“Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone” (Matthew 15:17-20).
I’ve always been a big fan of Neil Young. Have you heard the song "Heart of Gold." It’s something of a depressing song but expresses a certain truth actually. He sings about searching for a heart of gold and coming up short. In an age of free love he sings about traveling to Hollywood looking for a heart of gold. Then through the Redwood forests looking for a heart of gold. You get an image of an aging hippie with long hair going desperately from place to place looking for just someone - anyone with a pure heart – a heart of gold. Each verse closes with the words “but I’m growing old.” You get the sense that things are not going well. He’s coming up short in the places he’s going. Coming up short with the people he is meeting. Betrayed – let down by people. He can’t find a decent heart – and things are not what he thinks they should be.
Jesus tells us about the human heart tonight. And it’s not a heart of gold. Jesus says what comes out of the heart is what defiles a person. Jesus says “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” So much for a heart of gold! Evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, slander and gossip do not come from our limbs but from our own hearts.
Our hearts betray us and expose us for what we are – poor, miserable, violent, and vindictive sinners.
When your best friend betrayed you and spoke evil of you, was your first reaction to forgive them for the sake of Christ? Or did your heart immediately fantasize about how to tell them off most effectively in the fewest words possible? If your boss at work tells you that you were confused about taking that week of vacation time, do you concoct a plan to go to upper management, to get him fired? Or maybe you could just slash his tires. Our thoughts reveal the content of our heart. And it’s not a heart of gold.
There are none with hearts of gold. Saint Paul says all have gone astray. Even your best friend will occasionally betray you. It doesn’t mean they don’t value your friendship. The problem is just that their heart is too much like yours: petty, vain, self-seeking, scared, and sinful.
Tonight the Pharisees accuse Jesus and the disciples because they didn’t wash their hands. The Pharisees were not a bunch of jerks for this. Ceremonial handwashing began as a pious practice so that the people of Israel could remember that they were unclean due to their sin and rebellion against God’s commandments on Mt. Sinai. The practice of ritual handwashing was practiced as a reminder of their desperate need for God’s forgiveness through cleansing.
The ritual handwashing pointed toward the coming Messiah – it pointed to baptism. But now the Messiah was here. His baptism was completed. Everything was being fulfilled. And the Pharisees were missing the boat here. They chose to worship their ceremonies rather than worship God.
For us our worship is entertainment, sports, and our bellies. Nevertheless, tonight we’ve come to the right place. For here our idols are destroyed. The proud are crushed. The humble are lifted up. The rich are made poor and the poor become rich. Satan is destroyed. You are not defiled or unclean anymore. Like the Canaanite woman you too have cried out “Lord have mercy on me.” And perhaps tonight you were even daring enough to mean it.
Don’t go searching for a heart of gold. Neil Young did not find it and neither will you. And like him we are all growing old. Our search for what we thought would please us in this life has come up short. Perhaps even our own family has forgotten us and our friends have even let us down. But there is only one who has a heart of gold.
His heart has found you, sought you out, and washed you clean. His heart is for you. A heart of love. His sacred heart of gold – pierced and bled - emptied into a chalice for you. Given and shed for you.
He was forsaken, rejected, and despised by men. He suffered hell for your sins. He has exchanged your black heart for his heart of gold.
He has scrubbed you down and washed you clean in his blood. He has joy over you. If you are a failure of a mother, you are now a perfect mother. If you have failed as a father, now you are the father that you always wanted to be. If you have not met your parents expectations. Take heart, God is pleased with you because he is pleased with his son. Find happiness in this. Your sinful heart has been made pure. The lamb of God has taken away your sins. Come and find strength for the week. In Jesus name.