“And he called the people to him again and said to them, ‘Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.’ … Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach and is expelled? (Thus he declared all foods clean.)’” – Mark 7:14-15, 18-19
In Mark 7, we see Jesus talking about cleanliness laws as he’s trying to get people to see that nothing outside of a man, no food or drink, can make him unclean. Jesus says it is what comes out of a man’s heart that makes him unclean.
In that passage Jesus is saying two things. 1) Due to our sin, we are not able to be in the presence of God, and 2) through him the cleanliness laws have been fulfilled.
Without Christ, we are not worthy to be in the presence of the Lord. In Tim Keller’s newest book, “King’s Cross,” Keller connects the passage in Mark 7 to a vision in Zechariah 3 in an amazing way by showing us we are unworthy before God. Zechariah’s vision takes place in the center of the temple where he sees Joshua, the high priest, standing before the angel of the Lord in the holy of holies dressed in filthy garments.
When the high priest went before the Lord, he would spend a week beforehand preparing. Before entering the temple, he would wash his body numerous times, and would enter into the holy of holies in spotless garments. However, in Zechariah’s vision we see Joshua’s clothing completely defiled. Why is this? God was showing Zechariah how he sees us. No matter how hard we try to be “good” or moral, God sees our hearts, which, like Joshua’s garments, are covered with filth and completely defiled.
But the vision doesn’t end there. Zechariah hears the angel of the Lord say, “Take off his filthy clothes!…See, I have taken away your sin and will put fine garments on you…” (v. 4). We will never be able to wash the sin off of us. Yet God was showing Zechariah that although we can’t cleanse ourselves, there would be One who would come and fulfill the laws of cleanliness and rid us of our filth. Hundreds of years later, Jesus came and through His death we have been “washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22), and have traded our filthy clothes for “fine linen, bright and clean” (Revelation 19:7-8). What great news this is!
Though we are still sinful, God no longer sees our sin when he looks at us, but Christ dwelling in us. With Easter just behind us, may we continue to take time to reflect on what Christ did for us on the cross, for our hearts need to be reminded and renewed by the glorious truth of the gospel each day.