Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Law in the teaching of The Lord Jesus

The Gospel of Mark records the first preaching of Jesus - "Repent..." , which implies that something was wrong among the people to whom the law had been given. The sermon on the mount begins, not with a set of kingdom rules, but rather with heartfelt attitudes e.g. poor in spirit, meekness, purity. His teaching was different to others. He was linking good works with the relationship of God as Father (Matthew 5.16). Lest anyone think Him to be radical, He states His relationship to the law and the prophets (Matt5.17). The law and the prophets hoped to identify a man upon whom the favour and smile of God could rest without disappointment. (Isaiah 42. Deut 18). As an answer to the fallen need of the people, the law looked for a sacrifice without flaw and of such value as to bring the slaying of animals to an end. Now the king stands among the people and says 'that's Me!' ("but to fulfil ") The most significant climax is later reached when Jesus stands before the Jewish court and is asked 'are you the Christ the Son of the Blessed?' His answer is clear "I am" (Mark 14.62) They well knew He was claiming to be the fulfilment of the law and the prophets, and sentenced Him to die!

        The King proceeds in Matthew 5.20 to show that His kingdom surpasses the standard of law which was taught by the scribes and Pharisees. His is a heavenly kingdom, not a Sinai kingdom. The subjects in His kingdom were not driven by commands "you shall not.........."  but rather their righteousness was derived from the Father and marked by grace flowing to even the unworthy V44,45.

     Matthew 8.4 - the lord recognizes the place of ceremonial law in Jewish society - to the leper He says "Go show yourself unto the priest".  Matthew 12, the Lord comes under censure for His disciples plucking ears of corn on the Sabbath day. Likewise when He healed on the Sabbath day.  Well,    was not the command right there in the 10 commandments ?  - yes  - but mercy (V7) prevails against law. Should He heal on the Sabbath? Doing good (love), is not cancelled out by human interpretation of law.

       I noticed in the parable of the sower, the seed is not the word of Moses,but the word of the king as He brings in His heavenly kingdom.

       It is worthy of note, in the question of marriage and divorce, the Lord refers back to the first book of Moses as a reference point (Matt.19.4). He points out that under law, allowance was made for the hardness of the people's hearts!
         Matthew 19.17, life is described as the objective of keeping the commandments  -' if you would enter into life, keep the commandments'. This does indicate that the commandments have a definite value in this present life. Society with Mosaic laws will be just, safe, considerate etc . But Jesus was calling His disciples to a higher purpose and devotion - to be devoted to HIMSELF alone and completely. This was new and different for the Jewish mind. eg to be persecuted, to carry a cross, to be poor for the Lord Jesus!
         Matthew 22.40  This summation is most significant. 'the whole law and the prophets depend on the two commandments - to love God and to love one's neighbour' . Once again He takes us beyond external righteousness or ceremonial observance to the transformation of the heart - to love God and others.
          Matthew 23.2,3 Jesus puts His finger on the problem of law - it can be taught so well, but none fulfill it as God intended.   Like Romans 2 -a preacher of law but not a practiser.
           Matthew 28.18-20 In the final great commission, He does not do what Moses and Malachi did - refer the people to the law of God. Rather the ascending Lord refers them to His own teaching as the path of life!

   The observance of law leads to this 
      "  let sinners be consumed from the earth and let the wicked be no more" Psalm 104.36

    The submission to grace leads to this
        "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance"

Neither is actually wrong, but the later ties in with the verse I began with in another article - 
   "Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ"  John 1.14

Keep reading and let the Spirit of the living God teach you more and more.

J. Mckee

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