Updated: Jan 29, 2021
I remember watching part of a television show quite a while back, where some show host had a Jewish rabbi as a guest. The rabbi was explaining what Jews were allowed to eat and why certain animals or parts of animals were forbidden.
I seem to recall there was some confusion about whether turkey was kosher or not.
I also watched some other show on the Food Channel, where this guy would go around the world eating some of the most disgusting things known to man, which to the locals was standard fare (somewhat).
In one episode he went to Cambodia. There, he went to an open-air food market where one vendor actually sold cockroaches as food.
A Cambodian gentleman, who accompanied the food taster as he shopped, recalled his memories of eating those insects as a child. He said they ate cockroaches because his family was very poor, and living in the jungle then yielded scarce food. When they found a swarm of cockroaches, they would sizzle them in a wok and serve them with rice. However, the man stressed that he hated having to eat cockroaches and it was only those who cannot afford to purchase better foods that were forced by starvation to eat cockroaches.
Presentation is everything!
I also recall watching another program long ago that explored the disparities of the different castes of India. One segment documented the life of an Untouchable, one family delegated to the lowest Caste in India. The man had lepers as parents, but he displayed no signs of any bodily deformity. Still, he could not mix with those of higher castes. He had married another Untouchable and had children with his wife. To feed his family, he became known as a rat catcher. Rats damaged the crops of those Indians who had land, so the rat catcher did a service to those farmers by catching the rats. The man got to keep the rats as a food stuff, which he would feed to his family. Obviously, only Untouchables would eat rats.
In America, if you go to Louisiana you learn that swamp rats are a delicacy. Many restaurants serve nutria – “a river rat” the size of a beaver – along with other food forbidden from Jewish mouths: crayfish, shrimp, crab, oysters, and [of course] alligator.
Jews are forbidden from eating seafood that does not have fins and scales, which includes catfish (although young catfish have the appearance of scales). Boudin and Andouille – pork sausages – are another reason for Jews to avoid Louisiana.
Sauces and sides help nutria look edible.
You might know that barbecue ribs and flanks were once only eaten by poor people, those who took the leftovers – unwanted cuts of meat – and found ways to make them good to the taste. Pit cooked pork has long been a staple in the deep south of North America and in Hawaii. Still, Jews are forbidden from eating pork, because it has a split hoof and does not chew its cud.
Personally, I have a fairly simple diet. Almost everything I have found served to me at dinner time, I have eaten some of it, if not all. I like barbecue and regularly eat it. I have never eaten a rat of any kind, and do not find nutria appealing enough to try. I do not like the taste of crayfish, nor the messiness of eating it, so it is not a personal choice.
In my history, I learned at the age of two that I am never to eat pickled beets. I tried them once, and they crossed my lips only twice – going in and coming out. I will never eat pickled beets again; and I can assure you that cockroaches and rats have been added to my own “forbidden list” of foods.
In the reading from Acts today, Peter had to explain to his fellow “apostles and believers who were in Judea” that he had dined with Gentiles. Not only were Jews forbidden from eating certain meats, they were forbidden from even associating with non-Jews.
Part of that reasoning is non-Jews might be used to eating pork, cockroaches, rats, and even pickled beets to excess; but that did not make it okay for Jews to eat the same foods. Because there is a saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” there is danger in dining with those whose heart is not a home for YAHWEH.
Temptation is why one must stay clear of Gentiles and their foods. If you dine with them and find a taste for what they eat, then you might acquire a taste for the most forbidden food … food for thought. Remember the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Just because Adam and Eve ate that once, does not mean that God said it was okay to be eaten forever afterwards.
Now, in the Gospel reading today, it is short and sweet and to the point. Jesus told his disciples – those who would become “apostles and believers” after his death – “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.”
It is important to realize that Jesus saved that one new tidbit of advice for after “Judas had gone out.” Judas left to betray Jesus and set off the glorification process. Had Judas still been at the Seder meal when Jesus gave that new commandment, and had Judas not hung himself afterwards, then the other disciples – who would become “apostles and believers” after Jesus’s death – would have been forced to forgive Judas and dine with him, like nothing bad had happened. They would have to love Judas as much as the other disciples.
That would have been like forcing someone who hates pickled beets to eat pickled beets. It would be like being forced to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, even though you had been told by God not to. Jesus knew Judas was evil, so he waited until Judas Iscariot left before adding that new commandment. That kept the good disciple from having to sit and dine with an evil influence, knowing his evil, but pretending all was good.
If you put that in a modern perspective, it would be like knowing an Islamic terrorist has killed before and promised to kill again – not just random murder, but target murder of non-Muslims – but being told to love having yourself or your family killed by hatred. It would then be like Jesus telling you to invite terrorists to move into your neighborhood, so they can kill those whom you love.
If you think that, then you might as well think Jesus said to eat cockroaches and rats during the next Passover Seder meal, rather than matzo, charred lamb bones and bitter herbs. He did not say that … thank God.
It is important to remember that when Jesus said he knew he would be betrayed, he added: “Woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” That means Jesus did not come to change and laws of Moses. Jesus did not instruct his disciples to love the whole wide world – unconditionally.
He just added one new commandment, which was for that band of brothers and their families – all of who, were disciples of Jesus and believers of his holiness – to love each other as one family of Christ, while remaining Jewish and children of God.
To clarify this a little more, Jesus then added to that new commandment: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” It was a command to love one another, like the Three Musketeers loved one another:
“All for one and one for all!” they swore as an oath.
It means the disciples were to maintain all the other Jewish laws in place. That means meeting with Jews who did not know about Jesus, to tell them the Good News – The Messiah has come! – was the meaning of “love thy neighbor.” However, once a group starts saying the name Jesus over and over, because a bond of love keeps the group together through being known by that name, their love for one another will expand as Jewish Christians, separate from Jews.
By taking in new disciples and teaching them to love one another, as Jesus had done for them, the group would grow stronger, as it grew larger. Thus, loving one another means supporting one another, like one loves family in that way … the family of Christ.
Spreading the Gospel then becomes an act of loving your neighbor. Telling other Jews, who are not part of your family in Christ, invites other Jews to join in that new bond of love.
Loving you enemy means not going into the places where non-Jews live and expecting non-Jews to welcome you with open arms … especially when a Jew will avoid contact with a non-Jew. You love your enemy by allowing them to eat pork, cockroaches, rats or any Jewish forbidden food, without condemnation.
That means loving you enemy is shown by allowing your enemy to be you enemy, by not egging your enemy to further anger.
Now, when you understand Jesus’s new commandment to his non-betraying disciples, and knowing Peter was one of those who heard that commandment, you can understand why Peter was “criticized” by his fellow “apostles and believers” … who loved him as family.
You see, love of one another leads one to confront another who breaks a law … an old commandment of the Lord. That is part of the love that bonds a Church together. It is mandatory maintenance. It is why the New Testament is mostly letters written by apostles showing love for other apostles, as reminders about what laws must be followed, at all costs.
Therefore, it was love of his brothers in Christ that led Peter to explain his vision about being commanded to eat forbidden meats. It was love that had Peter tell his family how a heavenly voice was heard, saying “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”
That does not mean that all “four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds” are forevermore approved for eating. It says, “If you are lost in a strange land and starving, praying for food, then should God send you cockroaches or rats to meet your prayers of survival, consider those as clean, and no longer profane.” “Kill and eat!”
In that vein of cleanliness, it was love that had the Roman centurion, Cornelius, send men to get Simon called Peter and escort him to Caesarea. Because Cornelius was “a God-fearing man, who gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly,” an angel of God was sent to Cornelius, telling him to send for Peter.
It was love for one another that led Cornelius to have his relatives and close friends be at his house to greet Peter, when he arrived with his close friends in ministry. It was love for one another that had Cornelius fall down before Peter, honoring Peter’s presence in his house.
It was love of one another that God had pious Gentiles meet with pious Christian Jews, so all of the Romans in Cornelius’s house could be witnessed by Christian Jews, as Gentiles spoke in the tongues of the Holy Spirit. Love had Peter and friends stay with Cornelius – a forbidden Gentile – for a few more days.
It was a love for one another that Peter asked his fellow “apostles and believers in Judea,” “Who was I that I could hinder God?”
It is so very important in this Easter season, when we are called to learn all the meaning of the teachings of Jesus Christ, that we must see ourselves as his “little children,” as those who thirst for his knowledge. We are the little children of Jesus Christ when we love one another, as Jesus Christ has shown he loves us. As the little children of Jesus’s family, everyone should know that we are Christians because we love all Christians, and all Christians love us.
For those who have been glorified by the gifts of God’s Holy Spirit, you are called to teach those little children who are in need of learning, just as Jesus showed his love by doing that for his disciples.
The saying, “Teach your children well” is wrong. It is “Teach your children GOOD.” “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)
We who call ourselves Christian, we who are of Gentile origin as non-Jews, we are called to understand the importance of not defiling our bodies and minds by showing a special love, designated for Christians, to anybody and everybody. We should show non-Christians neighborly love, if they are our neighbors; but we should also allow non-Christians the space they need to not feel pressured by Christians.
Likewise, we should expect our non-Christian neighbors to give us the space we need, as Christians, to love one another. In that way we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
We show love of one another by preferring to associate with others who believe in Jesus Christ and who are apostles through the Holy Spirit. That preference strengthens our abilities to “free associate” with the whole wide world. Without the strength of the Holy Spirit being maintained by that love of Jesus Christ, we leave ourselves open to and inviting of evil to weaken us. Love of one another keeps us strong in Christ.
The temptation is to save the world without first being taught how to save our own souls.
In John’s vision told in The Revelation, we find that he saw a time when the old heaven and the old earth will have passed away. It is a vision that reminds us how all things worldly have a beginning, thus an end. The material universe is no different than human mortality.
When John was shown “the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,” that new state was like Jesus’s new commandment to his disciples – his little children.
That change was not about all mortals getting a start-over, as a future time when all sins are forgiven. To think that is to fail to see the truth of everything Jesus preached.
We have to act as apostles in order to have our souls freed from this material realm. THEN, when God brings down the holy city to make the “home of God [be] among mortals,” only those who will have proved their soul’s ability to serve God and Christ will be there.
The souls that chose to hate Jesus Christ, the souls that chose to betray Jesus Christ, and the souls that chose to mingle with a secular world that was designed to trick little children into eating forbidden foods … those souls will have passed with the first heaven and the first earth.
It was with the love between one another that God proclaimed, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”
God is always. God knows all. We are lost without God leading us from within.
So, we are not allowed to pretend to be a god, trying to save the planet, trying to welcome our enemies into our midst, and trying to determine what Jesus would do, if Jesus were still here.
As the saying goes, “You are what you eat,” or better stated: “A man is what he eats.” As far as souls are concerned, if you seek to be fed manna as spiritual nourishment and desire to be given the water of life to drink, then you will be one of the new holy city mortals. If you find epicurean philosophy most fulfilling, seeking the pleasures provided by fleshy foods, with a thirst for knowledge and material wealth, then your soul will remain in the old earth’s realm.
We cannot change the rules to suit our wants and desires. Jesus has been here – on earth – every day since his Ascension. On the Day of Pentecost Jesus returned. That was when his Mind filled all of the “apostles and believers” for the first time. Jesus has been reborn in every apostle ever since then, showing how he has loved his disciples, showing them how to keep loving one another as he has loved them.
Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, the Alpha and the Omega. Each apostle has become a reborn Jesus … in multitudes that cannot be counted. The names of the human forms that have walked as a new Jesus have had names beginning with every letter of the alphabet … alpha to omega.
When the New Jerusalem comes, you do not want to realize then what Peter meant when he said, “Who was I that could hinder God?”
“Praise God, heaven of heavens, and you waters above the heavens.”
“He has raised up strength for his people and praise for all his loyal servants, the children of Israel, a people who are near him.”
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