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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, May 07 2020

Did Jesus cancel dietary food laws?

Didn’t Jesus say in Mark 7:18 that we can eat anything and that the food laws given in the Old Testament are no longer binding?

by Steve Myers

Now, you may be wondering why this crazy drawing of a pig is up here on the board. Well, we just did a program that was called “You Are What You Eat” on Beyond Today. And a question came up about that program because we talked about God’s dietary food laws that we don’t eat pork, we don’t eat shellfish, we don’t eat those things that are outlined in Deuteronomy 14 and Leviticus 11.

Well, one of the questions was regarding what Jesus Christ said. That’s something that’s important that we need to talk about for a moment. Over in the book of Mark, Mark 7:18 here’s a direct quote from Jesus Christ. He said, “Are you thus without understanding also? Don’t you perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him because it doesn’t enter his heart, but his stomach and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods.” So, they asked the question about what Jesus said. Didn’t Jesus just say that we can eat anything? Because it’s not anything from outside that defiles us. So whatever was not edible in the past—well, it’s okay to eat it now because it’s not entering into your heart.

Well, is that really what Jesus meant? Is that what He was saying in this particular section of scripture? And the answer is no. No, not at all.

In fact, if you look at what the context is of this section in Mark chapter 7, the context is not talking about food. It’s not about clean or unclean meats. It’s not about dietary food laws. If you read at the very beginning of the chapter, it gives us the context. Mark 7:1 it says, “Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him having come from Jerusalem.” So we have the religious leaders of the day. Now, what did they say? Verse 2, “Now when they saw some of His disciples,” that’s Jesus’ disciples, “Eat bread with defiled, that is unwashed hands, they found fault.” (Mark 7:1-4)

So we see, right from the very beginning of this chapter, the topic was eating with unwashed hands. That was the problem. The Pharisees had a specific way that you had to ceremonially wash your hands. And if you didn’t wash your hands that way, you could not eat. You had to wash your hands in that way.

In fact, Christ refers to that just a little bit later in verse 8. Mark 7:8, here’s a direct quote from Christ, He said, “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, the washing of pitchers and cups and many such things you do.” And so Christ made it very clear it wasn’t about washing hands. That is not the issue. That’s the problem that the Pharisees had.

So, it didn’t matter if you washed your hands because Christ said—you know, if something was on your hands and you ate some food, what would happen? Well, the digestive process would clean it out. And it would be gone. And so it wasn’t about pork. It wasn’t about eating shellfish. It wasn’t saying any of those things are okay. It was saying that if you think you have to ceremonially be clean in order to eat anything—that is wrong thinking. And that was the issue that Christ talked about (Mark 7:14-19)

It didn’t change the fact that when you look at God’s food laws—those dietary food laws, Leviticus 11 maps them out. Deuteronomy 14 specifically shows what was set aside as food by God.

The point that Christ was making here was not about food. It was about our thinking, our thoughts.

He said the digestive process would take care of a little dust or dirt that might be on your hands, but what was more important than that was what Christ said just a little bit later. He said, “From within, out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornication, murders, thefts, covetous, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:20-22).

So what was Christ more concerned about? He was concerned about people’s thinking, about their hearts, about their actions. He said, “All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:22).

So, you see, Christ was more concerned about our thoughts and our actions, than a little bit of dirt that might be on your hands. So the point still stands. Leviticus chapter 11, Deuteronomy 14 maps out what we should eat. It didn’t change a thing.

So when you look at what we should eat, follow what the Bible says. Follow what Jesus Christ Himself did. And follow God’s dietary food laws.

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