Pure in Heart • Devotion #1: The Wonders of the Ancient World

One of my favorite parts of being a student director is the variety of it. Some days I spend in meetings, another, planning events, another, meeting with students, and, still another, building a makeshift mausoleum. Yes, I was building a mausoleum. A few weeks ago, I and the other student directors put together and painted a wooden mausoleum for our student leadership conference. The theme for the conference had to do with Jesus’ words to the Pharisees and teachers of the law in Matthew 23:27-28. In this passage, Jesus calls them whitewashed tombs because they look beautiful on the outside but on the inside they are full of dead bones and everything unclean. If you have not read Matthew chapter 23 lately, I urge you to read it this week and examine the words of Christ against your life.

Mausoleums can be beautiful and grand, all while housing dead and decaying bodies. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, which was located in modern-day Turkey, is one of seven wonders of the ancient world. It was built around 350 B.C. and lasted until the 14th century when it was destroyed by earthquakes. It was around 150 feet tall and 400 feet around at the base. It was built to be the tomb of Mausolus, the ruler of Caria at that time, from whose name we get the modern word mausoleum. Jesus understood the purpose of a mausoleum when He called the Pharisees out for being like whitewashed tombs. Before He gives that call to the Pharisees, He gives His followers the words of Matthew 5:8, where He says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Matthew 5:8 is the sixth of the beatitudes that Jesus gives in His Sermon on the Mount. To be “pure in heart” is to be the opposite of a hypocrite, which is what the Pharisees were. Martin Luther, referring to Jesus’ words here says, “Christ … wants to have the heart pure, though outwardly the person may be a drudge in the kitchen, black, sooty, and grimy, doing all sorts of dirty work.” He adds, “Though a common labourer, a shoemaker or a blacksmith may be dirty and sooty or may smell because he is covered with dirt and pitch, … and though he stinks outwardly, inwardly he is pure incense before God because he ponders the word of God in his heart and obeys it.” To have a pure heart is to be sincere, someone who not only ponders the Word of God but also obeys it.

The world builds mausoleums, beautiful and grand on the outside, but filled with dead bones. Jesus calls Christians to the opposite. We are to be true and alive inside, not putting on an outward show of false humility or living in sin when others are not around. Those who live sincerely are the ones who “shall see God.”

Are you putting on a show when you are at church or around other Christians? Have you experienced the transformation that comes from a repentant, honest life?

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