Matthew 15: 15-20. “Then answered Peter, and said unto Him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.”
Why do you think Peter asked for further explanation of Jesus’ words concerning eating with unclean hands? Doesn’t it seem pretty clear?
I think we need to remember that these were men who had been trained from early childhood in both the written and the oral, traditional law. They were being taught so differently now, by a Man they were beginning to realize was more than just a Man. However, they still didn’t have the full understanding of Who He was, and He was rocking their world with His words!
Oral tradition was very worried about a person being contaminated by eating with unwashed hands. Remember, a lot of their food was literally eaten with their hands, not in our manner with forks and spoons. Often the food was eaten from a common dish. It was not ridiculous to expect people to wash before eating.
The point Jesus was making here, though, was so much more important than hand-washing. He was teaching them that to be defiled from within by one’s thoughts, which emanate from the heart, is much more dangerous than to eat with dirty hands. Evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These things are far more dangerous, far more defiling, far more objectionable to God than unclean hands!
So don’t stop washing your hands before you eat. Jesus wasn’t teaching poor hygiene. He was pointing out that if we were as concerned with the filth that comes out of our hearts and mouths as we are with what we put into our mouths, we’d be a lot better off.