"What God has made clean, do not call common."
It seems that in the days of the Master Israel had taken the considerations of Leviticus 11 to such an extreme that for religious people it rendered fellowship with common folks and non-Jews impossible. There is nothing wrong with doing due diligence to the Commandments as Yeshua Himself taught extreme measures in order to avoid breaking them (Matthew 5:27-30). In these issues, Yeshua was helping the leaders of Israel to apply these commandments in balance with other ones concerning their universal mission to the world, which required fellowship and contact. What He was teaching was, the idea of, “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others (Matthew 23:23)”. Yeshua personally spoke to Peter about it in a vision telling him, “What God has ‘tahor-ed’, do not ‘tamei’ (my literal translation from the Hebrew text of Acts 10:15) thus allowing him to go to the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius. By obeying Peter initiated a revolutionary theological break with the Judaism of his day. He was throwing the newly-born Nazarene movement into its universal mission of teaching Torah to the gentile world, move that Paul followed in Syrian Antioch and later in Turkey, Greece, and finally Rome.
As great as a disciple as he was for being the one chosen to challenge the stiff religious status quo of his day, Peter’s weakness for acceptance often surfaced. We saw him denying the Master the night of His arrest, and again in Antioch, to Paul’s horror, withdrawing himself from fellowship with gentiles (Matthew 26:75; Galatians 2:11-14). In both cases Peter yielded to peer-pressure and fear. He was afraid to stand up because he valued the opinions of men.
It is easy to blame Peter, but what the Master was teaching here was of utmost importance. Whereas He retained the ideas of holiness, of being ‘set-apart for God’, Yeshua was teaching to not apply them in a way hampering our mission of being a ‘light’ to not only our brothers, but also to the world. The Master in effect was saying, ‘Do my will and trust Me for your sanctity; you can never attain it anyways!”; “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others (Matthew 23:23)”
Sad to say, I meet many today who ‘separate’ themselves from even their relatives, people even divorce on the same sort of imbalanced religious grounds. I would like to say here that the Master must be ‘rolling in His grave’, but we know that He is not in the grave. He actually watches us wondering how come He, He who is the Holy of Holy of Israel, set-apart for God from creation, He felt it necessary to put on the ‘tamei’ impurity of the world in order to reach us, but we, we are too ‘holy’ to do it?
Even though Peter denied the Master in front of men (Matthew 10:33), the Master forgave Peter and reinstated Him (John 21:15-18). Later Peter also repented from his self-righteous separatism in Antioch and died as a martyr while ministering to the believers in Rome. May we also like Peter and Paul learn the proper balance of the commandments, and may it be in an easier way. A wise man may learn by his experiences, but a wiser man learns by the experiences of others!