24 February 2023 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.” (Luke 11:39; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
Pride of appearance is important, but it can also be deceptive. A physician wears the attire of the clinic, a construction worker that of the worksite, and the soldier the uniform of his branch. But if an enemy wears that uniform, he may be shot as a spy. We all should dress according to our purpose. Not only should our dress suit our purpose, but it should also serve as a badge of respect for the feelings of others. When I see the sloven and unkempt attire of the streets of America, I feel that such is disrespectful to the dignity of others. One of our most successful battle commanders of the Second World War was General George S. Patton, Jr. He was a stickler for proper military dress. His opinion was that a soldier would behave much more like a professional if he dressed as such. But there still must be a real soldier under that outward appearance, and his constant drills and field exercises proved the metal of the soldier.
The Scribes and Pharisees of our Lord’s day were quite adept at wearing apparel that sought the favor and respect of others – a respect which they did not deserve, and a favor which was not warranted. They professed to keep the law of Moses, but paid little heed to keeping the Law of and Commandments of God. They were impersonating the character of their office in dress and behavior, and they did so with a lack of love.
I would not wish to drink tea from the cup of a Pharisee who washed the outer vessel but neglected to clean the more important inner portion. But that is not the heart of our Lord’s condemnation of them. It goes far deeper than simple vessels of service – it refers to the condition of the heart as opposed to the disposition of public appearance. They were, essentially, wolves in sheep’s clothing. Nothing has changed from that day to this. We still have pulpit wonders parading about in $2,000 suits and Rolex watches who have little sympathy for the poor and who shear the same for more profit.
It is not surprising that one of the first actions of the Lord at the beginning of His ministry was to clear the Temple of money-changers and those who sold merchandise. (See John 2:12) One of His last actions at the Temple was to likewise cleanse if of the moneychangers and merchandisers. (See Matthew 21:12) Our Lord laid a heavy condemnation on the profit-driven church. He would find our modern churches in worse state of affairs in that regard than even the Temple of His day.
We read the Lord’s emphasis on cleaning the inner vessel before the outer more than once. Let us examine one salient example from the Psalms: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7) What does purging with hyssop and washing whiter than snow have to do with the matter?
Hyssop was used as a purgative to cleanse the alimentary canal in our Lord’s time of ministry. The point is this: The Lord cleanses the inward man before the outward appearance. Hyssop cleanses the inward man just as the Word of God cleanses the heart.
“Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow!” Once we are cleansed on the inside, we present an outward appearance that reflects that inward cleansing. Our outward behavior and character become perfect in the eyes of the Lord who has washed away all our sins in forgiveness. What can be whiter than snow? The heart that God has washed of all sin.
At the center of every snowflake is a tiny impurity of dust or smoke. In order for the moisture in the upper atmosphere to coalesce as crystal flakes, it must have that impurity as its base. So, every snowflake has that tiny speck of impurity at its heart. But the sinner washed by God does not even have that tiny speck of guilt remaining for God has cast his sins as far away as the east from the west which my father would have called, “a right smart distance.”
The life of a true Christian is like a sterling silver tableware. Regardless the years of use, it will bear its nature in appearance for it is silver through-and-through. The phony professor of Christ is like the silver plated tableware whose true counterfeit nature is revealed over time as the silver plate wears thin to reveal the lesser base metal.