I had some dental work done recently. Thankfully, I had a good dentist who did his best to make the experience as stress-free as possible. While I did not relish the idea of having to have my tooth operated on, today I am more than thankful for it. During this process, however, I learned something. I learned how long doctors and nurses, especially dentists, are supposed to wash their hands before and after surgery. A minimum of three minutes of scrubbing is required. I don’t think I have ever washed my hands for three minutes. In fact, when I’m hungry and dinner is on the table, three seconds usually suffices.
Nevertheless, it was comforting to know that those who would be touching the inside of my mouth were required to wash and scrub thoroughly. Yet all the scrubbing and washing did raise a question for me. If we can understand the need for cleanliness with doctors, how much more must be the case with those who would serve the Holy God?
The Word of God reminds us that one of the gracious blessings of the blood of Christ is that it cleanses our consciences. It is used in the scrubbing and washing of our consciences and creates clean hands with which we are able to serve and worship the living God. According to Hebrews 9:13–14, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
The text says that Christ, through His blood, purifies our consciences. The conscience is the place of reality where the truth is told. The conscience is the place out of which guilt arises, where condemnation and liberty fight for the life of a person. We are all seeking to have clear consciences, but the Bible reminds us that we must not only have clear consciences (Acts 24:16; Heb. 13:18) but also clean consciences (Heb. 10:22) — consciences purged from dead deeds so that we might love and worship the living God. Thus, the washing and scrubbing of hands for three minutes or three hours is not paramount, but the washing of the conscience from sin and guilt. This comes only by the blood of Jesus. The blood of Jesus gives us what we most desperately need, namely, clean consciences producing clean hands.
In Psalm 24, the question is raised: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (vv. 3–4). The requirement for ascending to the place of God in worship is that our hands are clean and our hearts purified. The quest ion then becomes, “Who has clean hands and a pure heart?” The answer is Jesus. The only one I know who has such hands and such a heart is Jesus our Lord. The Bible reminds us that He has ascended the holy hill. He has entered the holy place, not by the temporal washing of the blood of goats and calves (Heb. 9:12), but by His own blood. By entering in, He has made a way for you and me to enter in as well (Heb. 10:19).
Does Jesus have clean hands? Yes, and so do all who have been washed in His blood. Is Jesus of a pure heart? Yes, and so are those who have been scrubbed by His blood. Through the blood of Christ, our consciences have been cleared and cleansed. Because of the blood of Christ, we are able to serve and worship God.
Nevertheless, we must remember that we don’t clean our own hands. We don’t free our own consciences. This was the arrogance and condemnation of Pilate. He tried to wash his hands of the guilt of Christ. The Bible says, “So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood’” (Matt. 27:24). While the dirt may have been removed from his hands, his conscience could not be cleansed with water. Ironically, the blood that he tried to wash away was the only blood that could have made him clean. Contrast that with Paul, who said that he served and worshiped God with a “clear conscience” (2 Tim. 1:3). The difference is that Pilate proposed to wash himself from the blood of Christ, while Paul knew himself to be washed in the blood of Christ.
If the blood of Christ is required for us to have clear and clean consciences, the questions for you and me are simple: “Have we been to Jesus for His cleansing power? Are we washed in the blood of the Lamb? Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour? Is your conscience washed in the blood of the Lamb?”