…27 God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. 28‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’29 Therefore, being offspring of God, we should not think that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by man’s skill and imagination
…6 If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are gathered up, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, proving yourselves to be My disciples.
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me…
…2For we also received the good news, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, since they did not share the faith of those who comprehended it. 3Now we who have believed enter that rest. As for the others, it is just as God has said: “So I swore on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter My rest.’” And yet His works have been finished since the foundation of the world.
Did Jesus not abolish the Law?
So, what Jesus came to do?
-I- Jesus came to do away with some of the ceremonial laws
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.
-II- Jesus came to Redefine and Explain Other Ceremonial Laws
1-So, He set out explaining the meaning of the temple and its use, showing that He was the temple (the analogical allegory of building the temple in three days.) Based on Jesus’s teaching, St Paul then said in Acts 7 “47 But Solomon built Him a house. 48 “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:49 ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest? 50 Has My hand not made all these things?’”
c- Jesus advocated giving to the temple in Mark 12:41
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
However, we find Jesus redefining the holiness of giving (tithing) and explaining it in Mark 7:11“11 But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, 13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
Matthew 15:2 “2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” 3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— 6 then he need not honour his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth and honour Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
He also said about the religious leaders: Matthew 23:27-28 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
So, Jesus was not abolishing these laws, but redefining them, explaining them and demonstrating the reasons behind giving them to humanity from the first place.
-III- Jesus came to Redefine and Explain Some Moral Laws
* Adultery: It may seem that in this chapter, Jesus was relaxing the law about sexual sin. But in fact, He was tackling the issue of fairness in applying the law.
John 8:1-11 “8 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him, and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. 7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
In these verses, Jesus is saying that if you wish to apply the law, then apply it fairly, don’t just ‘pick and choose’. If you are all sinners and you recognise the sin of lust in yourselves, then don’t pick on this particular sinner because she is defenceless.
In the Beatitudes, however (Matthew 5), Jesus redefines the sexual sin to render it a spiritual issue from the first place. He said we are spiritual beings and so we first sin in the heart. So, whoever sinned in the heart is equally a sinner. Then He goes ahead to highlight and stress on the punishment for this sin saying: “29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right-hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”
Matthew 5 is a chapter where the law has been magnified; it is taken to another level. Suddenly, divorce that used to be settled through a certificate is now considered to be a reason for adultery, oaths that used to be taken in the condition that one is able to keep them are now forbidden, dreaming of killing someone as a result of anger becomes equated with killing the person, the retaliation law is abolished and we are now expected to forgive unconditionally and love our worse enemies. This is the law of Christ which is also the law of the Cross. We cannot claim to be abiding in him without respecting these laws, without finding them great and glorious, and without trying sincerely to adhere to them.
IV- Jesus Came to Include us; the Gentiles, into the Kingdom of God
We may like to think that including the Gentiles in the Kingdom of God is an easy matter. Some even like to think that God must feel content because we finally believed in him. This probably was my own hidden belief a long time ago! As for Jesus, we were told times and times again that He is the reflection of God.
It is true that Jesus Christ is the reflection of God in the physical realm and so we are sometimes led to think that if He is One with God, then let’s just fellowship with God directly. I mean, Jesus Christ and God are One, right? So, why adding the name Jesus to the equation? Why not fellowship with God directly?
In reality, Yahweh was never interested in including the Gentiles. Not at the beginning anyway. If He were, He would have sent us prophets a long time ago, but He didn’t. Then when He decided to include us, that was when He was preparing for the great sacrifice of all.
Our God called only one man out of the whole wide world. That was Abraham. And even though He was the only pleasing man God could find, Abraham was required to circumcise himself at his old age! Then He was called to give his own son from his beloved Sarah as a sacrifice for God!!! So, God chose Abraham and Sarah to provide him with the perfect family that will be fit to carry his law and become his own bride and vineyard. Israel then grew to be God’s family that sprung from an obedient, good seed which God planted in his holy land. Yet, He spent generation after generation tearing more than pruning and destroying more than building. So, if this is how God looked upon his own vineyard that came from his own chosen seed, how would we expect Him to look upon those children He did not birth, and those trees He did not plant?
We were to him but dirt and our righteousness but filthy rags. However, since He is kind and just, when the appointed time came, He sent us a mediator and a cloak, to hide our filth away and save us. This mediator is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Since our God cannot look upon us and answer our prayer in order for us to heal and depart from our sins, He sent us Jesus Christ as an advocate. Now, we can bow our heads and pray in confidence and our prayers can and are answered.
If you are already a Christian, think about the time you prayed, never imagining in a million years that your prayer would be heard, but you were in for a surprise. Think about how many battles did you fight, invoking the name of Jesus, and emerging victorious. Then, ponder over your life before Jesus, or before your faith in Jesus as the mediator was strengthened. Did you ever have a one to one conversation with God where you tried to ask questions or plead your case when you were in trouble? Personally, when I bypassed the Cross, the only answer God gave me was in the form of a question. “Are you prepared to be crucified for me?” He asked.
If asked such a question, most people would run away like I did, or Peter did before the Resurrection. Other more mature Christians may say “Yes Father, but only if persecution took me by surprise.” But who would live his or her life waiting for the death sentence, day by day, while they have all the freedom of the world to avoid it? Only Jesus Christ would and did.
Jesus was the perfect son of man who has never hesitated to surrender his body to the Cross. And why was that? Because He was chosen before his birth to be the saviour of the World. So, Jesus was prepared and strengthened to make it possible for him even to envisage laying his life down for his friends (us). But this does not make it any less agonising to know that his life was going to be taken away from him in the most brutal way.
You see, when Satan wants to attack us, He doesn’t try to attack our relationship with God. As Christians, we are mostly attacked in our relationship with our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, because He is our sword with which we can fight the power of darkness. He is God’s right-arm that picks us when we are drowning. He is the light to our feet when we’re crossing the valley of the shadow of death. He is our only hope and without Him, we have no peace or hope for salvation whether in this world or in the after.
So, because we have this hope and this confidence that we can pray and be heard, and that we can ask and be answered, let’s not waste time asking for what is hurtful to him and what can take us further away from him. Let’s ask for what really matters while He can still be found. Let us ask to be freed from our sin, to be released from our bondage and to break free from our chains. Let us ask daily, or hourly or whatever it takes, for the seeds of UNrighteousness to be taken away from our souls, and for the seeds of Righteousness to be planted within our hearts and blessed. Let us ask for the greatest gift of all, which is a renewed wineskin. And finally, let us busy ourselves with making a fitting garment for the wedding feast so that when we are in the Wedding, and the King enters the Wedding Hall, He will not be surprised by our filthy rags and order the servants to bind us hand and foot and cast us into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.