Luke 11: 37-41
“37 When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. 38 But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal. 39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.”
The first thing my mother would make her five children do before we sat down at her table to eat was wash our hands. After we washed, Mom would inspect us and send us back if there was even a trace of dirt.
The Pharisee that Jesus was preparing to have a meal with was surprised that Jesus did not wash his hands before eating. To be clear, Jesus was not sitting down to eat with filthy, dirty hands. The Pharisee was concerned with ceremony and ritual. The law stipulated that hands had to be washed in a certain way before a meal and had to be repeated between courses. Every detail of the washing was detailed in the law and people were expected to follow these details to the letter in order to be ceremonially clean during the meal.
To a Pharisee, to omit any of the complicated details was a sin. Jesus replied, in effect, that instead of worrying about another person’s hands, Pharisees would do well to worry about the cleanliness of their own hearts.
Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. We let the details of ritual and ceremony get in the way of true spirituality.
Dirty hands can be cleaned by soap and water. A dirty heart can only be cleaned by God.
May the love of Christ be with you,
Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)