Let’s together examine again the fifteenth chapter of Matthew this morning as we look to the Word of God to hear from Him who speaks through His Word. Matthew chapter 15. I think we’re all very conscious today of the term “pollution.” We see it in the newspapers, we hear it discussed all the time, air pollution, mind pollution, environmental pollution, and it’s become almost a byword in our society.
The word “pollution” is also a biblical word. In fact, every time you see the word “defile” in the Bible, it could be translated “pollute.” Every time you see the word “defilement,” it could be “pollution.” And in the passage that I want us to look at this morning, Matthew 15, verses 10 through 20, our Lord speaks to the issue of pollution.
Follow, beginning in verse 10. “And He called the multitude and said unto them, ‘Hear and understand: not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.’ Then came his disciples and said unto him, ‘Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?’ But He answered and said, ‘Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.’
“Then answered Peter and said unto Him, ‘Explain unto us this parable.’ And Jesus said, ‘Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the stomach and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart, and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, these are the things which defile a man. But to eat with unwashed hands defileth not a man.’”
Five times in that text, we see some form of the word “defile.” Now, the dictionary basically says that the word “defile” means to make impure, to make unclean, to make dirty, to make foul, or to pollute. In the Greek, koinoō is an antonym for clean, it means unclean, dirty, defiled, polluted. In the New Testament, there are five verbs used for the word “defile,” there are three nouns and one adjective, and the combination of these nine different terms is used dozens of times.
The New Testament does say much about defilement, but it can’t begin to compare with the Old Testament because in the Old Testament, the basic Hebrew word chalal, which means, most of the time, to defile or pollute, appears 225 times, 175 of which it refers to defilement or pollution. So we can say that hundreds of times, God speaks to the issue of being polluted or defiled.
Some examples: In Psalm 119, verse 1, the Bible says, “Blessed are the undefiled.” In James 1, in verse 27, he calls for pure religion and undefiled. Paul, writing to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 8:7 wants us to avoid a weak and defiled conscience. In Hebrews 12:15, we are commanded not to be defiled by a root of bitterness springing up in us. First Corinthians 3:16 and 17 says, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”
In Revelation 3, in verse 4, our Lord praised the few faithful in the church at Sardis and He said they had not defiled their garments, and so they would walk with Him in white, for they were worthy. In Revelation 14:4, as we listen to the song of praise offered to the Lamb in glory, it is sung by those who were not defiled. And Revelation 21 tells us that in heaven forever, there will enter nothing that defiles.
And, of course, as believers, the Bible says that we are to be like Jesus Christ, whom the writer of Hebrews describes in chapter 7, verse 26, as harmless, holy, and undefiled. And if you go into the Old Testament and you find the man of great virtue, Daniel, he is a virtuous man because it says in chapter 1, verse 8, “He would not defile” - or pollute - “himself.”
Now, the point of all of this is just to give you a very quick perspective on the fact that God calls for an undefiled life. God has called His people to be clean, He has called them to be pure, He has called them to be holy, He has called them to be undefiled, to be spotless, to be unpolluted. Now, if that is the case, if we are to be undefiled and unpolluted, then we must understand what pollutes us and how to deal with that. The apostle Paul says that God wants to present to Himself a chaste virgin, a pure church. He told the Ephesians that the Lord wanted His church to be spotless, without blemish, blameless.
And so if God calls us to an unpolluted, undefiled and pure and holy life, then we must know what it is that pollutes so that we can deal with it. We’ll see that in this text. First of all - and I’ll give you three points, the principle stated, the principle violated, and the principle enunciated. Let’s look at the principle stated in verses 10 and 11, and here, our Lord gives us the clear word on true pollution.
Verse 10 sets the scene. “He called the multitude and said to them, ‘Hear and understand.’” What multitude is this? Very likely the multitude described for us in chapter 14, verses 34 to 36, the multitude of people who had come from the area of Gennesaret, which was a plain area, an agricultural area without a city in it, but it had people living in various places, and they were all collected there. It’s very near Capernaum. They were there for healing, and Jesus was speaking with them and teaching them and healing them.
And out of that incident there, which may have lasted for a long time, or many days, some Pharisees came to Jesus. In the first nine verses of chapter 15, the multitude was there, of course. The Pharisees had come and attempted to discredit Jesus publicly, to make Him look bad. They had confronted Him in verse 2 and said to Him, “Why do you transgress the tradition of the elders? Why do you violate Jewish tradition by not going through ceremonial washing?” And Jesus had countered by saying, “Why do you violate the commandments of God with your tradition?”
And then He pointed out one of their traditions, which was nothing more than a manmade rule to keep their own money so they wouldn’t have to give it to their needy parents, which was commanded in the Scripture. And so rather than them embarrassing and discrediting Jesus, they had been publicly shamed and discredited by the piercing words of our Lord, who ended up His denunciation in verses 7 to 9 by calling them hypocrites who were described by the prophet Isaiah and who worship God in an empty manner, substituting the commandments of men for true doctrine.
The multitude, then, has heard all of this. They’re standing there, they - we don’t know how much of the Pharisees’ conversation they actually heard in total, but it was certainly in their proximity. And now, having gone through this dialogue with the Pharisees, He wants the multitude to come a little more close to Him because He is about to give a principle that they must know, and so He calls them to Himself.
I think the term “hear and understand” is a very important phrase because basically, it is like saying, “This is very important, I want you not only to hear it, but I want you to get it in your mind.” What He is about to say - and believe me, as we’ll go along you’ll see - is an absolutely monumental new thought for them, and it will strike a devastating blow at all of the religion that they are used to. And so He says, “Now listen and understand.”
It isn’t that what He’s going to say is difficult to understand, it’s actually axiomatic, it’s self-evident, but it’s going to come to them as such an antithesis to everything they’ve ever heard in their religion that He wants them to listen carefully and think it through. And that brings us to verse 11. It is not so hard to understand as it is hard to accept. He says this: “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
Now, that is a very simple statement. It isn’t what goes in you that pollutes you, it’s what comes out of you that pollutes you. Doesn’t take much to understand the statement in terms of its basic sense. He is saying, “Defilement is an inside matter, not an outside matter.” You see, the Pharisees had come along and said, “How dare you eat food without going through ceremonial cleansing? You eat with defiled hands, you therefore defile the food, you take it in and you defile yourself, you pollute yourself because you haven’t” -
And it isn’t talking about whether they washed their hands from a cleanliness perspective but whether they went through the ceremonial rinsings that they had to do between each course as a matter of Jewish tradition. And so they are saying, “You have defiled yourself by eating food that is defiled,” and the Lord is saying it isn’t what goes in that defiles you, it’s what comes out.
In the context of the prior conversation, the statement is rather obvious. Jesus is saying pollution and defilement is not a physical issue, it is a spiritual one. It is not a ritual matter, it is a moral one. Now, at this juncture - and you want to understand this - you have just seen Jesus crystallize in one statement the antithesis between extant Judaism, or current Judaism, and the truth that He came to proclaim. He came to proclaim the truth that was inward, and they were completely committed to that which was outward religion.
In fact, Paul says they had a form of godliness that was impotent. And so in that one statement, Jesus set Himself in absolute diametric opposition to the religion of the Pharisees and scribes. Now, frankly, they shouldn’t have been so shocked that He would preach that the heart was the issue because even in the Old Testament, had not the Bible told them in 1 Samuel 16:7 that man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart? Had not the prophets again and again said that God desired the heart to be circumcised? Had not it been said over in the Old Testament that the issues that proceed out of the heart are the matters that concern God?
Jesus says that. It isn’t what goes in your mouth, it’s what comes out. Now, just a note about what He says in the phrase “that which cometh out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” The parallel passage is indicated in Mark chapter 7, and in Mark 7, verse 15 - just listen, you don’t need to look it up, it says there the same basic statement, but instead of saying “that which comes out of the mouth,” it says in Mark 7:15 “that which comes out of the man.” In other words, the evil that is in us is not only demonstrated by what we say but it is demonstrated also by what we do.
So Mark gives us the broadest perspective, and that indicates to us that Matthew is using “mouth” here to make the analogy a little more tight in comparing it with eating of unclean foods and also using the mouth as a symbol of the whole man, and the mouth is a good symbol of the depravity of man because it is nowhere more evident than in what comes out of his mouth, the mouth being the more dominant revealer of internal pollution, but really here being a symbol of the whole man. In other words, it isn’t what goes in you that defiles, it’s what comes out of you that defiles.
Now, this is absolutely devastating to the Jewish people. And Mark adds just a small word at the end of verse 19 of the comparative passage - this is what it says, “Thus He declared all foods clean.” That’s just unbelievable. Jesus is saying there are no more unclean foods, there’s no more kosher, there’s no more ceremonies, there’s no more forbidden food - that’s over. Well, I mean that would create instant apoplexy. They couldn’t handle that.
Their life long, they had been prescribed diet based upon clean and unclean, not only that which was defined as such biblically but that which was defined as such traditionally, and they had this mass of ceremonial stuff that they had to abide by in their diet and in their activities, eating, drinking, touching, and all these things. They were living by external rituals.
And may I say to you that any religion other than Christianity cannot change the heart, and if it can’t change the heart, then it can’t ever really deal with the inside of a person, and therefore, all religion apart from the truth is left with only externals. And so they tend not only to feed on externals but to sort of mass them up, just to sort of have mounting external kind of activities. And you look at any false religion and you’ll see it’s all bound up in all kinds of ceremonies and rituals and external issues. The heart is wretched. Theirs were particularly wretched, filled with hate and desire to murder Jesus, and yet they were going through all these external ceremonies.
Now, let me ask this question. I want to ask two questions. The first question is: Why did they feel so strongly attached to external issues? Where did all this ceremony and ritual and washings and all this stuff come from? And let’s say at the beginning, in fairness to them, that basically, it all started in the Bible, it all started in the book of Leviticus.
And if you read Leviticus, you’ll find a whole long list of ceremonial observances that they were required to follow. There are lists of animals they could eat, animals they couldn’t eat, birds they could eat, birds they couldn’t eat, things they could touch, things they couldn’t touch, the way they could cook, the way they couldn’t cook, certain features of diet and so forth, certain features of clothing, certain things they could drink and not drink. There’s a mass of ceremonies in the Old Testament.
For example, they were considered defiled if they had contact with the carcass of an unclean animal, Leviticus 11, or with any carcass, Leviticus 17. By eating a carcass, Leviticus 22. If they came in contact with issues of the body, any kind of issue abnormally coming from any bodily organ, Leviticus 15. They were considered unclean in the process of menstruation. They were unclean by contact with anybody who was unclean so that it could be passed to a second level.
They were unclean after childbirth. They were considered unclean by touching anybody who had leprosy. They were unclean if they touched the dead or contacted somebody who touched the dead or by funeral rites, Leviticus 21, or by creeping things, Leviticus 22, and it goes on and on. And they had all of these things that ceremonially made them unfit.
Now, I want you to notice something. At no time in the Old Testament does it ever say that these things were sinful. It’s not sinful to have a child. It’s not sinful to have a bodily function. It’s not sinful necessarily to touch a dead body. It’s not sinful to touch an animal that wasn’t fit for diet. So the Bible never says these things were sins, it says - and this is very important - that it constituted a person ritually unfit so that they could not come in to worship God because of this sort of external unfitness until they had followed whatever cleansing was necessary to prepare them physically to come into the presence of God. So they - all this started in the Old Testament.
Now, the question that immediately comes to your mind is why, right? Why? Here’s why. As I said, you have to remember this, it was external, it is never defined as sin, it’s only defined as ritual unfitness and here’s why. When God gave the Old Testament, it was in the early, dawning days of God’s redemptive plan with God’s covenant people. The New Testament calls it the rudiments, the ABCs. Now, whenever you want to impart information to a child, if you are like we are as parents, what we gave our children were books. But the books they got when they were very little were full of what? Pictures.
You don’t give your kid the 22nd volume of Encyclopedia Britannica, you give them pictures. And there were lots of pictures, and the world began to dawn through pictures, and then when they learn words, words make sense because words describe things they see in the pictures. The Old Testament is a book full of pictures, and the entire ceremonial system was like a book given to a child, full of pictures. And God was saying, “Do you see how you cannot come into God’s presence to worship Him physically when you are ceremonially unclean? So does God want you to come to worship Him spiritually only when your heart is pure.” You see the picture? So the whole ceremonial system is a picture of what God wants on the inside.
Do you remember last Sunday night we were studying circumcision? And we said that circumcision doesn’t save people, circumcision didn’t save the Jews. Circumcision was a constant sign that what tearing away had occurred in the flesh, God wanted to do in the what? Heart. And that’s why the prophet said, “Circumcise your heart.” And the reason that God gave the ceremonial system was as a picture. But if God was concerned that we be clean on the outside, how much more was He concerned that we be clean on the inside? And so when you come to God’s holy hill, you come with clean hands and a what? Pure heart. And that - the whole point of the clean hands was to demonstrate the need for the pure heart.
Sadly, throughout the history of Israel, they abandoned the reality and kept just the pictures, didn’t they? So by the time you come to Jesus, instead of going on to the fullness of real spirituality, they were just multiplying the pictures and they had added multitudinous ceremonies to the ones which were given in the Bible. They said, “Well, if God wants pictures, we’ll just keep on adding pictures,” and they actually rejected the reality. In fact, when the reality came, they killed the reality.
By Jesus’ day, the Pharisees and scribes had developed such an elaborate external system of ceremonies, it was so complex that it became an absolutely intolerable burden, and it cast its shadow over the whole New Testament. In 23 of Matthew, it says, “You bind burdens on the people that are too grievous to be borne, and you don’t as much as lift a finger to help.” You know, the thing was so ridiculous that they developed what was called the law of intention. In other words, you couldn’t even keep all the ceremonies in one day, you just couldn’t do it. I mean you’d be struggling to get it all done, and so they developed the law of intention. If you got up in the morning and said, “I intend to be pure all day,” you could waive all the ceremonies. That’s right. It’s very convenient, huh?
Now, I suppose you might ask a second question. If God didn’t intend for holiness to be an external matter, why all these ceremonies? And I say it again: pictures, symbols. And that - listen carefully - is really the essence of the ninth and tenth chapter of Hebrews. You will never understand the book of Leviticus until you understand the commentary on Leviticus, which is Hebrews. Listen to what it says, just some selected statements. Hebrews 8:5 says that all of that stuff in the Old Testament is an example and a shadow of heavenly things. Very important.
In Hebrews 9:9, it says they were figures for the time then present. Hebrews 9:10 says foods and drinks and various washings and fleshly ordinances were imposed until the time of reformation. And what is the time of reformation? Time of the arrival of the Messiah and the new covenant. That was the picture-book time, but when Jesus came, it was graduation from elementary school. In fact, in Hebrews 10:1, it says they were a shadow and not the very image. They were always intended as a shadow, as a sketch, as a picture.
And that’s why in 10:22 of Hebrews, the lesson is summed up in this: “Let us draw near with a true heart, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” In other words, let’s go to the spiritual cleansing that God was after. That’s why Hebrews 6:1 and 2 - people don’t understand that chapter so much. Hebrews 6:1 says, “Leaving the principles of the doctrines of Messiah.” That’s not saying - that’s not talking about Christianity, it’s talking about Judaism.
“Let us leave the doctrine of,” and then it translates in the King James, “baptism,” but it’s never, that word, translated baptism, that word is always translated washing, that’s what it means, let’s leave the washings, move out of those things. In fact, from 5:12 through 6:8, it’s all written to Jews who are sitting on the fence and they won’t abandon their ceremonialism. Let’s abandon those - let’s not lay again the foundation of repentance toward God, dead works, those basic doctrines, let’s get on to perfection.
And mark it, perfection. Every time you see it in the book of Hebrews, it refers to salvation. Leave the washings, those were pictures, symbols, nothing more. God wanted to impress deeply, indelibly on the hearts of the Israelites the idea of holiness and sacredness, and He gave them all the pictures they needed. How tragic it is that they just kept the pictures and rejected the reality. So what is the Lord saying in verse 11? This principle has to be established, that’s why we’re taking a little more time on this verse, and we will get done with the passage this morning, so you can rest easy.
But they did need to know that God all along had intended that it wasn’t the stuff going in from the outside that defiled, it was what was coming up from inside. You could go through all the ceremonies you wanted to and your heart could be a veritable cesspool, pumping out filth. Jesus, then, sets Himself in diametric opposition to the Pharisees. It’s one of the ways in which He fulfilled Matthew 5:17, “I am not come to destroy the law but to fulfill the law.” In a very real sense, there are many ways He did that, but this was one of the ways, by abolishing the ceremonial system, putting an end to the pictures and bringing the reality.
Then, as you come into the New Testament, you see this transition. You see that, as Mark 7:19 says thus He ended all - the whole system of ceremonial foods and things, you can see that because as you go into the New Testament, whenever you see things that defile or things that pollute, they never have anything to do with the outside. Never, never at all in the New Testament. For example, it says things of the heart defile right here in verse 18. In Titus 1:15, it says unbelief defiles. In 1 Corinthians 8, idolatry defiles. In Hebrews 12, bitterness defiles. So it’s always internal in the New Testament. The external picture has passed away.
An illustration of this can be brought to our attention. Look at Acts 10, and this is a very important passage. Acts 10. Now, Peter went up onto the roof to pray, and the Lord gave him a divine anesthetic and put him in some kind of a trance. He was real hungry, so he was thinking about food, and sometimes when you’re thinking about something and you go to sleep or something, you’re still thinking about the same thing after you’ve gone to sleep. He was in some kind of a special, divine sleep, but he was still thinking about food and he was hungry.
And you would have thought he’d have seen a big table spread with kosher food, but instead, heaven opened in his vision and a big sheet came out of heaven, pulled together at four corners, and you know what was in it? Everything. Four-footed beasts of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and fowls of the air. Now, this would not - this would be very difficult for a Jew to handle because you just can’t mix all those animals, they had clean and unclean animals, clean and unclean birds and so forth, and a voice comes saying, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” Go for it, Peter, it’s all for you.
And his reaction? “Not so, Lord, I’ve never eaten anything that is common,” or separated, set apart, unclean, “I can’t do it, Lord, I can’t do it.” And you can understand that. All your life long like that, you just can’t, you’d just gag on that stuff. You can’t. And the voice spoke un him a second time, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” And you know something? He was so thick, three times that whole deal went on to get that message across.
That was a difficult thing, a good Jewish boy like this, raised all his life to eat only that which is clean, now he’s told to eat anything, the ceremonial law is abolished, it’s all over with - oh, that’s tough. In fact, it was so tough - look at Romans 14. Some of the Christians, some of the Jewish Christians just couldn’t handle it, I mean they could not handle it, and gentile Christians would invite them over for dinner and want to sort of show them their liberty, so they’d serve up ham. And you know they just couldn’t eat it, and it was causing tension in the church.
Now, in 14:3, it says - look - well, verse 2: “For one believes he may eat all things, another who is weak eats only herbs. Let not him that eats despise him that eats not, let not him who eats not judge him that eats for God’s received him.” The point is, doesn’t matter what you eat. Doesn’t matter, but look, if a guy’s conscience bothers him, don’t force him to eat something that will bother his conscience.
Dr. Ganot told me last week that he doesn’t really necessarily fully observe a kosher diet, but he said many of his friends are very scrupulous about it. He said he was visiting a certain place, and this man invited him to dinner, and he said, “Now, what can you eat?” He says, “Well, I could eat anything that’s” so forth and so on, he told him beef. Said, “Could you eat beef?” He said, “Yes.” So his wife went - or he, rather, on his way home from work, went shopping to find kosher franks, you know, made out of beef.
He had to go to about five places to find them, and he got them home and was to be a nice appetizer for the meal for Dr. Ganot and his family. He didn’t know it, he gave them to his wife and she prepared them and served them wrapped in bacon. And he said, “My kids absolutely loved it, and so now we serve them bacon,” he said, “and that’s not a problem.” Well, not everybody is quite so liberated, and maybe that woman, in her misunderstanding of the whole process, did them a service, I don’t know.
But what Paul is saying here is, “Look, eating isn’t the issue, but don’t offend somebody. Don’t force the thing.” In verse 14, “I know and I am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that’s how I know that there’s nothing unclean of itself, but for some people, some things are unclean by their own experience and by their own upbringing, and don’t grieve your brother” - verse 15 - “with food.” Don’t force him to take it. Certainly, down in verse 20, you don’t want to destroy the work of God because of food.
Then one other text, 1 Timothy, tells us the same thing, that this whole deal has been abolished. First Timothy 4 says that in the last days, some people are going to come along and talk about abstaining from certain foods, but he says, “God has created them to be received with thanksgiving by them who believe and know the truth, for every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it’s received with thanksgiving because it’s made holy by the Word of God and prayer.”
You want to know why you pray at dinner? Verse 5 in your Heritage. There is no more clean and unclean. Jesus abolished the ceremonial system. Now go back to Matthew 15, and here we’re introduced to where that really happened, the first step, a monumental statement by the Lord that just totally pulled the rug out from under their entire perspective of religion. All right, now we’ve seen the principle stated, and let’s go rapidly and we’re going to move very rapidly just through the remaining verses because it’ll all fall into place very readily for you.
We now see the principle violated in verse 12. And having stated the basic truth in verse 11, we are face-to-face with the hypocrites, the Pharisees and the scribes, who have confronted Jesus, and they are described for us most wonderfully in this passage. Verse 12. Then came His disciples. By the way, Mark tells us they had now moved to a house, very likely - it says eis oikon, it could have been the house the Lord used to stay in in Capernaum. They’re inside, they’re away from the crowd, away from the scribes, the Pharisees, and now it’s time to face the issue.
And the disciple said unto Him, “Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended after they heard this saying?” And you know, bless their hearts, I think they’re really trying to warn the Lord, “Lord, you really got them angry. I mean we got to avoid those guys, they were offended” skandalizō or scandalized. They were totally offended by what He said, that you could eat anything you want, just blew them away. And he said, “Boy, they were offended, Lord,” and I think they’re trying to help the Lord out here, say, “Lord, you got to sort of be careful what you say. Going to get us all in a real lot of trouble.”
The whole statement - and He knew it was a fierce blast at their empty worship and hypocrisy, but if the disciples thought that was offensive, wait until they get to chapter 23 when He calls them whitewashed graves or Luke 11 when He calls them graves overgrown with grass so the people walk on them without knowing what they’re walking on. Or when Peter calls them wells without water, empty clouds. In Matthew 23, the Lord called them hypocrites, devouring widows’ houses. Hypocrites, shutting up the Kingdom of God. Hypocrites, blind guides, fools, blind. Hypocrites, paying tithes of minuscule little herbs and omitting justice and faith and mercy.
Hypocrites, swallowing camels and straining at gnats. Hypocrites, cleaning the outside of the cup. Hypocrites, whited sepulchers, et cetera. So He offended them purposely. The disciples were curious about all this, but the Lord knew exactly what He was saying. You see, they were so deep into their system - and I’ll just digress for a moment. They were so deep into their system that they had God in their system. They really did. For example, they believed that God spent all day studying the law and all night studying the Mishnah, their tradition, so that He could keep up on everything.
They also believed that God was the presider over the heavenly Sanhedrin, and that the rabbis sat next to God in order of rank according to their holiness, and that together, they studied the Halacha and made decisions. They also believed, for example, that the last three hours of each day, after such hard work in the law and the Mishnah, God spent three hours at the end of each day playing with Leviathan, the dragon. And they taught that the Almighty was so grieved over the destruction of the temple that once in each of the three watches of the night, He roared like a lion, and when tears fell from His eyes, they plopped in the ocean and caused earthquakes.
They taught that God wore a prayer shawl and phylacteries. And worse than that, they taught that when God came to Egypt, He got defiled and had to be purged by Aaron, and when God went to the burial of Moses, He touched Moses, and so He had to be bathed in a fire to purge Himself. See, they had God right in their system. So when Jesus blasted their system, from their perspective, it was a blast at God and everything they considered to be sacred.
This, by the way, is not the only time the Lord did this. He was very confrontive. Oh, was he confrontive. Listen to Luke 11:37. This is a different environment, but they get the same speech, and a Pharisee came to Jesus, verse 37, and asked Him to come to dinner with him. This Pharisee invites Jesus to dinner, so it says He went in and sat down to eat. Now He’s the guest of the Pharisee, right? And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner. Now, he’s not marveling that He had dirty hands, He didn’t go through the ceremonies. And the Pharisee can’t believe it, and he marveled, he’s amazed.
And you know what the Lord - the Lord didn’t say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll do that, I don’t want to offend you.” No, He didn’t say that. The Lord said to his host, “Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. You fools. Did not He that made that which is without make that which is within also? Woe unto you Pharisees for you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs and pass over justice and the love of God. These ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
“Woe unto you Pharisees for you love the chief seats in the synagogues and salutations in the marketplace. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites for you are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.” You can imagine by this time, the guy is against the wall. “It’s the last time I’ll ever invite Him for dinner.” See, He always took this direct blast at hypocritical religion. We learn the first thing about hypocrites that I want you to note in our passage, they are offended by the truth. They are offended by the truth, that’s what verse 12 indicates. They were offended.
You see, spiritual phonies don’t like the mask torn off, do they? They don’t, and they were scandalized, they were offended. There’s no question about that, and that still goes on. Hypocrites may come into this church and be offended, I hope. And there are many people who say, “I’ll never come back to that place. I don’t like what he said.”
Hypocrites will be offended because when they’re brought to the truth, they come up short, they’re unmasked, and there is no one in the sight of God so ugly as that person who covers his ugliness with the paint of beauty when there’s no real change at all. And I submit to you that if your heart is offended by the truth, then you ought to look deeply in your heart because it may be that you’re a hypocrite.
Second thing about hypocrites you find in verse 13, they’re not only offended by the truth but they’re destined for judgment. Look at this. The disciples are saying to Him, “They’re offended,” and He says, “Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall rooted up.” And that tells us they’re going to be judged. He sees a field and in that field there are lot of plantings, the Greek word here is planting. There are a lot of different plantings there. “My heavenly Father,” which is His common name for His relationship with God, “has planted them, and there are some that He has not planted.”
You remember the parable of the wheat and the tares, where God sowed the wheat, and the enemy came, Satan, and sowed the tares? And He says the ones that God doesn’t plant are going to be rooted up. What He says is they’re going to be judged. “My message to them is judgment,” on the hypocrite. Judgment on the hypocrite. The only person that God in Christ really blasts in the New Testament, where you get the person along with the sin, is the spiritual hypocrite. The rest, He’ll hit the sin, but in the case of the hypocrite, He hits the person with his sin. And so He says they’re destined for judgment, and it’s just almost the same as the parable of the wheat and the tares, they’re going to get rooted up.
Remember it says that “they’ll grow together until the judgment, and then my Father will separate them out”? They’re not His, they’ll be rooted up. Now notice the beginning of verse 14, a very important statement. “Let them” - what? - “alone.” That is a hard statement. Let them alone. What do you mean? What do you mean by that? It really could be translated “Stay away from them.” What do you mean? Anybody who pretends to represent the true religion, anybody who pretends to know God, anybody who pretends the truth but inside is not true, stay away from him.
What does that mean? Well, one, it’s the staying away of judgment. “Ephraim has joined idols,” Hosea 4:17, “let him alone.” Let him alone, almost as if they’re abandoned to judgment. Secondly, it is the staying away in the terms of, “Don’t you act as the judge.” Remember how we saw that in the wheat and the tares? When they said, “Look, shall we go rip the tares out?” He says, “Don’t - that’s not your job, the angels will come in due time and do that. Your job is to proclaim the message of the Kingdom. We’ll take care of the judgment. Don’t you go trying to rip them up.”
Now, I confess to you that that’s hard because basically, I would volunteer to be a ripper-upper, and that’s - I don’t know what it is about me, but I - one of the great tensions I have in my heart is how God can want His church so pure and at the same time tolerate such horrible impurity in the midst of it. And if given the freedom to do that by God and the Scripture, I’m afraid I would sort of create a spiritual Gestapo and move out. “Let them alone, MacArthur,” He says. “Stay away from them. I’ll take care of that in the end.” But I do - I do confess to you that it is a grave issue for me to understand, that God can tolerate within the framework of so-called Christianity so much absolute hypocrisy. So stay away.
But there’s a third thought. Not only stay away in terms of abandoning them to judgment, not only stay away in terms of not thinking you can tear them up because you might not know who the tares are - you might rip up the wheat and leave the tares alone in your acts of judgment. The third thing I think He’s saying is just to stay away from them. Just flat out, stay away from them. Why? Because of verse 14, and this is the third truth about a hypocrite: they lead others to disaster. “They are blind leaders of the blind, and if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.” It’s not the word for ditch, it’s the word for the hole in the field where they fill it up with water to give water to the animals.
It means a pit. “Stay away from them, because they lead people into the pit.” The pit can mean nothing other than hell, they lead people to hell, that’s what they do. Stay away from them. You don’t ever expose yourself to these kinds of people, not in the name of anything. In fact, in Jude, it says when you come across such a person, you snatch them like a brand from the burning lest your own garments would be spotted. You don’t want to get near that stuff, you don’t want to listen to their knowledge, falsely so called.
Paul says to Timothy, “You don’t want to listen to their vain babblings, you don’t want to listen to their supposed insights into theology and truth.” “Purge yourself,” he says in 1 Timothy. “Purge yourself from these influences.” Stay away from these people. Don’t expose yourself to them because they lead people to disaster. Of course, this blind leaders of the blind is a play on their own teaching because the rabbis called themselves the leaders of the blind. Remember in Romans 2:19 where Paul says, “You fancy yourselves to be guides of the blind”? And the Lord several times calls them blind guides and the blind are leading the blind.
The people that are leading them are blind, the leaders who are leading them are blind, and they all fall into hell. Stay away from them. Don’t go near them. Don’t expose yourself to hypocrites. Don’t expose yourself to people pumping out false religion in the name of Christianity. It can do you no good. It eats like a gangrene, Paul says to Timothy. Don’t even give them the satisfaction of an audience. They have a self-inflicted, self-deluded blindness, and they push people to hell.
In fact, it says in Matthew 23 that they make twice more their converts the sons of hell than they themselves, and at the end of that passage, it says, “You serpents, you generation of vipers. How can ye escape the damnation of hell?” That’s why I encourage young people, when they go for their education, to be obedient to the Word of God and not put themselves in the place where they are going to be interacting with hypocrites. And a hypocrite is anybody who pretends religion on the outside and doesn’t know God on the inside. Stay away from them.
Now, finally, the principle elucidated. Would you believe that I could cover five verses in five minutes? You watch. How about six verses? Verse 15. Now they move into the house. Together, they’re there, He’s just said this, and Peter breaks the ice and we’re not surprised. Peter said, half-reverently, half-fearfully, “Explain to us this parable.” What parable? Oh, back in verse 11 about the mouth, stuff going in and stuff coming out. “Explain it to us.”
It is a question of honesty, they wanted to know, it wasn’t that they couldn’t understand what He meant, it was just they couldn’t accept it, Peter especially. That’s why he had to have three visions in Acts 10 of the same thing, and then go to a gentile, and have a gentile convert. And he still really didn’t get it well because later on, when he went up to Antioch, Galatians chapter 2 says some Judaizers came along who still believed you had to keep all the ceremonies, and as soon as Peter saw the Jews, he separated from the gentiles and went over with the Jews and started doing all that stuff.
And Paul says, “I withstood him to the face.” See, it was very, very hard to for Peter to make that adjustment, and so he says, “What do we understand by this?” And now we come to the principle elucidated. We’ve seen it stated, violated, and here, it is elucidated. And Jesus said, “Are ye also yet” - and that’s a word never used in the Greek New Testament anyplace but right here, it means even yet. “With all that you know and all that’s been said, are you also even yet without understanding? You’re like them?”
“Do not ye yet understand” - and he repeats it very clearly - “that whatsoever enters in at the mouth goes into the stomach and is cast out into the privy” - or toilet, in our vernacular - and Mark adds “and does not enter the heart.” You can’t be defiled by what goes in your mouth because it goes through normal body elimination process, it does not pollute you.
Now, the question the Jew is going to be asking at this moment is, “Well, what about all those ceremonies?” And you see, that’s where they have to hear what you had to hear this morning, those were only pictures of the real pollution, representations. And so He says that it just goes in your stomach and out the draught, but those things that proceed out of the mouth - Mark is the one who said, as I mentioned, “out of the man” - come forth from the heart and they pollute the man.
You’re never polluted, people, because of what you take in, you’re polluted because of what you pump out. Right? The cesspool is inside of you. It’s your heart. Verse 19. “For out of the heart proceed.” Now, the word “heart” here is not the physical pump, it’s the inner self, the mind, the source of thought, attitude, motive, desire. Just like we say, “I love you with all my heart” or “My heart goes out to you,” “I feel in my heart” or whatever, we use the term “the physical pump” related to emotion, thought, feeling, primarily the thinking processes.
And He is saying that it’s the filth pumped out of the inside, such as evil thoughts - and that, by the way, in the Greek, has to do with schemes, wicked schemes, which, of course, they were plotting right at that point against Jesus, the Pharisees were, or murders, murder being the destruction of human life, adultery, sexual stealing and covenant breaking, fornication, pre-marital sex, theft, violation of others’ property, false witness, dishonest testimony, of course, blasphemy is violent, malicious accusation, slander, and He says, “It’s this stuff that comes out of the heart.”
Does that remind you of Matthew 5? The Pharisees said, “Oh, we don’t do any murders,” and Jesus says, “If you hate in your heart, you might as well have murdered, it’s the same thing.” The Pharisees said, “Oh, we don’t commit adultery,” and Jesus says, “If you look on a woman to lust after her, you’ve committed adultery” - where? - “in your heart.” You see, it’s the heart that gives birth to the garbage on the outside. They washed their hands, but not they didn’t wash their hearts. Verse 20. These are the things that defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.
The unwashed heart is what defiles, and so what is man’s greatest need? Ceremonial religion? What is it? It’s the religion of the heart. The heart has to be cleansed.
I want to show you one Scripture in closing, Titus 1:13. Here it talks about some filthy people, the sinful, vile cretins, liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons, verse 12, and he says I’m telling you the truth about them, too, verse 13. Then watch this, Titus 1:13. Wherefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” Rebuke these people sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, “not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men that turn from the truth.” Tell them to lay away themselves from those external, ceremonial activities.
“Put those things away. Unto the pure,” and he means pure of heart, “all things become pure, but to them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, because even their mind and conscience is defiled. They may profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him, they’re abominable, disobedient, and unto every good work they are reprobate.” In other words, no matter what they say or what they profess or what kind of Jewish fables or commandments of men they go through, they are defiled on the inside, so everything on the outside is defiled. However, in the middle, you have that wonderful statement of light in the midst of darkness, “Unto the pure, all things are pure.”
Pure men with pure hearts receive all things as pure. So what do men need, then? If we’re to be sure we avoid the defilement and the pollution that God is so against, what do we need? We need a - what? - pure heart. Isn’t that Matthew 5:8? Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall - what? - see God. And so the prayer of every individual should be, “Lord, purify my heart.” How does He do that? Only one way can our hearts be purified, and that is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who purifies the heart, who washes away the sin. Even, in the terms of Ezekiel, gives us a new heart. Every man needs that.
The conclusion of the first service this morning, a man walked up to me and took my hand and said, “Where do I go to get a new heart?” I took him in the prayer room. That’s where you need to go, to God to get a pure heart, and you can do it just between you and Him. It’s a divine transaction, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving Him as Savior. He promises to wash the heart, to make you undefiled, blameless and pure and holy before God. Let’s bow in prayer.
Father, I pray that no one will leave this place with an unwashed heart, counting maybe on some external, religious ceremony, but that the heart might be made clean through the blood of Christ.
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