Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? (Luke 11:37-40 NASB)
When Jesus visited the Pharisee's house, He did a surprising thing. He skipped the ritual cleansing and went straight to the table and sat down, instead. The Pharisee was surprised, but Jesus responded to the man's surprise by using it as a teachable moment. The Pharisees, he said, were diligent to clean the "outside", pouring water over their hands in ritual cleansing, while their "inside" was full of sin. Jesus called them foolish and reminded them that God made the outside and the inside.
Washing their hands for ceremonial cleansing was supposed to be an outward symbol of an inward transformation, not a substitute for transformation. The Pharisees had turned the symbol into their objective, completely abandoning the important cleansing of their hearts. They were full of "robbery and wickedness" and had no intention of changing. They would much rather have their hands cleansed than their hearts.
What they didn't seem to understand was that the purpose of the rituals involved in worship was to demonstrate the price of sin, the payment for sin, and the need for cleansing from sin. The experts in the law had missed the meaning and interpretation of the law completely.
Being cleansed from sin before God is vital in our relationship with Him, but that will never come by washing our hands or our bodies. Being cleansed of sin begins with a repentant heart and the blood of Christ.
The problem comes when we like our sin and want to keep it. It is much easier to wash our hands than to allow cleansing from sin for which we are not repentant.
Alas, if we understood how God views our sin, we might feel differently. Therein lies much of our problem. God hates the sin we love, and it is His opinion that matters most of all. He hates our sin because it hurts us and separates us from Him. It costs us more than we can imagine.
If we could see our sin the way God sees it, perhaps we would be less eager to retain it. For today, let's ask God to show us our hearts and the sin that offends Him, but let's not stop there. Let's ask God to wash our hearts clean, too.
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus...