Mark 3:5 (New Living Translation).
5 He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored!
I was driving across that glorious stretch of country to Collingwood this morning. The bright sunshine lit up the land in all of its early summer newness and the waters of Georgian Bay were a match for the Meditteranean in vivid turquoise and lavender hues.
As I drove I listened to the New Testament on DVD, which Irene gave me for my birthday. Her aim was to help me with The Marathon of Biblical Proportions, the schedule of reading through the Bible in a year that some of us are on.
While I find that my concentration drifts occasionally and I don't hear every word, I enjoy the soothing sound of the reader's voice and I find that I pick up on different things when I'm listening than I do when reading.
For instance, the other day, when listening to Matthew chapter 15 I noticed a conversation Jesus had with Peter:
15 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.”
16 “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.
I just thought that was so interesting in light of Acts chapter 10, the account of Peter's vision, which was in process while the servants of Cornelius the Roman centurion, a Gentile, were on their way to find him:
11 He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. 12 In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. 13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”
14 “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean."
15 But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” 16 The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.
Peter was just like the rest of us, he needed to have a lesson repeated a couple of times before he got it.
Today what hit me, were two references to the hardening of the heart. The first was about the Pharisees who were outraged because Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. They cared more for The Law than the spirit of the law, and the second was about divorce, which Jesus said Moses only allowed in response to the hardness of people's hearts.
These references tie back to the conversation Jesus had with Peter about not getting hung up on the laws about what goes into the body, but to consider the heart and the defilement that lurks within; the spots of black hardness that can so easily creep over a heart like black spots of mold in the corners of a musty bathroom.
I know about hard hearts from personal experience; I've had one. It was built by self justification, anger, a sense of inferiority and self protection to name but a few of the ingredients. There is only one cure. Radical heart surgery by One know as The Great Physician. I've had the surgery but a relapse is possible if I don't keep my heart tender to God.
Ezekiel 11:19 (New Living Translation)
19 And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart,