Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
I occasionally have conversations with people who are of the opinion that Christians need to keep the Jewish dietary laws, or at least that keeping these laws is good, maybe because God prescribed them for health benefits. Our Gospel reading pushes us in a very different direction, though. Here, in Mark 7:14-23, Jesus observes that what goes in does come out. It is not a matter of taking in particular foods but a matter of what comes out.
At first glance we might see this as a move to overthrow the dietary law. In verse 20 it is stated outright. And we may well ask the purpose of the Jewish dietary law. Jesus says that all the Old Testament points to him. This is true, though difficult to see in its particulars, of the Jewish dietary law. The people of God are to be distinct from the rest of the world, including in what they eat. Most specifically, they are not to eat meat with its blood, as they await the time Jesus gives His body and blood. But they also avoid some of the most common things used for pagan sacrifices. Worship is for God alone.
Now Jesus takes that away, not because it is difficult, but because he has fulfilled it. He essentially calls us all out as defiled lawbreakers. Evil comes from us. The evil inside us defiles us. What are we to do?
Jesus does not make it plain in this passage of Mark. But elsewhere we are told to have God’s Word dwelling in us. What comes out then? What happens when the Holy Spirit is overflowing? We find that Jesus is cleansing us from evil and speaking through us for His good purposes. We find we are defiled so we ask his forgiveness. Have no fear! Jesus is faithful to forgive. And that’s what it’s about, not food. Jesus is the one who proclaims his people clean, and so they are. His work to heal and forgive extends as far as his words of purification go. This is the good news of Mark 7:14-23.
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