Todays readings… 1 Samuel 28, Jeremiah 4, Matthew 15
“EXPLAIN THE PARABLE TO US”
But it did not seem like a parable! All Jesus had said when he “called the people to him” was, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what goes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” [Matt. 15 v.11]
It was because “the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying” [v.12] that Peter asked, apparently urgently, for an explanation. The Pharisees it seems – had got the point when Jesus quoted Isaiah to them.
“This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” [v.8] Jesus is referring to spiritual defilement, how the mind of a person becomes defiled – today we would say, dirty!
Jesus says, in explaining the parable “what comes out of the heart, this defiles a person” [v.19]. The Pharisees concentrated on the ritual of physical cleansing. The focus was on the ceremonial washing of hands, just like the Muslims do today with places outside each Mosque for washing hands and feet before they enter.
The message today in Jeremiah is exactly the same. Jeremiah tells the people, “O Jerusalem, wash your hearts from evil that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you?” [4 v.14]. Those thoughts of the heart that defiled them continued to lodge within them so the disaster God threatened finally happened.
We live in a world today where ungodly attitudes are spoken and ways of living are displayed again and again on TV and DVDs and in the cinemas and written in books. And people “love to have it so”, which is the complaint Jeremiah makes in tomorrow’s reading [5 v.31] – and then adds the question, “but what will you do when the end comes?”
That’s just the question we should also ask today! He has a vision of what is coming and exclaims, “My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly … Crash follows hard on crash …” [v.19,20] Then God comments, “my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are ‘wise’ in doing evil! But how to do good they know not” [v.22] Let us make sure we have understanding – that we are “wise in doing” good – then we will be in God’s hands “when the end comes.”