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.)
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.
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.”
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.
‘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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.