Monday: Check your motives! vv1-8
‘He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’ v6
We all know that you wash your hands before you eat so that you don’t make yourself ill. That’s not what this reading is about! The Pharisees ceremonially washed their hands in a particular way because they wanted to be seen to be doing things the right way; keeping all the rules so that people would think good things about them. It wasn’t that their actions were wrong, just their motivation for doing it. Jesus doesn’t want us to just do the right things, he wants us to do the right things for the right reasons. Think about the things that you do today and ask yourself whether you are honouring God with your heart or just your lips.
Tuesday: Please yourself! vv9-13
‘And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!”’ v9
The Pharisees very cleverly used one rule about putting aside money for the temple to get out of having to follow another one about honouring their parents. They were using the letter of the law to suit their own purposes rather than looking at the purpose of the laws. Do you do the same What about us as a church? Do we get so tied up in our own ways that we forget what it’s really all about? Let’s decide today that we’re going to be different and allow God’s way to become our way.
Wednesday: From the inside. vv14-23
Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” v15
It is often so easy for us to change what is on the outside. We can stop eating certain things, stop watching certain programmess, stop mixing with certain kinds of people so that we look as though we are doing the right thing and have changed. Jesus says here, though, that the change has to happen inside rather than outside because it is what is in our hearts and minds that make us unclean. In order to become like Jesus on the outside, we have to allow him access to those places we’d prefer to hide from everyone so that his love, his grace and his power can get to work.
Thursday: Crumbs! vv24-30
“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” vv27-28
Do you think that anyone has ever heard this and not felt offended on behalf of this poor woman who had come to Jesus out of desperation only to be treated so rudely? Well bizarrely, there is one person. The woman herself! She showed no sign whatsoever of being offended. She came to Jesus because she had heard about him and knew that he could help her. Instead of being insulted by his comment, she argues beautifully that even the dogs can eat the scraps left over and that’s what she’s asking for. She knew that, because of her place in society, she didn’t deserve Jesus’ help but she begged for his mercy and he gave it to her. Isn’t that how we all come to Jesus; aware of our sin and knowing that we don’t deserve anything from him but knowing too that he will listen and that he will save us because of his mercy and grace?
Friday: Be Opened vv31-37
‘After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spat and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). vv33-34
Look at the difference in this man from the beginning of the story to the end. He started being closed off from the rest of the world to a large extent. He couldn’t hear people speaking to him and he couldn’t speak to them. What do we see at the end, though? He couldn’t shut up about Jesus even when Jesus asked him to! How did he get from one to the other?
Firstly, his friends. He couldn’t have heard about Jesus because he was deaf. He couldn’t have asked Jesus to help him because he couldn’t speak. He needed someone to do it for him and his friends were there to step into the gap for him. Then, Jesus took him aside and showed a personal interest in him. Jesus touched him; using the senses he had that worked, he touched his ears and his tongue. He sighed before speaking, demonstrating empathy. He didn’t wax lyrical before healing him, just used one word so showing the man that he understood his limitations.
What can we learn from this? Firstly, that we sometimes need to step into the gap for others who are unable to comprehend their need for Jesus. Secondly, that Jesus meets us where we are and speaks to us in ways that we will understand so that he can bring his healing. Allow yourself to ‘be opened’ today and see the change that Jesus can bring in your life!