“For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.” Matthew 23:26
Anyway, this current dishwasher will sometimes wash a mug and put it away. The next day Jos will pull it out of the cabinet, look inside and find something gross down at the bottom. The dishwasher will say, “Well it looked clean when I washed it.” But was it really clean?
If there’s coffee stains, orange juice pulp or dried soup at the bottom of the mug – THE MUG’S NOT CLEAN!
How clean is clean? Outside clean only isn’t enough to be clean. And when it comes to our lives, clean on the outside isn’t good enough. In addition to our behaviour, God looks at what’s going on inside of us as well. Thoughts and motivations need to be clean if we’re going to be clean in God’s eyes.
Jesus told a parable (a made-up story) about this very thing in Luke 18:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)
The evil tax collect goes home justified. That is he goes home with a right standing before God – why? Jesus said that “the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Humility – knowing and admitting how dirty you are is the key to being justified before God. The pride of the Pharisees wouldn’t let him see the dirt on his inside.
The fact is Jesus loves dirty people. Dirty people who know they are dirty and look to him for help. We see this later in Matthew 23 as Jesus cries over the city of Jerusalem.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matthew 23:37)
Jesus here compares himself to a mother chicken. A hen when there is danger will gather her chicks around her and cover them with her wings thereby giving them protection. In the case of a barnyard fire, a hen will gather her chicks and even die in this position if it might possibly save those little ones under her wings.
Jesus did wrap himself around his people – he laid down his life – just like the mother hen at a barn yard fire. Sacrificing himself on the cross for the sake of his brothers and sisters – those who have placed their faith in him. The fire of God’s wrath was poured out on him thereby saving those dirty ones who are under his “wings”. Absorbing the pain for the sake of his “brood”.
And he invites you today to come under his wings and be saved. Acknowledge that you are dirty and place your faith in the risen Saviour.
(Taken from a sermon on Matthew 23 at New City IPC from the sermon series “The Road to the Cross – Matthew 21 to 25”)