Questions and Answers - Part 3

Scripture: Matthew 13:10-12, Mark 7:1-23, Genesis 7:
This broadcast continues on a series on Bible questions sent in by listeners. The first question is, "Why did Jesus so often teach in parables?" Another, "Did Jesus pronounce all food clean in Mark 7:18, 19?" Another question, "Does Mark 12:26 indicate that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have already been judged and are in heaven?"
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The first question today concerns the New Testament use of parables. Why did Jesus teach so often in parables?

First, what is a parable? Jesus spoke often in parables because there were usually enemies in the audience listening for Him to say something that they could use against Him. In Matthew 13:10, 11, 12, we read: "And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but unto them it is not given. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand." In other words, many of the listeners were there just out of idle curiosity or seeking for some way to condemn His message. The ones who were humble enough to receive it would be able to understand the truth from His simple stories and illustrations and parables. But others would not be able to understand at all what He was speaking about. This is why He made use of the parables in His ministry.

The second question comes from the same listener and is in reference to the text in Mark 7:18, 19. Please notice the subject of this entire discourse in chapter 7. The question is: Did Jesus pronounce all food clean in these verses? And how does this harmonize with the Old Testament prohibition on pork?

Going back to the first part of the chapter, we read these words: "Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?" You will notice here that the issue is concerning the traditional washing of hands after being defiled by Gentile contact. The tradition of the Jews required that they have a ceremonial washing of the hands right up to the elbows in order to be ceremonially clean or pure once more. Even the pots and pans bought in a Gentile bazaar had to be so washed in order to be clean for Jewish use. Jesus condemned their traditions in verse 9: "Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition." Then in verse 14 He elaborates on the issue further: "And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man" Verse 15. "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable." Verses 16, 17.

Please take note that this was a parable Jesus spoke to them. This means that it was not to be taken in an absolutely literal sense. Also, please remember that we are not dealing here with matters of diet at all. Food and drink were not issues in this discussion. Jesus was discussing the subject of eating with unwashen hands that were considered ceremonially unclean by the Jews.

In explaining the parable to them, Jesus continued: "Are ye also yet without understanding...? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of man, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness,... All these evil things come from within, and defile the man." Verses 18-23. In Matthew 15:20, Jesus put it in these words: "These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man."

You will remember that Jesus is talking to people who are plotting His death. Yet, they were wrought up and disturbed over the matter of ceremonial cleansing of the hands even while their own hearts were full of murder. Jesus used this illustration simply to impress upon them the folly and foolishness of their traditional uncleanness in comparison to the grosser sins that they were committing in their own hearts.

These verses certainly cannot be applied to the general issue of eating and drinking because they had absolutely nothing to do with it in the context of this scripture. We would have no authority to apply them in a way contrary to the scripture use. Jesus certainly applied them only to the matter of unwashed hands. We must do the same.

You suggest that perhaps Jesus cleansed all food during His ministry, especially by the pronouncement He made on this occasion. Yet, many years later Peter was confronted with a sheet full of unclean, creeping, crawling things in a vision he had. In Acts 10:11, he "Saw heaven opened and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise Peter; kill and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean."

Although Peter had spent three and one-half years in the company of Jesus listening to His sermons and discourses, he had never understood that these things were made clean. If Christ had purged all foods and made everything suitable for eating, Peter would surely have known about it. Later in that same chapter, in Acts 10:28, Peter explained the meaning of the strange vision he had received about the animals in the sheet. Notice what he said to the Gentile assembly: "And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean." You will notice again that we are dealing with a parable, because this had nothing to do with eating or drinking at all; it concerned the Gentile people receiving the gospel. Christ used this method to inform Peter that he should go and preach to the Gentiles, for they were worthy of the gospel. In the other text under consideration, Jesus used a parable to illustrate that they should not hold their tradition of ceremonial washing as a requirement of their salvation.

You will discover that the restrictions placed upon mankind by God in the Old Testament concerning food continue right on down in the New Testament times as well. In Genesis 7, we find that there were unclean animals taken into the ark as well as clean animals. This was long before there were any Jews in the world. So this was not a program which applied only to a certain people in a certain dispensation of the world's history. It was in existence from creation itself. If Jesus had purged all food for man's diet, of course, it would be quite suitable to eat buzzards, bats, rattlesnakes, toads and insects of all sorts. No one today would claim that these foods are even nearly suitable for a sound diet. Please refer to Isaiah 66:15-17 to see how God will be looking upon those unclean foods when He returns to this earth. In the clearest human language we are told that all those who are eating swine's flesh will be consumed at the coming of Jesus. This certainly should settle it for all of us as far as the forbidden food is concerned.

Here is another question from a listener: In Mark 12:26 God said, "I am not the God of the dead but the living." This would lead me to believe that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have already been judged and are in heaven. Is this not so?

The verse in Mark 12:26, 27 reads like this: "And as touching the dead, that they rise; have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err." Please notice that Jesus was speaking about the resurrection when He spoke about God being the God of the living. He gave no indication at all that these people were living at the time of the resurrection. God is the God of the living, in the same sense that He has power over the grave and over death. In John 5:28, 29 Jesus said this: "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." Here Jesus made it very clear that the righteous would be rewarded with immortality in the time of the resurrection, and the wicked would be punished for their sins at the time of their resurrection. There are scores of other texts which prove that the dead do not go immediately to their punishment or reward. They are all sleeping the sleep of death in their graves until the glorious resurrection morning when all will come forth to receive the judgment and the rewards.

Obviously, no one can be punished or rewarded until after the judgment takes place. Even an earthly judge would be considered very wicked to send a man to his punishment before having his trial and hearing the judgment. In 2 Peter 2:9 we read: "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished." Surely there can be no misunderstanding of these terms. The Bible emphatically states that no one will be punished until after the judgment takes place at the end of the world.

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