In part one I came to the conclusion that when Jesus speaks in Matthew 5:17-18 about the “Law” (with a capital ‘L’) it is in regards to the first five books of the Bible as a whole. Some translations don’t capitalize the word “law” in those two verses, but I still believe that when used alongside “the prophets” it is referring to the Covenants and not the commandments.
Which brings me to verses 19 and 20 of the same chapter. Jesus goes on to say that whoever breaks one of “the least” of these commandments will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Immediately, I can hear my conservative brothers and sisters shouting, “AMEN!” and nodding their heads; but hold on, Jesus isn’t done just yet.
In verse 20, He says that our righteousness must EXCEED that of the scribes and Pharisees in order to experience the Kingdom of Heaven.
Scribes and Pharisees were known for their overbearing rules and regulations. In addition to the 613 commandments given in the Old Testament many scribes and Pharisees came up with their own individualized additions to the ‘law’. The idea of having to exceed the amount of laws followed to reach the Kingdom is an overbearing thought for the average person.
HOWEVER! There is hope.
As we investigated in part two, Jesus has fulfilled the Covenants. We are married to Him. We have put on his robe of righteousness and are clothed in his perfection.
And like we found in part three, all of this happened when He died on the cross (perhaps sooner)! The commandments of the Old Testament existed for a time, but that time is past. The ‘laws’ (lowercase ‘L’) were part of a historical and cultural time period. Strict adherence to them are not necessary (although SOME may still be of relevance).
If you don’t believe me then how can we call Jesus a “spotless lamb” or a “sinless sacrifice” when he purposefully and blatantly broke the Old Testament commandments multiple times. He healed on the Sabbath, he ate and drank with sinners, he added to and removed commands from the Torah, he touched a woman while she was menstruating, he disobeyed his mother, he insulted the Jewish leaders, and he refused to stone a prostitute.
All these actions are worthy of condemnation according to the 613 commandments.
In addition to this, I can’t see God requiring in this day and age that a woman who is raped must be married to her rapist, or that if a woman’s husband dies childless that she can only marry his brother. I don’t see God requiring, at ANY time, that people in the Pacific islands be told not to eat shellfish… or pork for that matter. I can’t see God supporting slavery, despite a whole section of mitzvot on its requirements. I don’t see God requiring capital punishment in any instance.
And so often, we as Christians, like to cling to the laws that support OUR agendas, but what of the laws that don’t?
NEVER in recorded history has anyone fully celebrated the Jubilee. Our loans are loaded with interest. We harvest our entire fields (both literally and figuratively). God asks for a 10% tithe and the American Church gave only 2% in 2005; of that 2% only 2% gets outside of our own walls to aid the poor. We constantly serve money and other idols as our masters.
‘laws’ are historical and cultural. The ‘Law’ is what we are eternally saved by. Jesus’ fulfillment of the Covenants brings us into a marriage with him. We are clothed in his righteousness for eternity and from that righteousness we are set free that we might love one another without an agenda.
Lord, help us let go of our obsession with commandments and seek your Covenantal love.