What About Those Dietary Laws?

We’re going through the gospels looking for Trinitarian implications. Frankly, much of what is in Mark has been covered in Matthew. Mark gives a different perspective also, but if it seems like we’re rushing through, there’s a reason. John will give us much more and we will spend a lot of time in John. For now, we’re going to look at Mark 7 and I am going to quote a long passage.

 1The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and 2saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. 3(The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) 5So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”

 6He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: 
   ” ‘These people honor me with their lips, 
      but their hearts are far from me. 
 7They worship me in vain; 
      their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ 8You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

 9And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 11But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

 14Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ ”

 17After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)

 20He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’21For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ “

Now we can notice many things here, but I’d like to note the way Jesus handles these situations in such a “matter-of-fact” way. He suddenly brings in the Old Testament dietary laws, which were not an object of debate at all and Mark throws in a phrase in verse 19. Go back and read it.

(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)

Consider the magnitude of this. Where did the dietary laws came from? They came from Moses, the great deliverer who brought the Pentateuch. If there was one thing the Jews could all agree on for sure, it was the importance of Moses. 

And the Law then? The Law came straight from God! It is his holy message. You do not alter it at all. Israel had been destroyed once because they did not keep the Law and they were going to make sure that that did not happen again.

Along comes Jesus and not only does he declare all foods are clean, entirely overruling the statements of Moses, but he doesn’t precede it with anything like “Thus sayeth the Lord!” He’s speaking it by his own authority. We really need to sit back and think about the magnitude of what is being said in that statement.

There’s a reason Ben Witherington III in the Case for Faith DVD says he’s not surprised that Jesus was crucified. He’s surprised Jesus lasted three years before he was. Our view of Jesus is often of him as giving wise sayings and just suddenly the last week things went wrong. No. Jesus was doing good wherever he went of course, but he left a storm of controversy always.

Why? Because of statements like this and we have to realize what was being said. He is claiming to be able to set aside the Law of God. Who can say the old covenant is no longer in effect and not precede it with “Thus sayeth the Lord.”?

Maybe, just maybe, it was the Lord….

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