Easter Inclusion

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?


  1. Interesting, Tapman. Is there a tension between your perception of the Old Testament being very much about exclusion, and yet your belief that “it is man’s natural instinct to exclude, not God’s” ? Does it follow that you believe that the prophets of the Old Testament were not speaking for God?

    1. There is a definite tension between the Testaments – the striking hallmark of Jesus ministry is that he touches the unclean, breaks the sabbath rules and eats with sinners. The Levitical laws by necessity meant that Jews kept themselves separate – this was never God’s plan. I guess at best it can be a picture for us about holiness at worst a good excuse to be mean to people. The Prophets themselves were in tension with the Law – somewhere in OT it says that God doesn’t desire sacrifices (words to that effect) yet sacrifice was their entire life. And Jesus also when questioned by the pharisees about eating with sinners says that he desires mercy not sacrifice – the Prophets and the Old Testament point to Jesus who brings about something new, they do not point to laws that separate. Jews kept themselves separate because they felt that they would be defiled by the unclean – Jesus turns this kind of thinking around and instead of him being made unclean he purifies.

      1. I agree that Jesus de-emphasises principles of separation and uncleanliness. But he doesnt eradicate separation. In fact he said he brings division (Matthew 10:34-35) and epistles detail various requirements of separation (2 Corinthians 6:14, 1 Corinthians 5).

        The Biblical concept of sacrifice is not simple, and I may not have a full grasp of it myself, but I suggest that to believe that God does not want sacrifice at all, is an oversimplification. On the one hand, the Old and New Testaments seem to say that God desires mercy rather than sacrifice (Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13) but at the same time, there are indications that God does desire sacrifice (Exodus 20:24, Matthew 16:25, Romans 12:1). My interpretation is that sacrifice is good, but not when it’s at the expense of mercy.

        If you believe that separation was never God’s plan, are you saying that that passages such as Exodus 12:43, Exodus 23:31-33, are not from God? You didnt answer my question that asked whether you believe that the prophets of the Old Testament were not speaking for God.

      2. I haven’t got the time to think atm – more will be said on this topic. There is a lot in the ancient middle eastern culture that went on as normal which I do not believe was from God – eg Genocide, forcing girls to marry their rapist, concubines and polygamy – there is a lot of stuff that is just off and I don’t attribute to God. God reveals himself in Christ, for the other stuff, you can believe that of God if you wish, I choose not too.

      3. Everybody including you make decisions about what you want to believe – the bible tells us the punishment for not homouring your parents is death, do you believe this to be appropriate. I believe the entire Bible to be the scriptures – every syllable – it is conservative believers who try to divide scripure into moral law, Moses’ law and Priestly stuff (can’t remember the exact wording) point is they say that some of Leviticus is moral law – the bits that refer to homosexuality – and other bits are not. I am honest and not afraid to admit that there is a tension in what was in the old order and what is revealed in Christ, some things I feel are very much cultural and with common sense we should let go.

  2. Well Im not sure that all Christians make decisions about what they “want” to believe, if you are implying that the decision is made on the basis of convenience. It’s true that no ‘thinking’ Christian believes that every single verse in the Bible is valid today. But (at least in my opinion) the main reason that not every single verse in the Bible is valid today, is because Jesus brought a new covenant (Hebrews 8), including new policies that differed from the Old Testament. EG although the Old Testament outlawed the eating of shellfish (Leviticus 11), Jesus said that any food was fine (Mark 7:15). Obviously you cant believe both of those positions at once. That example is not just a tension – it’s a flat out reversal of the Old law. Where Jesus’ teaching differed from the Old Testament, clearly Christians should follow the teaching provided by Christ. So, although the Old Testament advocated the death penalty for various sins, Jesus didnt seem too keen on it (John 8), which is probably why Christians dont tend to stone people.

    A key difficulty you have with claiming that some Biblical elements were just cultural, is that some of the elements you reject, are depicted as being stated by God himself, eg my examples above of Exodus 12:43, Exodus 23:31-33. So is the approach of being culturally appropriate, more honest? It sounds arbitrary, and very much like what is condemned in the Bible as “doing what is right in your own eyes” (Judges 17:6) rather than trusting in God (Proverbs 3:5-6). Consider also that conforming to what is culturally appropriate, is in direct contradiction of the New Testament teaching to distinguish worldly values from God’s values (Romans 12:2 etc).

    All this is not easy to grapple with – hopefully it’s not overwhelming. But it’s certainly stuff worthy of thinking through.

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