Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jesus, the Law, and Us

Wednesday: 26 March, 2014 –– 3rd Week in Lent
Matthew 5:17–19
Jesus, the Law, and Us

The scribes and Pharisees were some of the most outstanding people in the nation. The scribes were the people who spent their time teaching and expounding the law; they were the great authorities on the law of God. The Pharisees were the people who set themselves apart by following a rigid set of rules based on the law of Moses. Jesus contrasted all of that by his interpretations of the Old Testament. Jesus was not a scribe yet his authority was unlike anything used by the scribes. Jesus did not respect the observances of the Pharisees. He healed on the Sabbath. His disciples ate when their hands were ceremonially unclean. Jesus associated with the people that Pharisees avoided and called sinners. So it was said that Jesus did not respect the law of God as given in the Scriptures.

In contrast to that, hear the words of Jesus: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (v17). Some say the Old Testament portrays a jealous and wrathful God, and that the New Testament shows a God of love and mercy. But when we look at these words of Jesus we see that such ideas just are not true. There is a unity in all of Scripture, and the unifying factor is Jesus Christ himself.

One word in v17 helps us see this: fulfill. This does not mean "to add to something." Some people think the Old Testament started a certain teaching and carried it to a point, and then Jesus came and carried it a stage further. That is not what Jesus did. Everything was already there. Jesus made it clear. The meaning of fulfill is "to carry out." Jesus portrays the commandments of God. He illustrates them in real life. Thus he shows what obedience means for his disciples.

And there is good news is this: Jesus did completely fulfill the law of God. All that the Old Testament foretold and shadowed has come true in him. He has kept the law for us so that the law cannot condemn us. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2Cor 5:21). And because that is true, the same Jesus who perfectly fulfilled God's law comes, through his Spirit, to indwell those who believe in him. Just as Jesus obeyed the law, his Spirit in us motivates us and enables us to obey God––and not in some external, quantitative way like the Pharisees, but in a way in which our hearts respond to God and seek his righteousness.

The law is fulfilled in us, too, as we become his kingdom people. The life of Jesus in his kingdom people is the way God’s truth can be seen in the world today. Jesus fulfilled God’s law. As Jesus lives in us, God’s law is expressed even through us––that is why Jesus could say, You are the salt of the earth. . . you are the light of the world.

God’s law is beautiful to the Christian. Because of Jesus, it does not condemns us; it shows us what our Father is like. As we follow Jesus, we become like him, even as Jesus is like the Father. That is how things work in the kingdom of God.

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