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Deity of Christ: In the News

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"Jesus Was a Vegetarian"

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Recently I read the statement, “Jesus was a vegetarian.” Supposedly, since Jesus did not eat meat, neither should we. There are several problems with this line of reasoning.

First, people often use the “Jesus did x, y, or z” to demand that we should do the same things. But the truth is, just because Jesus did or did not do something does not necessarily have any bearing on what we should or should not do. Jesus did many things that we are under no moral obligation to imitate. For instance, could we say, “Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem and so should you?” Or what about, “Jesus never rode in a car, and neither should we?” Would we be correct to demand, “Jesus never had electric lights, so cut off your power?” Or “Jesus never sent a text message, so stop texting?” You can quickly see the problem here. While it is the case that Jesus is the perfect example of how all humans should live, it is not the case that every aspect of His life is something that we should copy. Paul explained it well in Philippians 2:5 when he said, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Notice it is the “mind” of Christ, or His attitude, that we are to imitate. That means that while Jesus was seeking the lost He may have gone up on a mountain to preach, but we may need to use a microphone or a YouTube video. Or whereas Jesus walked from village to village, we may need to drive, fly, or ride a bus. Just because Jesus wore sandals that does not mean hiking boots are off limits for His followers.

The second reason the “Jesus was a vegetarian” statement was so strange to me is because it is patently false. He certainly was not a vegetarian. He often ate meat. In Luke 24:42-43 the text says: “So they gave Him [Jesus] a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.” The passage could not be more straightforward about Jesus consuming fish. In addition, since Jesus was  a Jew who faithfully followed the Old Law, He was commanded to eat the Passover Lamb every year. In Exodus 12:5-8, we read that all the Jews were to take a Passover lamb, kill it on the  14th day of the first month and “eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs.” In the New Testament, we see Jesus arranging this very procedure with His apostles. Luke 22:7-8 states, “Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. And He [Jesus] sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.’” This was just one of the many animal sacrifices that Jewish people ate on a regular basis.

Third, the New Testament makes it clear that killing and eating animals is perfectly acceptable to God. In 1 Timothy 4:1-4 the Holy Spirit foretold that some were going to depart from teaching the truth and were going to command people to “abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” Notice that in this passage, the sense in which God calls animals “good” is the fact that they are good for food. The idea that God, Jesus, or the Bible somehow morally obligate people to be vegetarians simply is incorrect.





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