Have you ever wondered why after centuries of following the Old Testament laws, it suddenly became okay for God’s people to enjoy lobster and pork chops? Well, there is a reason for this change, and we watch it happen in Acts chapter 10.
It happened like this: one day Peter decided to try to escape and spend some time with God, so he headed up on the roof of the house of Simon the Tanner, where he was staying. It was about noon. Now Simon the Tanner probably had some wealth, because he had a house by the sea, so I’m guessing a prayer time on the roof afforded a relaxing time not to mention a very nice view.
And then this…
…he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” Acts10:10-13 (ESV)
Now Peter protested and we can understand this. He had spent a lifetime avoiding bacon, and now to start? But as a leader in the fledgling church, he needed to get busy making himself a BLT. But why?
The answer has to do with why God gave certain Old Testament laws in the first place – they were meant to illustrate our absolute uncleanness before God. In an insightful article from 2012, Tim Keller speaks to this issue:
“The Old Testament devotes a good amount of space to describing the various sacrifices offered in the tabernacle (and later temple) to atone for sin so that worshipers could approach a holy God. There was also a complex set of rules for ceremonial purity and cleanness. You could only approach God in worship if you ate certain foods and not others, wore certain forms of dress, refrained from touching a variety of objects, and so on. This vividly conveyed, over and over, that human beings are spiritually unclean and can’t go into God’s presence without purification.
“But even in the Old Testament, many writers hinted that the sacrifices and the temple worship regulations pointed forward to something beyond them (cf. 1 Sam. 15:21-22; Ps. 50:12-15; 51:17; Hos. 6:6). When Christ appeared he declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19), and he ignored the Old Testament cleanliness laws in other ways, touching lepers and dead bodies.
“The reason is clear. When he died on the cross, the veil in the temple tore, showing that he had done away with the need for the entire sacrificial system with all its cleanliness laws. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for sin, and now Jesus makes us clean.”
So you see, if Peter and other Christians continued to observe these ceremonial rules, they would have denied the cleansing they had in Christ. So I don’t know if Peter began to regularly enjoy a full rack of ribs after this encounter, but he had good reason to. Jesus had declared all foods clean.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 24: Acts 11