There’s something in Matthew 14-15 (our Scripture readings for yesterday and today) about touching and washing. We know all about touching and washing these days. Don’t do the first, and do the second – a lot.
Touching can be dangerous. It can cause us to come into contact with disease, and this can make us sick. People just wanted to touch the fringe of Jesus’ garment, and in doing so they were healed.
Touching Jesus is one thing. Touching other things is another. Because we touch, we must wash. And so we wash for 20 seconds at a time – because we might have touched something unclean.
We went to the school yesterday to pick up Sam’s trombone. The school principal was there with a mask on, and gloves. And she brought out Sam’s trombone. Only it wasn’t Sam’s trombone. It was another kid’s trombone. After the mix-up was cleared away, the principal retrieved the foreign trombone from our car. “We’re going to have to spray this down again,” she said. There was a touch of weariness in her voice. She was tired of washing things.
The Pharisees asked why Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands before eating. The Pharisees had taken an Old Testament law and over-applied it. Read Leviticus 15 sometime, just for fun. The Pharisees had placed a great emphasis on tiny points of the Law while disregarding the serious matters.
The tiny points were about hand-washing before eating. The serious matters were about living lives of purity. Jesus reminded his disciples their hearts should be close to God and the things they did with their bodies were an outflow of what was in their hearts. Unwashed hands don’t make us unclean. No, it is the condition of our hearts that can make us unclean.
As I prayed through this Scripture, I thought about my heart. What is the condition of my heart? Am I paying as much attention to my heart as I am to what I touch – and how often I wash my hands, and with which soap, and for how long? We pay very close attention to our hands these days, and to what we touch. Are our hands clean?
I think Jesus would ask us a different question today. Maybe we can use our hand-washing to our benefit in these days of self-isolation. Maybe every time we wash our hands, we can spend that time examining our hearts. Twenty seconds of conscious attention on our hearts – multiple times per day – likely will have more eternal value than the work of the soap and water.