based on His description here, why in the world would He want it? He wouldn’t. Our hearts are not fit for His holy presence.
“There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him,” Jesus says, but there is something outside a person that by going into him can cleanse him. As the Gospel is proclaimed into our ears, the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts, cleansing our hearts by faith (Acts 15:9). As the Absolution of Christ is spoken to your guilty conscience, it drives out the accusations of all laws and creates in you new hearts and right spirits. As the waters of Holy Baptism poured forth from Jesus’ pierced side, the love of God was poured into your heart “through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5), given to all of us who are baptized. And while no foods can defile us any longer, there is a food that can and does purify and sanctify our sinful hearts, the pierced body and poured out blood of our Lord Jesus given to us under the bread and wine.
Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, by the death and resurrection of Your Son You cleansed our hearts and put a new Spirit within us. Grant that all who are brought to newness of life in the fellowship of the body of Christ may show forth in their lives what they confess with their lips; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.