Lent: A time for rearranging my spiritual furniture?  Wednesday, 3rd Week of Lent- Matthew 5: 17- 19

In the 400 years of the absence of prophets in Israel, the Scribes and Pharisees became the interpreters of the law. All Jews were subject to the first five books of the Bible which was commonly called the Torah and also to the Mishna which was a commentary on the Torah and also to the Talmud which was commentary on the Mishna. That’s a lot of interpretation; twisting people in a thousand knots of ‘you can’t do’s.’

Jesus clearly wants us to get back to the truth of God’s law and that’s why through the rest of chapter five he will say six times “you have heard it say…but I say to you.”  He is not only going to expose the selective misinterpretation of the law by the Pharisees but he will challenge his disciples to go beyond it in the way they live it. That’s what it was for Jesus; not something written on stone but a living law.

In contrast, Jesus words were plain and uncomplicated. His actions were liberating and perhaps this got the Pharisees really uptight. And so the whisper campaign began; ‘this man is here to ‘tear apart’ the law and the traditions.’ Jesus, in answering them, clearly states he is not here to abolish or kataluo (tear apart) the law and by assumption, nor is he here to oikodomeo or build any more. He uses the word pleroo, which means to fulfil, as in ‘to complete’

So what does all this mean? Jewish law had three aspects; the Judicial aspect, which comprised of rules and regulations, the moral aspect, which told you how to conduct yourself and finally the sacrificial aspect which governed the worship of God.

So let’s have a look as to how Jesus plans to ‘fulfill the law’. In the ceremonial aspect of the law, the atoning act for sin to be forgiven was the sacrifice of a lamb. This ‘atoning act’ of spilling blood was a way of indicating the seriousness of sin. Sin was considered to be a serious business; serious enough that blood had to be spilt and a life had to be exchanged.  When Jesus says that he has come to complete the law, to fulfill it, he does it by becoming the very sacrifice required for sin to be atoned. 

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