#31 - Jesus was a vegetarian?
If you have read the billboards as you have been traveling recently you have seen some interesting new ones. One that has caught my attention are the billboards that say Jesus was a vegetarian and that he intends for his followers to be. These billboards have been posted by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). PETA advocates that we do not kill animals for any purpose.
So was Jesus a vegetarian and does he require Christians to be one? PETA's argument is that throughout the Gospels, Jesus is always breaking bread and saying he is the lamb of life. Does this hold up when you go back and research the Bible?
Let's start with the Old Testament. In Genesis 4:4 when Cain and Abel made their offering, Abel killed his fist lamb and that was the offering that God was pleased with. However PETA would have protested against the killing of an animal for God. In Moses' final address to the Israelites, he told them in Deuteronomy 14:4 he tell the people that God says you may eat the cattle, sheep, goats, etc. In Deuteronomy 14: 9 he tells the people that God says you can eat any kind of fish that has fins and scales. We can look before Moses and see where Abraham was called to sacrifice his son but God provided the ram. On through the Old Testament God calls for the people to make animal sacrifices to him and that the people can eat meat just to drain the blood first. Obviously God in the Old Testament did not intend his people to be vegetarians.
As we look at Jesus' life in the New Testament we find again that God and Jesus did not call us to be vegetarians, although he also did not order us to eat meat. The reports of Jesus eating relate often to bread, but also to fish being eaten. In all likelihood Jesus ate other meats. We do not have complete reports on Jesus life, just what was unusual about his life compared to the normal person in Palestine. Just as we can assume Jesus ate other meats, we must also assume that Jesus slept about eight hours a night on a mattress, as there is no reports about Jesus sleeping, other than on the boat in the bad weather.
So what is reported on Jesus eating in the Bible? In Matthew 14:13 and John 6:11 Jesus blesses the fish and bread and feeds 5000 men. In Matthew 15:32 He again blesses the fish and the bread and this time feeds only 4000 men. If he was a vegetarian, it does not seem reasonable for him to bless the fish and feed it to 9000 men but who knows how many women and children. The reports of the Last Supper merely report his comments on the bread and wine that was served with the meal. The scripture (Matthew 26:21) states that during the meal Jesus made comments to the disciples and then after the meal he took the bread. Remember that this was the Passover meal, and the emphasis was on the unleavened bread that was eaten in commemoration of the Jews fleeing Egypt. So there was in all likelihood other parts to the meal. The writers did not find the meal out of the ordinary so they did not report it. We do not get reports on what the president eats for every meal unless out of the ordinary, such as Macdonald's because we are not used to people of power or money choosing supper there, or when the president gets sick eating Japanese food. After Jesus' death we again find him feed the disciples fish. In John 21:13, not only did he serve the fish but he also cooked them. That sure is a fishy way to convince people they should only be vegetarians if they are going to follow him.
We then find further references to meat eating in Acts. Peter decides that he should only eat clean meats, and that new Christians from Gentile backgrounds who were eating non-clean meats were wrong. In Romans 11:5-10, Peter has a vision from God telling him he can eat all meats, and not to out cast people for only eating "clean" meats. I believe we can also take the vision Peter had one step further. Those that eat meats can all be Christians and also those that do not eat meat for whatever reason can also be Christians. Whether we are vegetarians or non-vegetarians will not be the determining factor in whether we will get in heaven.
In summary, I disagree with PETA, and know that Jesus was not a vegetarian. However he would not have forced a vegetarian to eat the meat of an animal. To imply as PETA has done, can only lead to confusion in non-Christians and in those who have not studied the Bible, and I think that is a mistake on PETA's part.
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