Our Gospel today is from the first part of Chapter Seven of the Gospel according to Mark. With Lent starting tomorrow we won’t get to hear the last part of this passage, so let’s now consult our Bibles for the last part of this story.
From 450 B.C. the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem began adding rules to those set down in the time of Moses. By Our Lord’s time these extra rules by far outnumbered the original rules laid down in the Bible, and the Pharisees often attacked Jesus and the Apostles for their failure to observe the many thousands of new rules.
In today’s Gospel the disciples ate a snack without first going through a ceremonial washing, and for that the Pharisees accused the disciples of not keeping holy the Sabbath.
Jesus defended his disciples by saying that the thousands of rules the Pharisees made up often went against God’s rules. Like, God wants hungry men to be able to eat without a lot of ceremony. What’s more, Jesus pointed out that Pharisees often used lawyer’s tricks to avoid doing the right thing. Like, if they put their money in trust with the temple they do not need to use it to help needy parents.
Jesus went on to make a major statement, setting aside all the Bible’s rules about food that could not be eaten. The rule had been that with land animals the only meat that was lawful was that of animals that chewed the cud; while with animals from the water it was only the meat of creatures that had fins and scales. Acting on his own authority, Jesus declared all previously forbidden foods lawful.
Putting it neatly, he said, nothing that enters our mouths can make us unclean. It is only the hateful things that come out of our mouths that make us unclean.