When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch. Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.” So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Matthew 15:10-20
Whenever I read this Word of God, I can’t help but shake my head at the striking example of hypocrisy. The words, often included in our Lenten Passion History readings, are found in the 18th Chapter of John’s Gospel, and tell us: “Then they (i.e. Caiaphas, and a midnight gathering of some of the members of the Sanhedrin) led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.”
Caiaphas and his cronies refused to set foot in the Praetorium…lest they be rendered unclean. This after convening a portion of the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night to condemn an innocent man on trumped-up charges!
When their false witnesses couldn’t agree, Caiaphas asked Jesus a self-incriminating question (Luke 22:70) — “Are You then the Son of God?”
Jesus didn’t “plead the fifth” but answered plainly and truthfully (Luke 22:70), “You rightly say that I am.”
We will get into the reason why Jesus answered as He did in a moment… but first let’s consider the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 15:10-20 (Please READ!).
When I was a child, I was told: “You are what you eat.” But, of course, the statement is not literally true.Moreover, Jesus tells us that what makes us unclean in God’s sight is neither what we eat nor is it eating with unwashed hands. What’s already inside a person is what makes one unclean before God. Since each of us is born of two sinful human beings, we are born with a sinful nature. Our corrupt nature reveals itself daily in all manner of sinful thoughts, words, and deeds—such as “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”
So when an unbalanced man goes into a McDonald’s Restaurant and starts shooting people, folks immediately begin asking: “How could this happen? Why would someone do such a thing?” Jesus answered that question a long time ago when He said that these things proceed “out of the heart….”
People will also ask, “How could God let such a thing happen?” The answer is that God is not the origin of evil, but such evil finds its origins in the sinful, corrupt, self-centered nature of human beings.
Why did Herod have the children of Bethlehem killed?
Why were Caiaphas and the religious leaders willing to condemn and kill an innocent man?
Why did Pontius Pilate send a man he knew was innocent to be crucified?
Why do we willfully put ourselves in positions where we are tempted to sin?
Why do we say hurtful things to our spouses?
The answer is that we are corrupt, rotten, and sinful within. We live in a corrupt world and are surrounded by sinful human beings.
Now I’d like to get back to the questions asked earlier. Why didn’t Jesus “plead the fifth”? Why did Jesus answer the High Priest’s question (“Are you the Son of God?”) when He knew that His answer would be considered blasphemy?
It was Jesus’ incredible love for sinners…among whom we are numbered.
It was divine grace and love on the part of Jesus (and the Father!) that led Him to take our sin and guilt upon Himself and suffer and die to atone for every misdeed.
He did it that we might be cleansed of sin…by faith in Him.
He did it so that when we die and are finally separated from our corrupt sinful nature, we might go to be with the Lord, ultimately enjoying an existence with Him apart from sin, death, sorrow, and crying (see Revelation 21:4).
We Christians still have unclean thoughts. Sins of word and deed still show up in our lives because we have corrupt natures. Rather than minimizing such things, let’s confess them and seek cleansing in the blood of Jesus who loved us and gave Himself for us.
We are rotten sinners…with corrupt natures…who stand forgiven in the blood (1 John 1:7) of the crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ!