Question: In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus said, “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law,” yet in Mark He declared all foods clean, which apparently changes the Law of Moses about clean and unclean foods. I’m confused.
Here is Jesus’ teaching about not changing the Law:
Matt. 5:18 (KJV) For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
And here is Jesus’ teaching about clean and unclean foods:
Mark 7:14-15, 19 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’’” …For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)
The point of Law in question comes from Leviticus. Here is a good example:
Lev. 11:26 Every animal that has a split hoof not completely divided or that does not chew the cud is unclean for you; whoever touches [the carcass of] any of them will be unclean.
The “jot” is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The “tittle” refers to the little marks on one letter to distinguish it from a similar letter—like the crossing of the letter “t” or the little tail on the letter “Q”. Without these marks the “t” could look like an “I” or the “Q” like an “O”. So in effect, Jesus was saying the Law of God given in the Bible is unchangeable in even the smallest degree.
Did He contradict Himself in Mark 7:19?
No. Jesus taught His followers to understand that the purpose and intent of God’s Law in this matter was to train His people to distinguish between clean and unclean in every area of life. It wasn’t about what was ritually clean or unclean; it was about the heart. God wants a people with clean hearts.
In Mark 7:19 Jesus aims us toward God’s purpose, His will in the written Law. One can fulfill the letter of the Law by staying away from spiritually unclean food yet at the same time have an impure heart. Food neither makes a person clean or unclean in God’s eyes.
The Law demonstrates that no one is able to live the way God wants us to all the time:
Rom. 3:20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
Jesus came to set us free from the Law. He accomplished this by 1) obeying the Law perfectly as a representative of the human race, (2) by substituting Himself for us in facing death as the consequence for sin, and (3) by giving us the power through His Spirit to keep the Law that is now written upon our hearts:
Gal. 3:24-25 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.