JESUS DID NOT SAY THAT HE HAD COME TO DO AWAY WITH THE LAW
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, no the last stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear for the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matt 5:17-18)
It all depends, you see, on what Jesus meant by “the Law and the Prophets” and “fulfil”. The Greek-thinking, western-orientated, philosophically-minded thinker (that’s most of us) understand His words differently from a Hebrew-thinker, especially the contemporaries of Jesus. The Law, according to Hebrew understanding, which is what our Bible translators have called the Torah or the first five books of the Bible, is not about commandments like those which are issued by a military commander to his troops, or by the government of a country to its citizens, (and any infringements of these commandments is punishable by appropriate measures).
The Torah was God’s directions for the journey through life which His people were to follow in order for them to reach their appointed destination. In the Torah, God taught them in very practical and detailed terms, how to relate to God, to their fellow Israelites and to the foreigners who chose to live among them. His purpose was to teach them how to live in such a way that the nature of their God would be reflected in their everyday lives as a witness to the surrounding nations that their God was loving but also holy.
God sent His prophets to help them understand the Torah, not as a set of rules and regulations to control their behaviour but as directions for living to guide their hearts. Their kings were supposed to lead the way by living and governing their people according the instructions of God’s Torah. It was also the responsibility of parents to teach their children how to live according to God’s Torah.
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching (torah). They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. (Prov. 1: 8-9)
Unfortunately God’s people both misunderstood His intention and rebelled against His instructions. Instead of understanding His directions in the light of God’s character, their sages hedged the Torah around with hundreds of additions so that, by the time of Jesus, the spirit of God’s Torah was obscured by burdensome rules which were never God’s intention.
“Jesus claimed that His purpose was to “fulfil” Torah. This was the technical term for interpreting the Scripture so that it would be obeyed correctly. To “destroy” Torah was to misinterpret Scripture so that it would not be obeyed as it was intended. This was Jesus’s intention, to interpret and obey Torah correctly as a model for His disciples to follow. By His words and actions He would show them that the right attitude and motives of the heart were as important as the right actions.” (Learning to be a Disciple, Luella Campbell, Partridge Publishing, © 2015, page 54)
“Since Jesus was steeped in the teachings of God as a faithful Jew and a recognised rabbi, His textbook would be the Torah. Instead of simply passing on the opinions and interpretations of the ancient rabbis, preserved in the Talmud, He would teach them His own interpretation of the Torah based on His yoke of mercy and compassion. As a rabbi with s’mikhah, authority, He could permit (loose from restriction) and forbid (bind to a restriction) what His yoke represented, based on its Torah-compliance. (Learning to be a Disciple – page 77)
“What is the relevance for us today? God’s Torah is, in its broadest sense, the expression of His nature. It is timeless and indispensable. It is His way to live in order to arrive at the destination He has set for us. If we support and uphold His teaching by obeying Him, we walk in His way ourselves and we keep the path open and blaze the trail for others to follow.
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil them. (Matt. 5: 17)” (Learning to be a Disciple – page 28)
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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