February 8, 2014

Jesus Came to Fulfill – Not Abolish the Law (Readings Epiphany 5)

It is quite amazing how many people seem surprised when you remind them that Jesus was a Jew. We all know this - but we seem to forget it - along with most of the Old Testament. We can become too narrowly focussed on a “me and Jesus” form of Christianity. During my two years as an Elder in a Messianic Jewish congregation I saw the other side of this as Jesus was seamlessly added to ancient Hebrew worship practice. In the Healing Ministry we are now going back to teachings on the “Ancient Paths” to learn how to bless and pray for people who have separated themselves from God and opened themselves to spiritual attack and oppression. In the Readings, Jesus (Mt. 5.13-20) challenges us to be more righteous than the Pharisees and teaches of the Law if we want to enter the Kingdom of God.

1. Jesus expanded the Covenant of Moses
Messianic Jews are horrified at the ‘me and Jesus’ / ‘replacement’ Theology taught in some Christian churches, which suggests the New Testament has replaced the Old Testament and Christians have completely replaced Jews as God’s Chosen People. Jesus in fact came to fulfill not replace the Old Testament Law and Prophecy.

Matthew introduces this long block of teaching (the Sermon on the Mount) with the Beatitudes (a summary of righteousness), then a challenge to be seriously righteous as ‘salt’ and ‘light’ and then drops the bomb that Christians must be more righteous than the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. This is followed by four pages of teaching on righteousness:

·         This teaching is central to Jesus (and our) ministry

·         The deep meaning is discovered by reading the text in context

·         Jesus sacrificial death expanded the Covenant of Moses by adding a new way to forgiveness so believers could be restored to right relationship

2. Jesus reminded us that the Law teaches us how to love God
The Ten Commandments can be described as the Commandment to love God and the nine tests of our love – our right-relationship or our righteousness. We love God if we have:

·         No other gods – common other gods include money, power, position, food, sex and popularity – anything that takes the place of God in directing and controlling our lives

·         Not worshiped an image or substitute for God – rock stars, sports figures, images, objects, self

·         Not misused the name of God – curses, self-serving prayer, careless speaking, jokes

·         Not observed the Sabbath – we are still under this Commandment as a test of our loyalty and love of God and God’s blessing of rest and reflection. The correct day is not the issue – what you do on that day is the issue

·         Not honoured parents – an Earthly test of our love of God and His order in creation. Parents do not have to earn this honour – they do have to earn our love and respect

3. The Law also defines how we are to love our neighbour
If we love God then we must also love God’s creation, particularly our neighbour who is created in the image of God. Tests include:

·         Murder (of the heart) which includes – anger, rage, gossip, conflict destroying peace, ultimate failure to love God or man

·         Adultery – failure to love, be loyal, respect relationship, disordered sexuality, deception

·         Stealing – time from employer, education, reputation

·         Lying – destroying truth, trust, deception, magic, gossip

·         Coveting – wanting more, dissatisfaction with God, pride, jealousy, gluttony – disordered desire

Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill and expand it!

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