â€œHeart vs Mouthâ€
August 17, 2008 â€“ Matthew 15:10-28
This morning we read of a Jesus we don’t like to see do we. This morning we see Jesus refusing to help someone. A foreign woman in need has come to Jesus for help, and instead of helping her, he calls her a dog.
This is hard for us to read today. This can’t be our Saviour can it? Where is the compassion? Where is the grace and mercy? Where is the love? Who is this Jesus we read in Matthew this morning?
Well, I think we need to look at our entire reading this morning to see what Jesus might be up to, in fact it helps to read the entire chapter. At the start of chapter fifteen, Jesus is being challenged by the Pharisees about his disciples. It seems they are not following the laws around cleanliness during meals. They don’t wash their hands first.
Jesus rebukes the Pharisees by telling them to their faces that they are worse off than the disciples because they pick and choose which laws they are willing to follow. The Pharisees seem stuck focusing on the rituals in life, but forget the laws about ways of living, the laws that speak about relationships in the community. He sees them as the blind leading the blind. Their focus is so far off, according to Jesus, they can’t even see where they are going, and with them go many others.
Jesus then explains to everyone around him that how and what you eat are less important than what he considers to be the real laws to follow. Whatever we put into our mouths will simply work its way through the body and end up in the sewer. But the real rules are the rules that are broken by what comes out of our mouths, because what we say and what we do comes from the heart.
It is what we do that shows what is in our heart. If our heart is set on evil things, then we will do evil things. If our heart is set on evil things, Jesus then tells us we will do things like murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. Do any of these remind you of anything? Where are they from? The Ten Commandments, of course. If our hearts are set on evil intentions, then we’ll break Commandments, and these are much worse than eating with dirty hands.
This makes sense right? Jesus is saying to those around him that it more than just following ritual, it is how we live our lives that shows our faith in God. For instance, the church is a great example. We come to church on Sunday mornings, we pray our prayers, we sing our songs, we listen when we’re supposed to listen, we stand when we’re supposed to stand, everything happens just as we expect it to week after week. Then we go home and go about the rest of our lives.
The question coming from this, is the rest of our lives indicative of our faith? Do we, as followers of Jesus Christ, look like Christians the rest of the week? We have the rituals down no problem, we can do Sunday mornings with the best of them, but it’s the rest of the week that shows the rest of the world the intentions of our heart.
This is where the controversial Jesus comes in. Jesus now goes out and is followed by a foreign woman pleading for Jesus to save her daughter. This is where Jesus catches us off guard. He refuses to help the woman because she is a foreigner. Jews are not supposed to associate with others, especially women of other nations. So he refers to her as a dog, thinking she’ll go away. But she doesn’t, she comes back at Jesus with her own response, and Jesus tells her that her daughter is well.
What in the world is happening? Jesus has helped so many people, why has he taken such a stance against this woman?
I think the answer is simple. It’s because he’s Jesus and he’s making a point. He has just told us that it is not about following rules, it is about showing your heart. Jesus decides to show us the difference. When the woman comes, Jesus shows us what following the rules looks like. The rules say when we meet someone undesirable we are to ignore them and walk the other way.
Jesus can see into this woman’s heart, and he can see her faith, so he knows she will respond. When Jesus dismisses the woman, she replies in faith. She knows she’s not a Jew and she would not be seen kindly by those who follow the rules, but her faith in Jesus and what he can do is so strong that she will take whatever tiny bit of help he will offer. She is willing to settle for scraps of help if it means Jesus will help her daughter. Jesus sees her faith, and points it out to all around them, and tells her that her daughter is well.
Jesus shows us it’s much more than just following rules. As a foreigner, this woman does not fall anywhere in the rules of the Pharisees, yet Jesus helps her.
Jesus has just opened the door for all of us. I doubt that any of us can trace ourselves back to ancient Jewish origins. This means that we are all foreigners, and none of us would be seen fit in the eyes of God according to the ancient Jewish laws. But Jesus is not just for the Jews, by healing and associating with people of all nations, genders and social statuses, we all are welcomed to be in relationship with him. We are all called to be disciples of Jesus Christ, we are all part of the family. We are all God’s children, adopted into His glorious family.
When we listen to Jesus in the first part of our reading today, how does it make us feel? Are we simply following the rules and rituals? Or are we disciples of Jesus Christ who have a relationship with our living God in Heaven?
Anyone out there watching the Olympics? It’s amazing to see what the human body can do. How it can move so quickly, with such agility and grace, it seems so natural for all the athletes. But of course it isn’t natural at all. These people spend their entire lives focused on their sport. The train day after day after day for hours at a time. Even everything they eat is planned in such a way that it will help them grow to their greatest potential. Being an Olympic athlete is a 24 hour a day, 365 day a year job. Their entire focus of life is being the best in the world at their sport.
This is what it should be like to be a Christian. We should be focusing on being the best disciple of Jesus Christ we can be 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our hearts should be entirely focused on Jesus, not on counting heads Sunday mornings, looking for who’s not here.
What was Jesus’ focus? It was on being there for all people every day. If someone was in need, he helped, no matter what they looked like or where they came from. That also needs to be our focus. We need to live as God calls us to live. To care for creation, to care for our neighbours, and to care for ourselves. These need to be the intentions of our hearts. With our intentions on all things good, we are able to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.