An X-ray machine looks inside your body to see bones, tumors, or foreign objects. A CT scan also uses X-rays but it rotates around your body to produce a 3D image that more accurately shows what’s inside you. An MRI also creates an image of what’s inside your body. An MRI uses radio waves and powerful magnets. Medical technology has all sorts of devices to see what’s inside of you.
But there’s one thing medical devices cannot see. They cannot see your spiritual condition. They cannot look into your soul. But Jesus can. Jesus is true God. He knows all things. In the book of 1 Samuel it says, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (I Sam. 16:7)
But when the Lord looks into every human heart, he sees something far worse that a broken bone, a twisted intestine, or a cancerous tumor. Jesus tells us what he sees in depths of your soul. He says, "from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'" (Mark 7:20-23) That is not a healthy diagnosis. It’s not a popular diagnosis, either.
And don’t even think of saying, This does not apply to me. Jesus was talking to the Pharisees here. Those Pharisees were hypocrites. They looked good on the outside. But they were filled with self-righteous pride. They puffed themselves up and looked down on everyone else. They could find the fault in others but they could not admit their own sins.
That is truly an accurate description of the Pharisees. But Jesus did not say, "from within, out of Pharisees’ hearts, come evil thoughts..." No, Jesus says, "From within, out of men’s (people’s) hearts, come evil thoughts..." So it does not matter who you are. You could be a hypocritical Pharisee or a humble, sincere believer. You could be murdering thief or a faithful, pious, every weekend attending church member. You could be a sweet, little old granny or a cuddly, cute new born. "There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23)
The reason we all fall short of God’s glory is that every single human being is conceived and born in sin. King David says in Psalm 51, "Surely, I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me."
Every human is a thoroughly corrupt sinner. We are all born with sin. Sin fills our hearts and minds. That sinful nature infiltrates everything we think, say, and do. Even at our best; even when we are at our most sincere and humble, sin is still there. Sin infects and spoils our best acts of worship and praise to God. Isaiah tells us, "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." (Isaiah 54:6)
Now, you have probably heard all this before. You may even be thinking, Yeah, so what else is new? I know I’m a filthy, rotten sinner. Every time I come to church, I confess my sins. Every time I listen to a sermon, the pastor discovers a new way to make feel my guilt and shame at a whole new level. But whether the guilt comes in a new way or in an old way, I have heard it all before. All this talk about how sinful I am is sounding like a broken record. It is the same thing over and over and over again.
Well, that is true. God’s Word does point out sin. God’s Word uncovers your sin. God’s Word digs deep into your soul to expose your sin. And all this talk about sin happens a lot in church. And, true, you might get a little tired of hearing about your sin over and over again.
But there’s also someone else who is tired of hearing about your sin over and over again. That person is God. Just think about how God is so tired of hearing about your sin. Can you imagine God thinking, Oh, there he goes again.
He thinks he is so pure and innocent. But I see that filthy fantasy running through his mind the tenth time today.
And she thinks she is such a hard worker. But I see her goofing off at work every single day.
He thinks he is such a good husband. But I see him flirt with other women all the while he’s trying to convince himself that he’s just being "friendly."
And she claims that she is a friendly, caring person. But I hear her gossip and I see her self-centered motives.
He says, "Honesty is the best policy.” But I hear him lie to his wife, distort the truth to his neighbors, and cheat in his business dealings.
She says, "The good Lord has blessed our family so much.” But then envy and the jealousy fill her mind and heart when her sister succeeds or her best friend gets more attention.
And I see them sitting in church thinking, "Yes, Lord, there are a lot of hypocrites in this church." But they still cannot realize and admit that they are worst hypocrites in the whole congregation.
Of course, those are only a few of the sins that God sees us commit over and over again, day after day, year after year. I think it’s safe to say that God is sick and tired of our sins because he has to hear about our sins, look at our sins, and see us try to explain our sins away.
That is why you and I really do need to hear about our sins again and again. We do need to confess our sins again and again. We need to realize that we do not have power to get rid of our sins. We need to avoid the mistake of the Pharisees and think we can cover up our sin with a façade of phony holiness. No, there is only one way to make our impure hearts clean. There is only one way to wash away the foul stench of our sins. That way is Jesus.
Now, I began this sermon by mentioning all the diagnostic devices of modern medicine: X-Rays, CT scans, MRIs, and so on. All these devices and procedures look for disease and help doctors diagnose disease. In a way, that’s what Jesus does in our text. He uses the diagnostic tool of God’s word to identify sin and diagnose us with the deadly disease of a sinful nature.
But image if modern medicine came up with a device that could accurately diagnose every disease. But this device not only diagnoses disease. It also cures the disease it identifies. All a doctor has to do is use this device on a patient. It scans and examines the patient. It determines the illness. Then it instantly applies the right treatment to cure the disease on the spot.
Well, if there were such a device, everybody would run to the doctor and say, “Hey, Doc, I’ve got a sore foot. I had terrible headaches. There’s a pain in my chest. I’m losing my hearing. I’m losing my eyesight. I’m losing my hair. I’m losing my mind. So, Doc, use that machine and cure me.”
Well, my friends - my fellow sinners - when it comes to our deadly disease of sin, such a device exists. Actually, it’s not a device. It’s a person. It’s Jesus. Although our Gospel lesson does not come right out and say it, Jesus loved those Pharisees. He diagnosed their sin so that he could heal them and forgive them and save them. We know that’s true because that’s what Jesus wants for the whole world. Saint John tells us, "But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (I John 2:1-2)
So, why did Jesus come down to earth? Why did he speak to the Pharisees? Why does Jesus do anything at all? Jesus comes to make us clean. Yes, in order to clean us, Jesus first shows us how filthy dirty we really are. But, Jesus does more than expose and uncover our sin. Jesus washes away our sin with his holy, precious blood. Jesus purifies us completely. Saint John also tells us, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9)
So come to Jesus. Trust in Jesus. Believe in Jesus. He purifies you. He washes you. Jesus makes you clean. All praise, glory, and honor be to Christ and to Christ alone.