By Jenna Walmer
“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. For truly I tell you until heaven and earth, disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:17-20
Many people of Jesus’ time considered Jesus to be a lawbreaker. He didn’t observe the Sabbath, he disregarded rules about fasting, and he went against traditions (Stories from Mark emphasize these trademarks). Jesus was a rebel with a cause. He broke the Sabbath so he could heal a sick person or feed a hungry person. He disregarded the typical rules on fasting because it went against his own beliefs. He felt as though there had to be the right purpose to fast; he wasn’t going to fast because everyone else was doing it or to impress others. He lived a life that went against the norm, despite the societal consequences.
So if Jesus was considered a lawbreaker, why was he teaching the crowd about the Law? By the time Jesus was on earth, the Law was not being applied as God intended. The original intent of the law was to help people live in peace with one another and with God. Instead of creating a more loving nature toward God, the Law invoked fear towards Him. Clarence Jordan translated a section of Jesus’ teachings to, “my purpose is not to destroy them but to establish them.” Jesus was trying to explain to the crowd what the purpose of the Law God had created was meant to do originally.
Jesus told the crowd that the original meaning of the Law was to get them to Love the Lord with “all their heart and with all their soul and with all their mind.” According to Clarence Jordan, “the purpose of the Law was not to enslave people but to lead freedom which only love can produce.” Since the people of that time were struggling with sin and hatred toward God, Jesus was teaching them to Love the Lord instead because that would lead them to freedom from their bondage, connection to Christ, and clear minds.
As Jesus declared, he did not abolish the law. He just clarified what still applies and what principles behind the law are important. In the Old Testament, there were different types of laws that people were instructed to follow and Jesus was addressing in his speech about the Law. First, ceremonial laws talked specific trends in worship which do not apply to today. However, the principles such as to worship and loving God are still applicable. Another type of law was civil law, which were the daily living law. Rules set during the time Deuteronomy and other similar books were written are not appropriate to today since the society has changed, however the principles are still the same. Finally, the moral law such as “You shall not murder” should be followed.
The Law is up to great interpretation, and Jesus was even a rule breaker. However, there are some rules, such as not killing people that must be followed. That’s why there was confusion when Jesus was preaching the Sermon on the Mount and he addressed these issues. Jesus concludes by suggesting that our righteousness will only come from what God does within us, being people centered on God, and going past obeying the law to embodying the principles within the law.
Jenna Walmer is from Lancaster County and is currently in 12th grade. In school, she loves to research historical events. If she were to live in a specific time period, she would want to be a hippie and live in the 60s or 70s. Her favorite past times are swimming and playing her trombone. If you want to know more about her random life, follow her on twitter: @jaymarie2100
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