Jesus challenges us to go beyond the surface and check our hearts. It’s not just about appearances; it’s about what’s happening within.
1 Now the Pharisees and some of the experts in the law who came from Jerusalem gathered around him. 2 And they saw that some of Jesus’ disciples ate their bread with unclean hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they perform a ritual washing, holding fast to the tradition of the elders. 4 And when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. They hold fast to many other traditions: the washing of cups, pots, kettles, and dining couches.) 5 The Pharisees and the experts in the law asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with unwashed hands?”
Pharisees and scribes are all about handwashing traditions. They’re not washing up for hygiene but as a ritual. Jesus, however, shifts the focus from external cleanliness to the heart’s condition. Sometimes, we get tangled in rituals that look good on the outside but miss the mark inside.
6 He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honours me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me.
7 They worship me in vain,
teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.’
Jesus quotes Isaiah, saying, “This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” It’s not about lip service but heart devotion. Our words and actions should be an authentic reflection of a heart genuinely seeking God.
8 Having no regard for the command of God, you hold fast to human tradition.” 9 He also said to them, “You neatly reject the commandment of God in order to set up your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever insults his father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone tells his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you would have received from me is corban’ (that is, a gift for God), 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like this.”
Jesus calls out the Pharisees for elevating human traditions over God’s commands. Don’t get tangled in cultural traditions that sidetrack you from God’s core commands—to love God and others wholeheartedly.
14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand. 15 There is nothing outside of a person that can defile him by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles him.”
17 Now when Jesus had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, “Are you so foolish? Don’t you understand that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him? 19 For it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and then goes out into the sewer.” (This means all foods are clean.) 20 He said, “What comes out of a person defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the human heart, come evil ideas, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, evil, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, pride, and folly. 23 All these evils come from within and defile a person.”
Jesus lays it out—true defilement comes from within. He lists out the not-so-great things that can emerge from the heart—evil thoughts, greed, envy, and more. The real battle is within. It’s a call to check our hearts and guard against pollution.
Don’t get caught up in rituals that look good on the outside but miss the heart’s transformation within. It’s not about lip service but heart devotion. Let your words and actions authentically reflect a heart genuinely seeking God. True defilement comes from within. Guard your heart against pollution like evil thoughts, greed, envy, and harmful attitudes.
Don’t elevate cultural traditions over God’s commands. The core is to love God and others wholeheartedly. Jesus challenges us to break down cultural barriers, show love beyond divides, and recognise that His grace knows no bounds.