“It’s What’s Inside That Counts” Rev. Sandy Johnson
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Rev. Sandy Johnson
August 30, 2015
We begin this morning with a fashion show of sorts. I have six models here, representing six different snapshots of someone’s life – it might be yours? Or maybe your neighbor?
The first model is our businessman. What can you tell me about him? What can we presume about this person?
- College educated
- Nice looking
- Works too many hours
- Upwardly mobile
- Husband or father
What you don’t know about this man is that he routinely cheats on his taxes and has recently thought about having an affair with a woman he works with.
Second model is a policewoman. What can you tell me about her? What can we deduce?
- Cares for community
- Wife or mother
- Well trained for conflict
What you don’t know about her is that she is a malicious gossip. She passes on stories she hears and has been known to make up stories about several of her co-workers attempting to discredit them so she can promote ahead of them.
Third model is a construction worker. What can you tell me about him?
- Also hardworking
- Good with his hands
- Husband and father
- Dedicated to his work
What you don’t know about him is that he stops off at the bar every night on his way home and some nights he doesn’t make it home at all to his wife and children.
Our fourth model is a school teacher. What can you tell me about her?
- Enjoys children
- College educated
- Passion for math
- Wife and mother
What you don’t know about this teacher is that she volunteers at her church in the Sunday school, but is secretly angry because she wasn’t asked to take over the director of Christian education position.
Our fifth model is a physician. What can you tell me about him?
- Well educated
- Dedicated to his patients
- Upper socioeconomic status
- Works long hours
What you don’t know about this man is that during Med School he routinely cheated on his exams.
Our last model is this woman. What can we presume about her?
- Mentally ill
- Drugs and alcohol
What you don’t know about this woman is that she has her Masters in Russian Literature. After college she became addicted to pain killers and then alcohol and now is using meth. She has lost everything due to her addictions.
Each of these persons comes with their own story. Much of their story we could tell from their outward appearance. Although with each there was something hidden, something inside that we couldn’t see from just looking at them. Although the outward appearance of the first five spoke highly them, what was inside told more about the condition of their souls. These people are you and me. They represent the members of our church, the members of our community.
Each of these persons, each of us in this room this morning, is a beloved child of God. It’s not what is seen on the outside that makes us loveable, it’s what is on the inside that counts. It’s not our clothing, our careers, our hair or eye color, our jewelry, our shoes or any of our fashion accessories. It’s what’s in here that counts.
We all have real life struggles and if we don’t have God at the center of our being, our road will be rocky. If Christ doesn’t reside deep within the fibers of our soul, we risk loneliness, despair and misery. Our models today each come with a secret. Each comes with what Jesus called evil and their heart is defiled.
Our scripture lesson this morning demonstrates the contrast from the old to the new. The tradition of the elders focused on many rituals that the Jews thought would bring them closer to God. They believed that by ritually cleansing their hands, their food, their pots and pans, that God would bless them, that it would please God and in turn bring them closer in relationship with Him. The early Jews followed the law, the Ten Commandments and the first five books of the Old Testament.
These Jews understood that the great moral principles required that man would interpret and apply them for himself. Then “in the fourth and fifth centuries before Christ there came into being a class of legal experts whom we know as the Scribes. They were not content with great moral principles; they had what can only be called a passion for definition. They wanted these great principles amplified, expanded, broken down until they issued thousands and thousands of little rules and regulations governing every possible action and every possible situation in life.”
The washing of hands was one set of rules that came as a result of these scribes. This hand washing wasn’t for hygienic reasons. It was a purely ceremonial cleansing that was sought. “Before every meal and between each of the courses, the hands had to be washed, and they had to be washed a certain way.” Using a special water that was only used for this purpose, the hands were first washed with the fingers pointing upward. Water was poured over them and it was to run down at least to the wrists. While the hands were wet, the fists were used to rub the other hand clean. The hands were then rinsed with the fingers pointing downward, toward the ground. Starting at the wrists, the water would be poured over the hands.
Anyone who didn’t follow these ridged rituals were thought to be unclean in the sight of God. This wasn’t just about bad manners or eating with dirty hands. To do so meant separation from God. To omit washing hands “was to become liable to poverty and destruction. Bread eaten with unclean hands was not better than excrement. A Rabbi who once omitted the ceremony was buried in excommunication.” Washing one’s hands was to the Pharisaic and Scribal Jew simply their religion. “It was ritual, ceremonial, and regulatory…which they considered to be [the] essence of their service of God.”
And Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands! The Pharisees were appalled, no, no, in fact they were horrified and demanded an explanation. Jesus was in effect saying that a person would be made unclean due to his own evil actions, which were the result of a sinful heart.
This was new doctrine. “With one sweeping pronouncement Jesus declared the whole thing irrelevant and that uncleanness has nothing to do with what a man takes into his body but everything to do with what comes out of his heart.”
Jesus called them out as the hypocrites that they were. Quoting Isaiah he reminded them of prophesy – Jesus said, “People honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines. You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” It wasn’t God’s tradition at all.
There was a new Sherriff in town! There was a new teaching! No longer did the Jews need to be bogged down in ritual that was meaningless to God. Jesus tried to tell them. “Listen to me,” he said, “all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” The outside doesn’t matter. It’s not what is important.
What Jesus is really asking here, is “How is it with your soul?” If the inside is what is important then we have to ask ourselves, “How is it with your soul?” If our insides are filled with evil intentions – thoughts of having an affair, a desire to cheat on your taxes, lying about a co-worker, consumed with pride and envy – these are the things that corrupt our very core. I hate to say it but I suspect I hit every one of us in that list: envy, pride, slander. Sound familiar to anyone?
We all default at times to hypocrisy, we try to do the right thing but struggle with our inside and our outside. We want others to think we’ve got it all together. We are hesitant to be real, to be authentic and to let our guard down so that others can fully know us, warts and all. We become hypocrites when we forget that it is what is inside that is most important, and that the trappings of success aren’t what define us.
Our inner faith produces outer actions – “there is no doubt about that, and Jesus has no quarrel with that. If, when you feel like praying, you fold your hands, bow your head, close your eyes, and kneel, then your outer posture is rightfully expressing your inner desire to spend time with God. If you love someone and you greet that person with a hug as a manifestation of your endearment, then your actions are expressing your inner feelings. If you thoroughly enjoy the company of an individual and spend most of your time with that person, you are expressing with your body the inner feelings of your heart and mind. Your inner feelings and your outer actions are expressing the same emotions.
“Hypocrisy comes when you display the outer actions without the inner feelings: when you bow your head to pray but do not feel like praying; when you hug a person you do not like; or, like Judas Iscariot, when you kiss a person but do not use the kiss as an expression of affection but as some other kind of sign. If you spend time with others in order to use them but do not really like their company, you are being hypocritical because your actions are not an extension of your inner feelings. You must have not only the “words” but the “music” to go along with words.
“Jesus wanted his hearers to know that their Jewish religion supports such inner faith so he quoted the prophet Isaiah (29:13) “These people . . . honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.” That is hypocrisy! Pretending to be something you are not and have no intention of being.”
“If I told you I saw a local pastor one night coming out of a Jack’s Place. That’s a local bar. And he had his arms around some of the drinkers singing loud songs, what would you think? You would wonder what he was up to! I neglected to mention that the pastor had on a Salvation Army uniform and they were singing “Amazing Grace.” Well, that’s a little different then, isn’t it? The pastor’s motivation was to witness to Jesus Christ and to rescue the perishing, not join them in their revelry.
“The difference is inner motivation. All evil things come from within, but so do all good things. The outward act can be ambiguous and therefore we must look, as God does, upon the inner motivation.”
We must look upon one another with the eyes of Christ. How does Christ see the person sitting next to you? Are you able to see the person next to you through God’s eyes? Or are you hung up on the outer exterior? Stuck on what they seem to be, without getting beneath the surface? We are all responsible to monitor and nurture the inner being, the God-space inside of us. That hole that is filled completely by Jesus Christ. When Christ is at our core, the evil has no place to live or thrive. When we allow our hearts to be consumed with the love of Jesus Christ it is then, and only then, at we realize that it is truly what’s inside that counts.
Let us pray: Gracious God, forgive us our hypocrisy. Remind us daily that you sent your son, Jesus Christ, to fulfill prophesy and to abolish the law as it was being practiced. Give us the courage to drink you into our very core and to allow ourselves to be filled up so completely that evil has no foothold. We ask this in Jesus name. Amen.
 Barclay, William. “The Daily Bible Series: The Gospel of Mark, Revised Edition.” The Westminster Press, Philadelphia. 1975. Page 164.
 Ibid, 165
 Ibid, 173
 Mark 7:6b-8
 Hilton, C. Thomas. “Inside Job.” http://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/3030/sermon-options-august-30-2015 Accessed August 25, 2015