“If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood.” (Leviticus 17:10-12)
While in college, many of my Jewish friends would not eat a rare steak or roast beef. To do so would be for them a violation of this law in Leviticus. Meat had to be cooked medium-well at the very least.
The prohibition against eating the blood of an animal was closely connected with animal sacrifices made for sin. Those sacrifices powerfully reminded worshipers that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). For the time being, the life of an animal was required. But one day, the life of God’s own son would be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Blood would never simply be just another part of an animal. It was its life.
I’ve since learned that the red juice that flows from a steak isn’t blood, but myoglobin, a protein that’s found in muscle tissue. But blood is used in some recipes for soup, puddings and sausage, especially in farming communities where every bit of an animal is used and nothing goes to waste. I’ve never tried anything like that and it doesn’t appeal to me at all. But who knows? Maybe I’ll give it a try someday.
Could I do that? Or would that be a violation of God’s law? While the moral law of the Old Testament still serves as a curb, mirror and guide for me, many of the dietary and ceremonial laws do not. They served as a guardian for God’s people, defining their lives while they waited for the Christ. “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (Galatians 3:25-26) In other words, the rules do not define my relationship with God. Faith in his son Jesus does.
As Peter learned in a dream (Acts 10), all foods are now clean, and all people – even Gentiles – can be “clean” through faith in Christ. That’s why ham has long been a traditional entree on Easter Sunday. He is our righteousness.
Thank you, Lord, for the life we have in you and your promises. Amen.