In my last post we looked at the way The Lord was preparing to unlock the secrets of the gospel and the promises for the Gentiles that were promised. Jesus was spoken of as being a light to the Gentiles and in Him the Gentiles would have hope.
In this section we now see there is a preparation needed for Peter who was to speak the words of the gospel to the Gentiles. The flood gates were about to be opened bringing the Gentile nations into God’s kingdom, but first Jesus had to prepare the Jews and open their eyes to understand that this was the way forward.
This we see Peter praying on the rooftop of Simon the tanner’s house in Joppa when he fell into a trance and saw a vision from The Lord. Three times The Lord let down a great sheet with all kinds of unclean animals, birds and reptiles telling Peter to rise, kill and eat. Peter was about to learn several valuable lessons which we can also learn today as well.
Clean and Unclean Meats
Peter, being a Jew would only eat those things permitted under the law of Moses, that is, the clean meats. He said when the sheet was let down and he was told to,rise, kill and eat,
14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”
In the law of Moses certain meats were identified as clean and others unclean. The primary reason why this distinction was made was for the health of the people rather than any real religious significance. There is great wisdom in the law of God to help us to live a better quality of life and the food laws are just one example.
Typically the clean meats came from any animal that chewed the cud AND had a cloven hoof. Thus all meat from sheep, cattle and goats was clean for both of these conditions apply. But animals like camels or pigs may have had one or the other of the conditions but not both. And of course there were animals that had neither of the conditions and so were unclean too.
In a similar way the law permitted people to eat anything that came from the waters that had both fins and scales. Thus any fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel and trout were all OK. But shellfish, crayfish, oysters, jellyfish and blowfish were not to be eaten under the law as they were unclean.
Consider for a moment the wisdom in this law. Often when we hear of people who suffer from food poisoning or even die from salmonella poisoning, it is generally one of these unclean foods that is at fault. Rarely if ever do you hear of food poisoning from eating beef or lamb, but it is quite common in those who eat pork or shellfish. Also today we know there are extremely high levels of fat and cholesterol in some of these unclean foods.
But The Lord was about to change things in relation to food as well providing a teaching relating to opening the way for the Gentiles. After Peter made the statement saying he had never eaten anything unclean, The Lord responded in the following way.
15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”
Now we see that The Lord declared all meats to be clean. It is OK now to have that ham roll or bacon for breakfast or crayfish salad and so on. Why is this so and why was this change made?
First we know that Jesus set us free from the law and that included all of those food laws as well as the rest. So if He chooses to call all foods clean that is OK. However the wisdom of the law still stands. It may be OK to eat these things now, it it does not mean the foods are any safer or healthier. You are still better off if you do not eat the unclean foods and are less likely to suffer ill health.
But there was a still more important reason why The Lord chose to use this example, which pertains to the work Peter was about to do.
Cleansing the Gentiles
In Jesus the Gentiles now have hope. They now have a way to find salvation that was not possible before and that way is through Jesus. But first the word needed to be preached to,them and the only people who had the word of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ were the Jewish believers who,were still steeped in the old law. And that old law said that the Gentiles were unclean and they were not to mix with them.
This there needed to be a clean up done. The Jewish believers needed to learn a lesson to the effect that the Gentiles were now OK to hang out with! Just because they came from the other side of the tracks did not make the Gentiles bad people. In God’s eyes we are all His creation and we are all equal, especially those who are believers.
So The Lord showed Peter that just as all foods are OK to eat as He made them clean. So too all people are OK to receive the gospel of the kingdom because in Jesus all of mankind has been made clean.
Peter was puzzled by the vision but he was about to find out the reason for it in a few minutes time, and I will look at the dawning of his realisation in the next post.
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