Leviticus 16:1-28; Mark 7:9-23; Psalms 41:1-3; Proverbs 13:17-19
OT: “The Lord said to Moses, “Tell your brother Aaron that he may not come whenever he wants into the holy place behind the curtain in front of the mercy seat on the ark or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud above the mercy seat. “Aaron is to enter the most holy place in this way: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He is to wear a holy linen tunic, and linen undergarments are to be on his body. He is to tie a linen sash around him and wrap his head with a linen turban. These are holy garments; he must bathe his body with water before he wears them. He is to take from the Israelite community two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering.” (Leviticus 16:2-5 CSB)
Aaron the High Priest (and any High Priest that followed after) could not go into the presence of the Lord beyond the veil whenever he wanted. The room on the other side of the veil, where the mercy seat resided, was called the Holy of Holies. It was a holy place free from sin. Anyone defiled who entered would not be able to survive. Once a year, the High Priest would have to fully cleanse himself externally, and then sacrifice a bull to make atonement for (cover) his own sins before he could enter and make atonement for the sins of Israel. Part of the practice involved confessing the sins that were within and placing them on a scapegoat that was then banished to the wilderness. This was not a cure for sin. It was a temporary fix that had to be repeated year, after year, after year, after year.
NT: “Summoning the crowd again, he told them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen.” When he went into the house away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Are you also as lacking in understanding? Don’t you realize that nothing going into a person from the outside can defile him? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into the stomach and is eliminated” (thus he declared all foods clean ). And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”” (Mark 7:14-23 CSB)
Jesus taught the crowd (and His disciples in more detail) that sin isn’t something you ingest. Sin is resident inside our hearts. It is not something we catch, it is something we are born with. No amount of external washing, avoidance, or behavior modification can deal with what is in our hearts. The list of defilements that Jesus gave are resident in every human heart. No amount of good works and righteous behavior can wash that stain. Just like Aaron’s holy garments were only a temporary covering, our attempts at modifying our behavior to appear clean is only a temporary ruse. The only way that we be rid of the sin that defiles from within is to receive a new heart… to die to sin and be born again as new creations through faith in Christ – and instead of putting on linen garments, we put on Christ as we abide in Him. Then, unlike Aaron of old, we are made holy in Christ and can boldly approach the presence of God whenever we need to find whatever we need.