18 May 2018
GraceNotes – A Journey of Discovery
Scripture: Matthew 23:27-28 (Click link for scripture in Bible Gateway)
27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:27–28 NLT)
Yesterday we read Jesus’ statement about making sure the inside of the cup and dish is clean rather than merely polishing the outside so it looks nice on the shelf. He said the “teachers of religious law and Pharisees” looked good on the outside. And they did. They carefully dressed like “holy people” with special garments and crafted “accessories” that contained handwritten scripture verses and with tassels and fringes on their robes that were sure to attract attention as they moved among the “normal people” on the street or in the market or at the Temple.
And, of course, the real point in both yesterday’s and today’s readings is that their religion was external and not from the heart. As Jesus said, they could flawlessly practice their religious rituals, offer their sacrifices at the Temple, and engage in endless arguments about the finer points of their doctrine. But at the same time, they could despise people they considered lower than themselves, they could take advantage of the poor and powerless, and hate foreigners and strangers. It’s clear that Jesus had very little patience with their reliance on ritual and their refusal to obey the most important commandments: To love God with all their hearts and to love others as they loved themselves.
Have you found that as your own faith becomes more a matter of the heart and less a matter of focusing on externals, that you are becoming more compassionate toward others and more accepting of those who are different from you? I’ve got a long way to go on this Journey of Discovery, but I can tell you I’m discovering that the “Jesus Way” is far simpler but far more challenging than the “religion way!” This morning a line from a little song we sang years ago has been running through my head; “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back!” Let’s follow Jesus heart-first and never turn back!
Father, Thanks for helping us to keep it simple. Thanks for the emphasis on “Inside first and the outside takes care of itself!” We’re getting it. Please be patient with us! Amen!