Life is all about stories and every person has a story. God, too, has a story – the grand metanarrative – that makes sense of every human story; for the sacred Scriptures make known two kinds of wisdom so that every human being can make sense of, and interpret properly, his or her story in light of His story:
+. a soteriological wisdom: to make us wise unto salvation which is by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:15)
+. a hermeneutical wisdom: to help us make sense of life’s story in light of His story and the many stories recorded in Scripture (Matthew 13:11, 16-17, 51-52; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Every week, from now until the time of the New Jersey District Convention in mid-May, 2021, we will study a parable of Jesus so that we might benefit from its wisdom and grow in our discipleship as “a wise scribe, trained for the kingdom” (Matthew 13:52).
Matthew 15:10, 15-20
10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual
immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
Traveling all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee, several Pharisees and scribes approached Jesus in order to question Him as to why His disciples were not in the habit of washing their hands in the proper way before eating a meal. In response Jesus told them a parable so that they could “hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
Later the disciples asked Jesus what He meant when He taught that parable and Matthew 15:10, 11-15 is Matthew’s account of His teaching that day.
A defining song of country music was Hank Williams’ “Your Cheating Heart,” written in memory of his first wife and her marital unfaithfulness. An even more descriptive country music song about the unfaithfulness of the human heart, sung by Patty Loveless, had this lyrical refrain: “…so blame it on your lying, cheating, cold dead-beating, two-timing, double-dealing, mean-mistreating, loving heart!”
Within the pop genre, many of us are familiar with Bruce Springsteen’s song “Hungry Heart” in which the main character is a man with a wife and children in Baltimore. One day he decides to go for a ride and never returns home; instead, he experiences an adulterous affair after meeting a woman in a Kingstown bar. Upon heartfelt reflection, the man acknowledges that he made a wrong turn in life and yet, instead of returning home to his family, he makes his way back to that same Kingstown bar to initiate his next adulterous affair.
A fundamental theme in every person’s story is the story of a hungry heart; hungry, not for God’s righteous way of living, but hungry for sin. As Springsteen observed in the behaviors of others, “everybody’s got a hungry heart.” Paul acknowledged this same universal orientation and guilt before God when he quoted from Isaiah to God’s people gathered in Rome: “there is no one who is righteous; no not one” (Romans 3:10). “For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
One of the memorable stories from the Scriptures that incorporates several of the sins that Jesus identified that day is the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11): evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality. David had a hungry heart for Bathsheba. He was so hungry for her that he was willing to kill her husband so that he might have her to himself.
God sent Nathan to expose David’s hungry heart so that he could be convicted of his sin before God and before others. David, in his prayer of repentance and faith, asked God to create in him a “clean heart” – a heart that would hunger after God’s righteous design for living (Psalm 51). God, in His mercy, filled the hungry heart of David with His grace and forgiveness.
In closing, let us impress these words from Scripture upon our hearts that address the need of every person for mercy and forgiveness – especially when our hungry hearts accuse and condemn us – that are found in John’s Gospel and his first Epistle:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not condemned…” (John 3:16-18a)
“if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9)