There are two types of leaders that really bother me. One has all the authority they need, but refuses to use it. The other is someone with no authority, who thinks he has it anyway. Both usually result in a train wreck. Jesus Christ was neither of those. He had full authority from the Father, and used it perfectly! This astonished those who heard Him teach.

And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7:28, 29 NKJV)

Does this just mean that He was assertive in His tone, or pontificated with skill? No, I believe it goes deeper than that. The previous verses come at the end of the “Sermon on the Mount” recorded in Matthew chapters 5 – 7. And unlike the scribes, who would just read the Law, Jesus was actually expanding upon it! Let me show you what I mean by that.

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17)

The word translated fulfill there is the Greek word pleroo (play-ro-o) which includes the concept of completing or filling up. What kind of man would dare to say that he was coming to complete that which had been handed down in fire, earthquake and smoke at Mt Sinai? Only God could do such a thing! This begins the anger in the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees that will one day lead to His crucifixion. They never dispute Jesus’ miracles, and never try to. This assertion of power equal to that of God was enough to incite hatred in their hearts and charges of blasphemy.

Jesus fills out, or completes, the law in a series of “you have heard” and then “but I say” statements. These serve to bring the Law from the outside (mere physical performance) to the inside ( the condition of our hearts). Appropriately, Jesus starts with the Ten Commandments. He takes the commandment on murder and fulfills, or completes it.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:21, 22)

Next, Jesus fulfills/completes the commandment regarding adultery by making it a heart issue first and foremost.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27, 28)

Then we come to bearing false witness. Jesus fulfills/completes the commandment by saying not to swear by anything, but to let your answers stand on there own veracity.

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37)

In dealing with our enemies, Jesus again takes us to the heart of the matter.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. ..
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (Matthew 5:38, 39, 43, 44)

But why do this at all? Why not just say that He was coming to replace the Law with a new one? Because we need the Law to demonstrate to ourselves that we are lawbreakers, already sentence to eternal death by a just God. Without that, the Gospel will be an abstract concept, and not the truly “Good News” that it is. We need the Law to show us our need of a savior and to take us to the cross to find Him.

But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:22-24 KJV)

The Law gets us to the cross, where grace takes over and leads us to God by faith. We don’t abandon obedience to the commands of God, but are rather changed from the inside out. On the inside, we are justified by faith, and on the outside, we are clothed with Christ at baptism for all the world to see. Just like putting clean clothes on someone covered in mud doesn’t make the person clean, we clean up the inside by justification (Romans 5:1) and only then have them put on Christ in baptism for all to see (Galatians 3:27). Christ is put in before He is put on!

But again, we must begin with the Law, and the realization of the just penalty for sin. Only then can, or will we want to, go to the cross for payment of our due penalty. Then, and only then, are we reconciled to God.

For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach- (Colossians 1:19-22 NASB)

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