Archive for October 24, 2011

ABC Extra – Heart Cleaning

When I was a little kid, one of the places my dad used to take me was the zoo.  I loved to see the animals – the bears, the giraffes, the elephants, and the otters.  I especially liked the otters.  They always seemed so playful and energetic.  But as much as I enjoyed seeing the animals, they were never my favorite part of my zoo trips.  No, the highlight of these trips was always my ride on the zoo train.  At my local zoo, they had a real, coal burning, steam engine which ran a mile long trek around the perimeter of the zoo grounds.  And I loved to ride it.  The wail of the train whistle, the chug, chug, chug of the pistons, and the waft of the smoke rising from the train’s stack always mesmerized me.  I also loved the open-air cars.  There was nothing like having the wind blow in your face as lots of beautiful scenery whizzed by beside you.  In fact, I always wanted to hang my head out the side of the car and feel the wind rush through my hair.  But in each car, they had these notices posted: “Please remain seated and keep your hands and arms inside the car until the ride has come to a complete stop.”  I despised these notices.  And my dad would never allow me to fudge the rules…not one bit.  Whenever I’d try to stick my hand out the side of the car to feel the breeze, my dad would grab it and point it up to the notice.  I could look at the scenery whizzing by outside, but I could not stick my hand out the window to get closer to it.  I had to keep my hands to myself.

In worship and ABC this weekend, we looked at the story of a sinful woman who comes to anoint Jesus as He is dining with a Pharisee named Simon.  As I mentioned in ABC, many scholars believe this woman not only lived a sinful life, but a scandalous one as a prostitute.  When Simon sees this woman weeping over Jesus and pouring perfume on Him, Simon mutters to himself, “If this man were a prophet, He would know who is touching Him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39).  Simon is upset that this sinful woman would dare to touch Jesus…and that Jesus would allow her to do so!  In fact, from this, Simon deduces that Jesus cannot be a true prophet – for a true prophet would never let a sinful woman come into contact with Him.  Simon believes this woman should keep her hands and arms inside her own little space at all times.  She should keep her hands to herself.

According to Old Testament law, coming into contact with something or someone which was physically, spiritually, or ceremonially unclean rendered you unclean.  For instance, Moses writes:

If a person touches anything ceremonially unclean – whether the carcasses of unclean wild animals or of unclean livestock or of unclean creatures that move along the ground – even though he is unaware of it, he has become unclean and is guilty.  Or if he touches human uncleanness – anything that would make him unclean – even though he is unaware of it, when he learns of it he will be guilty. (Leviticus 5:2-3)

Moses is warning, “Be careful what you touch!  Because if you touch the wrong thing, you will get the wrong result – you will be rendered ‘unclean’!”  So please keep your hands and arms inside your own little space at all times.  Keep your hands to yourself.

A touch can defile.  This was the way the religious leaders viewed sinfulness and righteousness, uncleanness and purity.  This is why Simon is so upset with Jesus.  After all, He is allowing a clearly unclean prostitute to defile His ceremonial cleanness without so much as a wince!  Jesus, however, knows better about purity and uncleanness:

Nothing outside a man can make him “unclean” by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him “unclean.”  For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man “unclean.” (Mark 7:15, 21-23)

Jesus knows that a sinful woman cannot defile a pure person, for a person becomes sinful not because of some external source of wickedness, but because of his own sinful heart! The Lutheran Confessions explain, “Neither sin nor righteousness should be placed in meat, drink, clothing and like things” (Apology XXVIII 7).  These external things cannot defile us.  It is our own hearts which make us wicked.

This sinful woman’s touch does not defile Jesus’ purity.  But Jesus’ purity does cleanse this sinful woman.  Jesus announces to her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48).   This woman’s sinfulness is no match for Jesus’ forgiveness.  And the same is true for us.  We are cleansed through faith in Christ!

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

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October 24, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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