Read Matthew 15:1-20.
“Are you still so dull?”
Yep, that was Jesus speaking. Thankfully, he wasn’t talking to me, but to Peter. It was shocking, nonetheless, for him to give such a harsh rebuke. After all, Peter had just asked a simple question.
It was the Pharisees’ fault. They had confused the disciples with their trick questions. Jesus obviously knew how to respond, but it left Peter’s head spinning. Actually, the disciples were getting it from both sides–just because they hadn’t washed their hands before they ate! (Some parental rebukes flashback in my mind surrounding this topic, but that’s another story).
Thankfully, at least Jesus had defended them on that point with a great comeback.
And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?
They didn’t understand how he got them exactly, but it sounded good, at least. He even went on to quote the prophet Isaiah to prove his point:
These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.
Ouch, that had to hurt.
Then to help those listening to understand what had happened, Jesus told them that it wasn’t what goes into a person’s mouth that makes him unclean, but what comes out of it. In other words, their dirty hands were really not a problem, no matter what the Pharisees’ thought.
Even so, his disciples wanted Jesus to realize (like he didn’t know) that the Pharisees were offended by what he was saying. That’s when Jesus told them not to worry about the Pharisees: they are “blind guides,” and if you let a blind man lead you, both of you will fall into a pit.
So, Peter, who was never slow to speak, was quick to show how blind he was:
Explain the parable to us.
That’s when the dullness became evident and was rebuked. Yet, even so, Jesus patiently explained. He was good like that. No matter how dull we are, he explains as long as we want to know the truth.
That’s why he was willing to teach Peter but not the Pharisees. They were happy in their blindness. Peter actually wanted to see and understand.
So, Jesus told him that it is what comes from the heart that can defile man. When I allow my evil thoughts to come out in word or action, they lead me to sin and destruction. In the end, it’s the inner reality, not the outer that defines a man’s condition before God.
Would Peter have learned that if he had simply conformed to the Pharisees’ rules? No, Jesus illustrated what we know from a story of long ago:
People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
Am I blind to the workings of Jesus in my life? Am I running after those who will only lead me into a pit of confusion and despair? Does Jesus’ rebuke ring in my ears too?
Will you join me today in giving Jesus the lead? I want to avoid those pitfalls, what about you? Who’s hand is guiding you?