I often read other people’s blogs and comments. One comment I read recently was on the topic of food laws of the Old Testament, and if we weren’t willing to obey them, should we just ignore all the other laws of the Old Testament, such as the ten commandments, as well? I’ve heard comments similar to this before. If this was a cultural issue and doesn’t apply to us today, then does any of the Old Testament apply? I find it interesting that (a) people think that it has to be all or nothing and (b) people are willing to follow the rules without understanding the underlying principles. This is what the Pharisees did.
The Pharisees were very religious, and they were so strict about following the Law that they made up more rules to add to it. Before long it was more about the rules than it was about pleasing God. Jesus had offended the Pharisees by not observing their Sabbath laws, (Mark 2:23-3:6) so they began to watch for any reason to accuse Him. An opportunity came when the disciples didn’t follow the rules for ceremonial washing before a meal. (Mark 7:1-5) This ritual was not intended for physical cleanliness, but for moral cleanliness. So when Jesus responded to them, (Mark 7:15) He also was talking about moral cleanliness. In doing so, according to Mark, He declared the end to food restrictions. (Take note that Jesus did not speak those exact words, but Mark came to that conclusion from what he had learned through Peter in this passage and in Acts 11:1-10.)
The disciples had grown up with these Pharisaical traditions, and didn’t know any other way. So when Jesus said that people could not be defiled by what they ate, the disciples were confused and asked for an explanation. (Mark 7:17-23) I’m sure that Jesus did not intend for us to never wash or to eat anything we wanted without regard to our health. But He was more concerned with our spiritual health than with our physical health. He was more concerned with the condition of our hearts, because that is the source of sin in our lives. If we will concentrate on keeping our hearts pure, our hands and mouths will not do anything to defile us.