Foolish Hearts Cleansed by God's Wisdom
Mark 7:14-23 (ESV) 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.”
Jesus has great news for you! You face the constant accusations of health experts and the news media about how bad it is to eat cheeseburgers or how ashamed you should be about indulging in a slice of cheesecake or how guilty you should feel about trying out that chicken fried banana at the county fair. But Jesus calls all foods clean, all foods morally neutral: “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him,” Jesus says, and that includes Blue Bell and blood sausage.
In moderation, of course. Gluttony is still a sin, whether you gorge yourself on tofu or tamales. But concerning what sort of foods you eat, don’t let anyone get into your conscience, the way that the Jews in Jesus’ day had. The Pharisees would let a matter as simple as the man-made tradition of ceremonial hand-washing be a factor for being right with God, so Jesus lambasted Pharisees of all times and places for elevating human tradition while ignoring God’s Word.
But what matters for our consciences is far more serious than dietary rules. Jesus said, “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 Jesus was not saying that bodily functions that come out of us defile us; no, He is clear that what defiles us, what makes us impure and unclean before Him, is not foods but a wicked heart and its wicked thoughts, words, and deeds. Those things must matter to our consciences.
Your heart is the source of all your sin, and it is the culprit that provokes God’s wrath. Jesus says, “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.”
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 foolish hearts are not fit for His holy presence. In fact, placing our corrupted hearts in the presence of God is like throwing gasoline into a fire—total destruction for the gasoline or our hearts.
Let us then repent and have our foolish hearts cleansed by the wisdom of God! St. Paul wrote, “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God…And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24, 30-31).
This is no worldly sort of wisdom that can be acquired from the voice of experts, but a heavenly wisdom that sounds foolish to the worldly wise. For Christ, who is our wisdom from God, is our righteousness that shields us from God’s wrath because “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Christ is our redemption because He “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).
“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 into your 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 (LSB 709):
1. The King of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.
2. Where streams of living water flow,
My ransomed soul He leadeth
And, where the verdant pastures grow,
With food celestial feedeth.
3. Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me
And on His shoulder gently laid
And home rejoicing brought me.
4. In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With Thee, dear Lord, beside me,
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.
5. Thou spreadst a table in my sight;
Thine unction grace bestoweth;
And, oh, what transport of delight
From Thy pure chalice floweth!
6. And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever! Amen.