Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Life and Teachings of Jesus

"I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." John 10:10
Throughout the life of Christ we see a wide variety of teachings that for the most part countered the sentiments and standards that were previously in place. But his actions did not negate the old testament but rather fulfilled them. I commonly come across men and women who in justifying their reasons for why something took place in the Old Testament they say in a somewhat deragatory manner "...yeah but that was the Old Testament". I fear that we may find ourselves in danger of misunderstanding the Law, the prophets, and the entire purpose of the old laws.
The summation of the Old Testament and Gods law is found in Christ's words to a local lawyer who had entreated Jesus to provide the law which was the greatest and foremost. "Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” So Christ establishes a Chief law the supercedes all other lawful words expressed in the Old Testament. This is the greatest diliemma presented from the Pharisees.
The Pharisees were a devoutly religious people. The were not the "Religious Leaders" (i.e. Chief priests, high priests etc... these were wealthy men, put in place to rule, but maintained very little piety. Generally speaking they had purchased their positions or inherited them. These men tended to be syncretists of the culture abstaining from very little. They were not admired for their religious behaviors), nor were they the Sadduccees (a syncretist strand of believers who denied of forms of Supernatural belief: including the ressurection, the miracles, they too were not admired but the public for their religious order). They were a group of men, many of which were Scribes, (lawyers, legal documentors) who had not pursued their positions for anything other than devotion. To put it another way, they had abandoned and sacrificed much of life simply for love of the game. They recieved no pay for what they were doing, simply the compensation that they were maintaining the Law. This lack of material gain likely only further increased the elitist feelings towards everyone around them who had failed to do this. They were men who maintained not only the Teachings of the OT, but added further instruction to God's word that would allow one to maintain even a more holy standard of life.
These included the idea that it is not lawful to even spit on the ground on the sabbath, (because such an action would when the saliva mixed with the dirt below produce mortar and leave you guilty of "construction" on the holy day) or that a tailor should be careful to insert the needle into a item of clothing they were making well before the sun fell on friday (the jewish sabbath began on friday night at sundown and ended saturday at sundown.) because if you had left the needle out you would have to insert it back into the clothes and thus would be guilty of sewing on the sabbath.
With this in mind it is easy to understand how the Disciples walking through the grainfields on a sabbath caught quite a bit of flack for plucking a couple of heads of wheat and snacking on the way home. Jesus defense of his disciples actions teaches yet again that these men had a improper understanding of the Law and its purpose. The law was meant to lead one to life not bondage. This was not something new, but he reminds them of David and his men eating the bread in the Temple that was reserved for only the priests. His refining of their misunderstanding of the laws is seen clearly throughout the rest of his teachings in the gospels.
Jesus makes it clear that it was not enough to simply to the right thing, but he fulfills the law requiring that one must further do the right thing for the right reason. All of his teachings seem to go beyond the criteria previously thought was neccessary. His rebuke that it is not enough to not commit adulterly but one must be careful to not commit adultery with his eyes. Jesus standards raise the bar again. For example the Jewish practices of the day were at least above those of the pagans of the day (i.e. Tooth for a tooth= Jewish law, tooth for a broken jaw could equal the pagan standard, but Jesus simply declares that his followers are to turn the cheek and give to any who ask of you.) He completely deconstructs the moral paradigm of the culture and and recreates one that instructs us that it is not enough to maintain the letter of the law and forsake the principle of it. Almost every teaching he gives in his Sermon on the mount declares a greater standard. In this way he fulfills the law, reminding the people of Israel that if one maintains the minimum of the law and does so simply for the purpose of producing a self-reliant salvation he decieves himself. Their are principles behind the laws of Old and they all culminate equisitely in this "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind."
 

I love Marks depiction of the Rich Young Ruler. This man comes to Jesus and proudly proclaims he devoted attention to the law his has upheld from his youth. And in hearing this Mark says Jesus "looking at him, loved him", he then asked him to sell everything he had. And to remove the god of money from his life. But it wasn't for any reason other than love, he simply wanted to rescue him from his bondage to things and self-sufficiency. I can imagine the same eyes that looked penetratingly at this man in love, also released sorrow in watching this man walk away disappointed.


Father give me discernment to excavate the depths of my heart and remove the areas where I have gone astray and turned to my own way while upholding the letter not the principle. May your name be given glory, allow us to be a people who loves you selflessly. You are better than life...

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