“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.
For the religious elite of Jesus’ day, purity determined who was “in” and who was “out”. Those who ate unclean food, failed to perform the ceremonial washing rituals or ate with unclean people were “impure” and therefore were considered “outsiders”. Jesus, who was often considered “impure” because of the company he kept and his choice of eating companions, challenges the separating lines by (in Mark’s statement) declaring all foods clean.
The food issue kept Jews and non-Jews from socializing, interacting or accepting one another. Food was the line in the sand. And when Jesus erased the line, suddenly there were no barriers to keep Jews and non-Jews apart. There is a place at the table for everyone who pursues justice, righteousness and peace from the heart.
Questions For Reflection
Interaction between those who perceive themselves as superior and those designated as inferior has always been regulated and strictly enforced. Consider the “colored” drinking fountains and the “whites only” lunch counters as examples. Those who erase the lines through their actions risk condemnation and even physical harm, but they also shake the foundations and change the world.
What cultural lines still exist that are meant to exclude and define the “other?” What action could you or your faith community take to erase one of those lines?