The Old Testament is all about exclusion, about holiness, about separation. Priests with disabilities were not allowed to offer sacrifices, the blind and mute were not allowed in the Temple. Women, children and Gentiles were also excluded. Interestingly, those with “crushed nuts” or removed penises and those that were born Eunichs were also excluded from the Temple. Some foods were unclean and others were clean, fish with scales were OK, fish without was unclean.
Lets think about this for a bit. Why this exclusion? I know the easy answer is to say that it is due to the holiness of God, the separation a protection for the people from the wrath of God. But really this doesn’t make a lot of sense; Are Prawns more unclean than Mullet? Are the blind and the lame more sinful?Is a woman or a child more unclean? None of this makes any sense to me without the events in and around Easter.
Two Pictures come to mind. The first is the thick dividing/excluding curtain in the Temple. This is torn from Top to Bottom at Jesus death. Second I see the net of unclean foods being lowered to Peter and God saying “Eat!” I think it is man’s natural instinct to exclude, not God’s. Jesus ate and drank with the unclean – this was observed by the religious folk on many occasions and was a major stumbling block for them. How can this Jesus be a holy man if he doesn’t maintain this degree of separation? It might be quite easy for us to miss this strong picture in the bible because we don’t have the same cultural and historical background as the Jews, but can I point it out to you that eating with sinners was a major event – I believe every Jew in Israel would have heard this piece of gossip – all with negative connotations. In our casual modern day reading I think we miss the impact of verses like this. What does it mean that the most Holy place that a Jew could imagine, is now open to be defiled? Even by women and children! – The curtain is torn!
Easter brings about two other stories that also would have had a huge impact on the church at the time – easy for us to skim over but absolutely mind blowing at the time.
Women are listed as the first people to proclaim “He is Risen!” and a Eunich is specifically pointed out as one of the first converts. I think it is easy for us to miss the impact of these stories, but again can I point out the huge impact these stories would have had…….and they are entirely relevant for us in our current climate of LCA “EXclusive Gender wars.”
Happy Inclusive Easter
PS. I wonder how much impact Jesus readiness to include small children had on the crowd at the time?