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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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THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.