There is a wonderful story of liberation that is centered on the apostle Peter. He was up on the housetop at noontime (the sixth hour) to pray. He ‘became hungry and desired to eat’ and while others were making preparations to eat, Peter fell into a trance. ‘The sky opened up (or heaven opened up) and a certain object like a great sheet was coming down, lowered by the four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Arise Peter, kill and eat!’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy or unclean. And again a voice came to him a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’ And this happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.”
The Lord used a religious dietary restriction to teach a much broader lesson. The animals, creatures and birds were obviously not ‘on the list’ of clean foods in Deuteronomy. There must have been snakes, lizards, pigs, buzzards, camels, shrimp and lobsters. Whatever they were they offended the mind and customs of Peter. His Jewishness was being offended although he was the one called to preach Christ to the Jews. God knows if the religious rule keeping heart is not superseded by the gospel of love and grace; there will always remain a performance mentality for receiving the mercy of God.
The Lord wanted to show Peter something much larger than dietary correctness. He wanted to show him how to be liberated and how to respond to all people without distinction and choosing. The ‘correct list’ now includes everyone.
“You disregard and neglect the commandment of God, and cling to the tradition of men.” Jesus