REFLECT – Day 29:
We continue to search through “The Beatitudes” this lent and explore the blessings that Jesus spoke while preaching the Sermon of the Mount.
Recently I had to go the doctors for a few spots on my arms. They were non contagious but still needed some kind of treatment. Back in the Old Testament, I most certainly would have been cast out from my community and told to come back to be checked when it / if it cleared up. Back then, the outward signs of illness are what made you unclean. But Jesus teaches something new.
Today’s passage is Mark 7:14-23. Try to think back to the laws surrounding uncleanness in the OT, and perhaps the man with leprosy who was healed by Jesus – we looked at him in a previous study.
Again, Jesus changes our understanding of what it means to be fully human and live a good life.
The religious people of his day were preoccupied with remaining pure. For them, that meant a strict dietary code and keeping away from certain kinds of people and practices. Remaining externally pure became more important than mercy.
Jesus abolishes all of this. He declares all foods clean. He eats with ‘sinners’ and undesirables of every kind. He heals on the sabbath.
Mercy triumphs over human custom and ritual; inner integrity is more important than reputation; and freedom of conscience is more precious than conforming to rules and tradition.
Jesus is not naive about the capacity for evil in the human heart, which spoils and ruins lives. He is very clear that deep inner cleansing and renewal are needed, which go further and deeper than keeping to external rules.
The only way to forgiveness, freedom and a pure heart is the way of the cross.
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the way,
the truth and the life;
let us not stray from you who are the way,
nor distrust your promises
who are the truth,
nor rest in anything but you
who are the life…
from a prayer of Erasmus (1536)
Examine the rules you live by. Do any of them distract you from mercy or take away your freedom in Christ?