“God’s Law Becomes Flesh in Jesus – Let Us Live as Jesus Lived”
John 1:14 and Matthew 5:17-48
For the past several weeks we have been talking about God’s Law as seen both in The Ten Commandments and in Jesus’ Law of Love: love God and love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself.
The problem with radical obedience to the Mosaic Torah is that we human beings fall short of what God wants for us. Even when we strive to keep the Law of God we fall short of the mark. In Romans 3:23, Paul says it this way: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God
The remarkable thing about God, however, is that even when we fall short of God’s glory, God is not willing to give up on us. Once again in Romans, Paul reminds us in Romans 5:8 that “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!”
In other words, God shows his love for us by sending his only begotten Son Jesus, to live the life that we are unable to live, paying the price for our sin. As Jesus dies upon the cross, his blood covers our sin and we are set free to experience the gift of everlasting life through faith in Jesus Christ.
God loves us enough to become flesh and live among us. John 1:14 says it this way: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
God’s love for us in Jesus is central to the Christian message.
Without Jesus, there is no such thing as Christianity.
Without God’s work in Jesus, one religion is just as good as another.
We human beings continue to reach up to God and find that reach beyond our human strength to accomplish.
When God sends Jesus, God does what we could never do.
God bridges the gap between a holy God and broken creation.
The result is salvation and a new way of living
The question now becomes what do we do with the Law?
In terms of salvation the Law is useless.
The Law saves no one; we are all broken and separated from God because of our sin. But in terms of what God desires for our lives, the Law remains useful, because the Law points beyond ourselves to God. The Law continues to be what God thinks to be best for us as human beings.
In Jesus’ day, many of our Hebrew friends were so tied to the Law that they believed it was possible to please God by keeping the Law. They used their observance of the Law to justify their human actions. The result was that in the early church there was confusion about how God wanted the Church to view the Law.
Jesus spoke to the people about the Law in the Sermon on the Mount.
There are two important things to remember:
- We are not to use the Law to justify ourselves.
- As Jesus reinterprets the Law we are reminded that as followers of Jesus Christ, we are to walk in the new way of Jesus. Only in the power of the Spirit is this possible.
We begin our look at the Law through the eyes of Jesus in Matthew 5:17-48.
Hear the Word of the Lord!
Jesus’ point is that while the Law is not to be used to justify ourselves before God, it is not done away with. God continues to desire that we follow his Word.
Setting up a series of examples that explain why the Law can never be used to justify our faithfulness to God, Jesus interprets the Law in a way that no human being could ever actually measure up to. Yet, our goal remains to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and to live in this new way of love that Jesus teaches us.
Jesus begins with murder. Many of the Jews who were totally committed to the Law of God prided themselves because they had never murdered anyone! Jesus makes them think deeper. For Jesus, murder is not simply about the physical act of killing another human being, but about the heart. Simply calling someone a fool breaks the commandment! Rather than seek to live in the new way of the Spirit, the Jews were all confused. They understood that no one could ever live in this new way of Jesus. Did this mean God is to condemn everyone?
Quickly going to the next commandment Jesus begins to talk about adultery. The Jews of Jesus’ day knew what adultery was and prided themselves that they were not adulterers. Jesus, however, points them to the heart. Even if someone simply looks at someone in a lustful way, the commandment has been broken. Once again they were all in an uproar. If this is the case then who could actually be saved? They knew there were areas of their inner lives that they did not want to talk about. What was Jesus talking about? They didn’t understand what it meant to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now Jesus turns not to one of the Ten Commandments, but to one of their rabbinical laws concerning divorce. It was a concession that many of the rabbis made because many of the Jews had been divorced.
Once again Jesus leaves no way out for them. Living in such a chaste way was so far beyond what they actually could do that it seemed to be hopeless.
On and on Jesus goes. He talks about swearing and tells the people never to swear about anything. Let you ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.”
Then Jesus turns to disagreements between people. He again quotes the OT about “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Many people of Jesus’ day used this saying to get back at those who took advantage of them. Once again Jesus calls them to a new way of living: “When someone asks you to walk a mile with them, walk two miles!” When someone takes a shot at you, rather than strike back, “Turn your cheek!” When someone asks for help, “Help them!” When relating to an enemy, “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.”
The final insult comes in the last verse of the chapter:
“Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect!”
They all knew this was impossible.
What they didn’t understand was that followers of Jesus are to live by the power of the Holy Spirit. Christians put their faith in Jesus, as the Son of God, and begin to live a new kind of life. It is a life filled with love rather than hate, a life dependent upon the power of the Spirit and not on their human ability to keep the Law.
“But to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, to them he gave the power to become the children of God.”
The simple, yet powerful belief in Jesus is what God desires from us.
God will do the rest. To all who receive Jesus, Jesus gives the power to become the children of God! The result is that God’s Spirit is given to each Christian. It is the Spirit of God who leads and guides us into the new way of living that we see in Jesus Christ. This is what God wants from us. God’s Spirit will help us to live in the way of Jesus’ love, even when we fall short of God’s perfect Word.
As Christians we are on a journey of faith. None of us have arrived, yet in Jesus we are already there. Jesus has paid the price for our sin. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are God’s children. Thanks be to God! AMEN!