Cleaned & Filled
Old Testament Reading- Isaiah 1:11-20
New Testament Reading- Matthew 23:25-28
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -October 23, 2022
Are you clean? “What a question, sure I’m clean,” you say. “I took a shower, I shaved, I have deodorant on, I have on freshly laundered clothes, my fingernails are clean, my teeth are brushed, yes, I am definitely clean.” “Did you wash your hands after you went to the bathroom?” “Yes,” you say, “Stop already, I am clean.” This is what most people associate with being clean, clean on the outside, but Jesus challenged people in 1st century Israel to something more by telling them to be clean on the inside, but what did He mean by that?
The Jewish leaders and the teachers of the law of that time era had their hands full with Jesus. They were not accustomed to being questioned by anyone, in fact, they were usually the ones doing the questioning. We find this reading in Luke 11:37-54,
“When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so, he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal. Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.”
"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces. “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.”
“One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.” Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. So, you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’”
“Therefore, this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all. “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say.”
Here Jesus is talking to the Pharisees and experts in the law, but don’t think that He is only talking to them, but to everyone who hears His words and is acting the same as they did. How many Christians have ruined the faith of someone else seeking Christ by discouraging them or judging them too harshly? Remember what Jesus said, “Let those without sin cast the first stone.” If you really look at who Jesus had the hardest time with during His ministry, it was not non-believers, but believers. Many people had become so self-righteous in their beliefs that they made it extremely difficult for others to even feel clean enough to enter a house of worship.
Jesus had come to the children of Israel first to set things right by telling them that it was time to change from the inside first, to be clean on the inside instead of worrying about what it appeared on the outside. Jesus is constantly looking at and teaching about what I call a person’s heart condition. This type of heart condition has nothing to do with your physical heart. It is not whether you will have a stroke or a heart attack, but a condition of your heart that applies to your inner heart, the one of feelings. Imagine that your heart is an empty vessel. With what will you fill this empty vessel? You can choose to fill it with hatred or love, bigotry or tolerance, cruelty or compassion, envy or generosity, fear or courage, aggression or peace, shame or joy. Many think that they can fill it with all these things, but Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two masters. How can we love one neighbor and hate the other, or how can we treat one person with compassion, yet be cruel to others? It is not that we can’t do these things, let’s face it, human beings do it every day, but Jesus wants better for His people. That is why He tells us to love our enemies and to be good to those who would harm you.
There is also another manner of cleanliness that Jesus tells us about in Luke 11:24-26,
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”
This may seem like a hard lesson, so listen to this story. A man was having a hard time in life. He had a job he hated, a wife that was discouraged by him, children that disrespected him, and a life that was filled with bitterness and contempt. He had been molested as a child by someone he trusted and had experienced substance abuse when he got older. He was at the end of his rope when one day while surfing the internet he ran across a counselor that was speaking on a video about childhood abuse. The man wasn’t one for therapy, but this piqued his interest. He watched the ten-minute video and, after a few days, decided to watch even more of the therapist’s videos. Each day the man was drawn deeper and deeper into this amazing new philosophy. Soon he felt much better, he felt less apt to get into arguments, and less apt to be so hateful. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt this good in life. Soon he felt so good that he developed a bit of arrogance, he was doing so well in his new life that he began to forget what his old life was like. In his mind, he had defeated his old self and begun life anew. This went on for about two years until he unexpectedly lost his job. Within months, all the old feelings came back, but this time felt worse because he felt that he had been defeated all over again and this time, he wasn’t strong enough to stop it. The man felt hopeless and sunk into a deep depression that drove all his other problems deeper into the mire of loss.
"You can have the cleanest house that anyone has ever seen, but without Christ to fill it, your old problems will multiply again," ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
This man, like the one that Jesus tells us about in Luke 11 had thought that he had conquered his demons, he thought that his life was won, and he had single-handedly defeated his problems, but he was wrong. His house was swept clean, so to say, but it was left empty. You see, it is not enough to get your house in order, you must fill the emptiness with something or whatever was there before can come back and when it does it will invite friends, and not good friends. It is not enough to be successful, a self-made person, or a person with no problems. You can have the cleanest house that anyone has ever seen, but without Christ to fill it, your old problems will multiply again.
When you clean your house or in this instance, your heart, Jesus and His teachings will not only clean your heart but fill it to overflowing so that nothing else can fit. When we choose to fill our hearts with the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control then there is no room left for the fruit of sin.
The man that we talked about before has more to his story. At his lowest, he was unemployed, his children and wife wouldn’t speak to him, not because they were bad, but because he had become unbearable to be around. He was depressed, living his life in a bottle, and saw no light at the end of the tunnel, but what is impossible for humans is possible for God.
This man’s children and wife decided it was time to pray for him. They did so without ceasing, day and night. One day the man happened to see a billboard on the side of the road with words of scripture from Matthew 9:12-13 that read,
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The man didn’t know why, but this prompted him to go home and blow the dust off an
old Bible from when he was young. He began to read the words of Jesus in the Gospels and he felt light begin to fill him again. He was almost afraid to keep reading for fear that he would just relapse into his old ways again, but something told him to go on. Soon his wife and children noticed that he was sitting alone and reading the Bible and that he was
beginning to change. Months went by and one Christmas eve, his wife asked him if he would go to the church service. He said, yes, and even though he didn’t know it yet, it was the start of a new life for him. He had found Jesus, he had allowed him to clean him from the inside, and to completely fill his heart.
Christ calls us the same way he called our man in the story. Jesus tells us that we can do nothing apart from Him, but with Him, the possibilities are endless. When we learn to allow Jesus to clean us on the inside with love, mercy, and grace, we display those same things outwardly in our own lives because that is what fills our hearts. I believe the words of Isaiah 1:16-18 sum our hope up best,
“Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
There is nothing too dirty that the blood of Christ cannot clean and there is no one, no, not one who wants to receive it that isn’t worthy of Christ’s cleansing.
Take hold of it and be cleaned and filled by the love of Jesus.
Thanks be to God for His mighty Word. Amen.