home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > July > WHAT CHRIST SAID WAS NOT JUST ABOUT FOOD

WHAT CHRIST SAID WAS NOT JUST ABOUT FOOD!


There was a time when Jesus was chided by authorities for not washing hands! These authorities weren’t concerned about hygiene or virus control, they were concerned about spiritual purity. What Jesus said in response to them has powerful relevance for how some people feel about the spiritual implications surrounding the current corona-virus, the covid-vaccines, and how authorities are enacting lockdowns and travel restrictions to deal with it.

¶ Now when the Pharisees gathered to Him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of His disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash.)
Mark 7:1-4a

Even though the conversation was about the ceremonial washing of hands, Jesus chose to state a principle by making a point about the eating of foods to show that spiritual defiling was not about what went into a person’s body that could defile a person’s soul, but what came out of their heart.

(And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” ¶ And He called the people to Him again and said to them, “Hear Me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
Mark 7:4b-5; 14-15

 

THE PRINCIPLE FOR DEALING WITH COVID-19

For those concerned about the spiritual implications of the COVID-19 vaccinations, the point made by Christ is an important one. “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him!” (Mark 7:15) The principle that Jesus made clear was that the salvation of a person’s soul was not revoked because they put something physical (such as food, drink, or medication) into their body.

When Jesus spoke of having a relationship with God, He frequently spoke of it using food metaphors (a metaphor is a ‘word picture’ which represents something else). For example, Jesus described Himself as ‘bread’ —

Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to Him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” ¶ Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.
John 6:31-35

To be saved, which means to have your sins forgiven by God and to be reconciled to Him and to enter into eternal life beyond this life, involved ‘eating the Bread from Heaven’ Jesus said (John 6:51). This is celebrated and commemorated regularly by most Christian congregations every time they partake of Holy Communion together.

¶ And as they were eating, He took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is My body.”
Mark 14:22

Metaphors are a powerful way to communicate a truth and when used in the Bible they are obviously not meant to be understood in a wooden-literal sense – otherwise we would end up making some ridiculous interpretations of Scripture such as claiming that God was actually a rock (Psalm 18:2); a banner (Exo. 17:15); a cup (Psalm 16:5) a shield (Psalm 28:7); and, a fortress (2Sam. 22:2). But metaphors are not the only literary device used in the Bible to illustrate a truth. The Bible also uses types. A type is a pre-figure of something that could be a person, an event, a ceremony or a ritual, that will find its true significance in an ‘antitype’ person/event to occur in the future. The study of Biblical types is known as typology. For example, the Cross of Christ was pre-figured as a type in the annual ceremony called Yom Kippur (“the Day of Atonement”, Lev. 16:4-10). This is where two goats were brought before the High Priest and lots were cast to determine which one should be sacrificed and which one should be set free. The goat that was sacrificed for the sins of the people was a type of Christ. The goat that was set free was a type of those who put their faith and trust in Christ as their Saviour. 

Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel [‘the scape-goat’]. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.
Leviticus 16:7-10

‘Marking’ in the Old Testament was a practice to be used to indicate which sheep from the flock belonged to the LORD (Lev. 27:32-33). A herdsman could also ‘mark’ additional sheep to be given to the Lord as an offering. This was a type, a prefiguring, of those whom the Lord was to redeem through Christ. Moses also commanded the Israelites to indicate their loyalty to the LORD by keeping a mark of their loyalty always on their hand, and between their eyes (Exo. 13:16). When Israel abandoned the LORD, Ezekiel the prophet was instructed by God to metaphorically ‘mark’ those who had not abandoned the LORD – 

And the LORD said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”
Ezekiel 9:4

Israel’s lowest and darkest spiritual ebb was at the time when God sent His Son into the world (Gal. 4:4). Sadly, the religious leaders of Israel by this time had long abandoned the LORD. If there was ever any doubt about this, read what Christ said to them in Matthew 23! They looked religious, but there were hypocrites and apostates (those who have abandoned loyalty to God and His Word).

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. ¶ “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Matthew 24:25-28

Jesus particularly condemned the religious leaders encouraging people to wear ‘phylacteries’ (Mtt. 23:5) which was a small leather pouch tied around the hand or around the head in a wooden literal application of Exodus 13:16. In the closing book of the Bible, the Lord revealed to John that this practice, by those who were apostate Jews, had become a symbol of their rebellion to the Lord (Rev. 13:16-17) and had falsely become a prerequisite for them to enter into the temple to buy their sacrificial animals to partake in the Jewish religious ceremonies (from which the priests profited!). (Without this New Testament background knowledge to the Book of Revelation many people have made outlandish and highly speculative interpretations of what this ‘mark of the beast’ means! Refer to my article for more on this.)

 

HOW CHRIST’S STATEMENTS ABOUT SPIRITUAL IMPLICATIONS OF EATING FOOD APPLY TO THE SPIRITUAL CONCERNS ABOUT THE COVID VACCINES


Those people who are objecting to the government measures to combat the effects of the COVID19 virus — including the various lockdowns, travel restrictions, and the push for people to be vaccinated — do so for quite understandable reasons — including spiritual concerns. For some their resistance is caused by concerns about their governments becoming dictatorships by enforcing unnecessary lockdowns, restrictions, and compulsions.

For others their concerns are with COVID vaccines. Are they safe? What are their long-term effects? Does it change our DNA? Do they contain a tracking-chip? Does it infuse those vaccinated with monkey DNA? 

Some are concerned that the vaccines might contain a tracking chip which will enable the government to control those who are vaccinated. Others are concerned that this might be the fulfilment of the prophecies about the mark of the beast (Rev. 13:17) which may mean that anyone who is vaccinated will be damning their soul to hell for eternity. 

Hopefully though, by now, if you’ve made this far into this article, you can now see that Jesus made it abundantly clear that nothing physical entering into a person can revoke their reconciliation with God once they have been saved by Christ – this includes food, drink, or vaccines – it is only those things that come out a human heart that leads a person to rebel against God and His Word (Mtt. 15:19).

There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
Mark 7:15

Both Kim and I have both been doubly vaccinated. We willingly check-in by QR code everywhere we go. We comply with all State and National Governments’ travel restrictions. We do all of this for the sake of our conscience as we strive to love God and to love others. I know that there are believers whom we love who disagree with us. But I also know that there are far more believers who just confused by the whole issue and they too are striving to love God and to love others. For those have concerns about the health implications of the covid vaccines, we strongly recommend that they seek medical advice. But if this is not your primary concern, if the spiritual implications are, then I hope that I have given you some theological reasons not to be fooled by those who assert that all those who are vaccinated will be receiving the mark of the beast, and by so doing will have their salvation revoked. In the meantime, I need to say a final word to those believers who feel that it is their right to criticise and even attack our political leaders who are doing their best to navigate those they lead through this crisis. I have been greatly disturbed by those believers who have attacked our Prime Minister, Mr. Scott Morrison,  especially when their criticism has been a personal attack on his commitment to Christ. I believe that God has ordained for the Church to be a prophetic voice into culture – including politics, but rather than making personal attacks against politicians (especially fellow believers in Christ), we called to pray for them and where practicable, make our case if we disagree.

¶ The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Saviour God wants us to live.
First Timothy 2:1-3

 May God be merciful and grant strength and protection to those who are on the frontline of combatting this global pandemic.

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

2 Comments

  1. Alan

    Well said, Andrew. Thanks for such a comprehensive response. Is a print-friendly version available?

    Reply
  2. Janette Boyle

    Great article. Interesting that a lot of these protests and ideologies were also around 100 years ago with the Spanish Flu and then later with the introduction of vaccines

    Reply

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Every physical fitness coach will tell you that daily exercise which causes you sweat and puff is the kind of exercise that is doing you long-term good. Vigorous physical exercise such as running will cause you to need more air in your lungs which will cause you to puff. Puffing, the act of heavy breathing to replenish your need oxygen helps your respiratory and cardio-vascular systems to become healthier. Interestingly, breathing is the word that the Bible uses to describe how God created the First man. As a result of the lack of spiritual exercise, too many people do not have spiritual reserves, and consequently lack spiritual strength, capacity, confidence, psychological contentment, or the emotional happiness that they would otherwise have had. Yet, this is so unnecessary considering that there are three very simple spiritual exercises that everyone whose spirit has been regenerated can do to remedy this malady. 

AS MOSES LIFTED UP THE SERPENT

It might seem an odd thing to write about just two days before Christmas, but the story of God plaguing the Israelites with poisonous snakes and then commanding Moses to construct a bronze serpent and attach it to a cross-beamed pole has baffled even the best minds for centuries. Some people have regarded this story as yet another reason for them to reject God and the Bible and consider both to be nonsense. An ever-so-slightly-less-cynical approach that some, who seem to really want both God and the Bible to be true, have taken is to regard the story as a fictional myth with mysterious allegorical meaning. I think this is how Dr. Jordan Peterson recently interpretted it in his discussion with Mr. John Anderson on their Youtube discussion last week. The high profile psychologist Dr. Peterson seems to have been on an interesting spiritual journey of late and he is obviously delving into the Bible and coming up with what appear to be some roadblocks to his complete acceptance of the claims of Christ largely due to these obscure passages in the Bible such as this account in Number 21. “No one has ever been able to explain it to me!” he told Mr. Anderson. I wish he had asked me, because if he had, this is what I would have explained to him.

THUS SAITH THE LORD

Within the sixty-six books of Scriptures we have a unified and coherent revelation from God about His identity as the Creator, the Law-giver, the Redeemer, the Saviour, and the Final Judge. Its sixty-six books tell one story – God’s plan of redemption and conquest over and ultimate vanquishing of evil. Within the Scripture is the revelation of how to be reconciled to God by having our sins forgiven through Christ. It is the Scriptures which assure us that we have one mediator between us and God the Father – Jesus the Christ (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 9:15; 12:24) through whom we can directly appeal. It is within the Scriptures that we find the commands of God for how we are to live, conduct our lives, order our affairs, treat others, and prioritise our worship of God. Thus, we are not permitted to just be “hearers” of God’s Word, we are to accept its authority and be compliant with its commands and imperatives (Rom. 2:13; 1 Tim. 4:16; James 1:22-23) – because it is the Word of God.

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The most basic form of investing was described by Christ in the parable of the talents where He described it as putting money with the money-lenders to earn interest. Albert Einstein stated that ‘compound interest’ is the eighth wonder of the world! When some people hear the word ‘investing’ they might think that it only involves money. Investing involves thinking about present action and the future consequences of those actions. And then acting in a way that sacrifices present income to invest in a richer future. Understood in a much broader sense, investing can and should mean thinking about much more than just money. It can involve investing time, effort, wisdom, training, and prayer. Investing done well results in increased wealth and riches which is not just limited to financial rewards. It is exemplified in the biblical promise, “You reap what you sow.” Each generation is responsible to steward the resources that are at its disposal. These resources are managed by individuals, families, communities, states, nations and the Church. Church leaders have a duty to invest well into the spiritual resources that shape culture to the glory of God so that a tree is planted for the next generations will be the ones who enjoy its shade.

AMAZING ACCESS

Anyone who has attended a large event such as the recent Will Graham Outreach event that was held at the Launceston Silverdome would be familiar with the varying levels of access that are provided to staff and volunteers associated with this type of event. The security system used included identification in the form of different coloured shirts, prayer volunteer cards, and all access cards that permitted access to the entire venue with no questions asked by security personnel. This is like the access level that God has to our lives. Being omnipresent, He has unhindered access to every aspect of our lives. He knows our innermost thoughts, sees all that we do, hears all that we say. God has the ultimate ‘all access’ card.

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How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).

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Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.