Jesus and the Law: An Ancient Text in a Postmodern Context In looking at Jesus and the law we must acknowledge that Jesus is the fulfillment of the old covenant. Every theme in the Old Testament points forward towards Jesus. The law is the character of God written in a language which human beings can understand. The law was given to show us the holiness of God and to demonstrate man’s imperfection. The entire reason for the law was so that we would understand that through our own efforts and abilities, we can never reach God’s level of holiness, and as such, we would eternally remain damned. But God, gave us the law so that through our continuous failure we would see the light of the truth, which is Jesus Christ. When we willingly acknowledge this ultimate truth, we will recognize that the only way we can ever, possibly, enter the Kingdom of Heaven is by the mercy and grace of our God. It is because of God’s mercy and grace that he decided to send his Son to die in our stead, so that through his death and resurrection we might find eternal life. It is only through Jesus Christ as the slain Lamb of God, risen and interceding for mankind, that we can ever touch the heart of God. God’s plan began in Eden with the fall of man and every act of God was directed towards this end; that Jesus would come to earth to die as our perfect and permanent sin sacrifice. Jesus came in fulfillment of the prophetic foreshadowing presented in the Old Testament. So if we are to choose one scripture to study regarding Jesus and the law we can safely and aptly choose Matthew, chapter 5 and versus 17-48; the Sermon on the Mount. In this passage we shall examine four aspects, relating to Jesus and the law, which are; Jesus proclaims the law; Jesus’ interpretation of the law; Jesus’ fulfillment of the law; and Jesus and the law today. Jesus Proclaims the Law
To understand the scripture found in Matthew we must recognize that in this time and in this place Jesus was speaking to the people during the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was teaching the law of the old covenant because he had not died yet, and so the new covenant was not yet in practice. “The statues [of the law] are grounded in God’s work in creation and they serve God’s relational purposes of life, stability, and the well-being of individuals and communities” (Fretheim, 163). The primary message that Jesus was communicating can be understood in one verse, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (New Revised Standard Version, Matt 5:49). He was teaching the law of the Torah; the law of God. The law demanded perfection, and Jesus was certainly encouraging people to pursue perfection. Jesus pursued this same perfection and was not without temptation. He was flesh and blood. Jesus was a human being with all of our frailties, needs, and desires. He was as much a human as any human being on earth. He suffered persecution and trouble as is evident in his words “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely” (Matt 5:11). Jesus knew how it felt to be persecuted. He was not without compassion for mankind. Yet, He knew that perfection could only be found in practicing obedience to the law, which is why He went willingly to the cross. Brueggemann writes “The Torah is not God, for in our obedience and disobedience this is a God; so near. But God is not God without Torah, and if we would know God, it comes by way of obedience” (115). Jesus came in fulfillment of the law, and He was obedient to the law of His Father. He became our example of righteous, selfless, obedient love for God. Jesus was the fulfillment of the law, lived in obedience to the law and taught obedience to the law. He knew that in order for us to touch the heart of God, or even diligently stretch out our imperfect fingertips toward God, we must be obedient to the Law. Jesus’ Interpretation of the Law...
Cited: Bruegemann, Walter. The Creative Word: Canon as a Model for Biblical Education. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982. Print.
Fretheim, Terence E. The Pentateuch. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996. Print.
Johnson, Susanne. Christian Spiritual Formation in the Church and Classroom. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989. Print.
New Revised Standard Version. Ed. Michael Coogan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.
South Georgia Church of God. "South Georgia Church of God." 2010. Who We Are. Web. 17 October 2013.
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