By Leonard Sweet
(European Nazarene College, January 18, 2011)
I was reading Psalm 51:10 to my mother when she died: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a right spirit within me.”
Now the key to the holiness movement is a clean heart. So give me an image for a clean heart. What does a clean heart go with? Now the holiest person that has ever lived is named Jesus. Pure holiness.
And what happens here with Jesus is that God comes down to earth. How far down? How far down does the Incarnation go? Well, from the very beginning how far down does it go? Where was Jesus born? In a royal palace? In a bassinet? How far down does the Incarnation go? Where does the Incarnation happen? It happens in a smelly stable, where the first thing Jesus experiences as an infant is what? Straw ticks. Little lice that live in straw. They bite your flesh. And the smell of dung and animals.
But Jesus in the Incarnation went further than that because it not only went down to the very lowest of the human, but Jesus did something that no other Rabbi in history had done or allowed to happen. In fact, it really bothered the disciples that he did this. How far down did the Incarnation go? Jesus was the first Rabbi in history to do what? Wash his disciples feet. That’s how far Jesus went. All the way down.
And let me tell you, sisters and brothers, you don’t wash anybody’s feet without getting your hands dirty and wet.
This is holiness! You want an image of holiness? You have a clean heart? OK, here’s what goes with a clean heart – dirty hands. You say you have a clean heart? I say, “What? Show me your hands.”
You are keeping your hands clean? “Oh, I wouldn’t want to get dirty. We are supposed to be in the world and not of it…” What?! So your hands are too clean to get in the dirt? Oh, we need cleansing rituals all the time to clean us up. But the whole purpose of cleaning us up is so that we can get dirty…
…Matthew 25 tells us what the question at judgment day will be. “In as much as you did it to the least of these…” In other words, here is the question at judgment day – Show me your hands. You got clean hands? Go someplace else. Because a clean heart means dirty hands. Now this is an image of holiness.