The Teachings of Jesus, Part 3 – SPIRIT

Over the past few years of MLB action, a debate has emerged over the use of video replay when a runner slides into a base. While most anyone is fine with reviewing whether or not the runner reached the base before a tag, some take issue with also examining the effect physics had on the impact of the slide. Sometimes a player beats the tag, but the force of hitting the base raises him off the bag a fraction of an inch for a fraction of a second. The HD cameras can pick up on microscopic space between the runner and the bag that no human umpire’s eye ever could.

Commentators debate the “spirit of the rule” when a runner beats the tag but is called out by this millimeter of separation that only an HD review can detect. That’s not what the review is intended for; that’s not the spirit of the rule.

As I continue the walkthrough Jesus’ Sermon On the Mount, the concise summary of His lifestyle, Jesus is going to take a moment to frame His approach to the ancient rules and traditions of His Jewish faith. He seems to be warning against our human inclinations to miss the point of any given rule while trying to figure out what we can and cannot get away with.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The Jews called their scriptures “the Law and the Prophets”. The Law was the Jewish code of conduct revealed in the Bible; most notably the Ten Commandments. There was the rule, then the subjective interpretations of the rule. Each teacher would have his or her unique interpretation of the rules. They would assert that their interpretations “fulfilled” the Law. If they disagreed with another’s viewpoint, they would criticize by saying, “You abolish the Law and the Prophets!”

This is why Jesus begins His interpretations with the disclaimer, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

By claiming He was about to “fulfill the Law”, He’s telling His listeners in language they were very familiar with that He was going to give them His set of interpretations. 

Then, in verse 20, Jesus gives a summary statement that opens up a general guideline for God’s way of life. He says essentially unless our righteousness surpasses the religious leaders of His day, we would miss the point of the Bible entirely. Much of the gospel stories of Jesus interacting with these leaders were meant to illustrate this tension.

Jesus was once asked what the most important rule was. He said we should love God with everything we have and love others as well. He said all the Bible is summed up with those two practices. In other words, the spirit of everything written in scripture has to do with loving God and loving people.

Many religious environments set up hoops for people to jump through just for the sake of proving something or earning something. The clergy in Jesus’ day were notorious for putting rules above people. They used and abused people in the name of their religion. They looked for technicalities and ways around God’s boundaries because they didn’t really care about people. Many of their rules had nothing to do with love, they just created misery. They missed the spirit of the scriptures.

Interestingly, Jesus’ interpretations were actually more strict than the leaders of His day. This is because the boundaries Jesus cared about were those that affected people. Jesus wanted us to make maximum effort in loving and helping people. Jesus’ teachings center around things that matter, not in a meaningless theater. He was strict in how we were to treat people and completely unconcerned with meaningless rituals.

If you are ready to start living the life you were created for, a life of meaning and fulfillment, walk away from all the stale emptiness of religion and immerse yourself in the teachings of Jesus! With my next post, we’ll launch into the principles Jesus calls us to live out. These are practices that make life worth living because they align with the spirit of the scriptures. Jesus gives us real wisdom through which we can best show love to God and to others! … Clarity In The Chaos!

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