What kind of person are you?
Do you like to follow the rules? Do you like things to be just right? I remember when I was revising for exams, I would like writing my own revision notes in little files. Each page had to look perfect and have lots of coloured pens otherwise I would have to write it all out again. Unsurprisingly, it took ages. I’m not completely sure it helped much in the end either – the colours didn’t necessarily mean that I could remember what was on the page. Sometimes trying to be perfect takes lots of time and energy and is a waste of time.
This is what life was like for the Pharisees. Maybe they didn’t use coloured pens and revision notes, but everything had to be just right or it was considered unclean, and in need of purification. This involved long and intense rituals like having special baths and not being a part of normal society or worship for a period of time – it was very physical. And if anything interrupted the process, you would have to start again.
Jesus and his disciples didn’t always follow these rules exactly (they were based on some of the Old Testament laws – many were an attempt to make sure that nothing that was done would break those laws). It seems a bit unhygienic that they wouldn’t wash their hands before eating, but the ritual process wasn’t about hygiene, and probably only involved minimal cleansing.
But Jesus wasn’t breaking these rules for the sake of it. He wanted to prove that it isn’t the stuff on the outside of us that makes us unclean – we’re capable of sinning all by ourselves, we don’t need outside help. We are all sinners and unclean inside – and that’s why we all need Jesus.
Lord God, we’re sorry for the things we’ve done that make us unclean and put a barrier between us and you. Help us to not waste our time on the things that make us seem perfect but hide what is going on underneath. Help us to be people living out your kingdom values today and always. Amen.
Why not make a list of things you’ve done that you’re sorry for, then tear it into tiny pieces as you ask God to forgive you for them – and know you have been forgiven and made clean.