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The Teachings of Jesus:number 5 - the Law

B.A, B.Ed., MA in Counselling, Theology and Education. Lives in South Africa with an interest in life.


What was Jesus going to say about the Law?

Teaching of Jesus –Sermon on the Mount Number 5 –Jesus and the Law.

One of the vital questions that must have been in the minds of those who heard the dramatic teaching of Jesus was; “What about the Law?” After all that was what the religious leaders of his time concentrated on. They had interpreted the Law to the smallest detail and stated exactly how it was to be applied to every possible scenario in their lives. This had become ridiculous to the extreme, and so the people had to be more careful about avoiding breaking the rules and regulations that had been introduced over the years than living out what the Law actually intended to achieve.

So Jesus answers this question with some important statements. “Do not think I have come to destroy the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil.” (Matthew 5:17 NKJV used with permission) Yet is becomes obvious in the way that Jesus and his followers treated the minute interpretations of the law that he was not referring to ther interpretation of the law as laid out by the scribes and the Levites. Rather Jesus is referring to the essence of the Law and what God had intended to achieve with it. Later Matthew is to record in 15:7-9; “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying; ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

So into this world, where a huge amount of rules and regulations had been introduced, Jesus brought a much more simple message, but also a much more demanding one. His statement in 5:20 is recorded by Matthew as saying: “For I say unto you that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Following Jesus was so much more that keeping to a list of rules and regulations. It is changing your heart and your mind to love God completely!

In Luke 10 the Gospel writer records the parable of the Good Samaritan. Here Jesus teaches this parable in response to the question by a lawyer; ”Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied with a question; “ What is written in the law?” So the answer comes that you must love the Lord your God withal your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself. (Luke 10:27) This illustrated clearly that the only way you can love your God is by loving your neighbour. God lives in another world, but in your world it is your neighbour who needs to be the one who receives your love. In the parable of the Good Samaritan that follows this statement by Jesus it is the much hated Samaritan who stops to administer help to the robbed and beaten traveler, while the priest and Levite walk by, to possible rush to perform their ritualistic worship, or draw up their lists of regulations.

As Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount is that what is really important is the condition of his followers hearts and minds. The Law says don’t murder, but Jesus says don’t hate. The Law says don’t commit adultery but Jesus says don’t look at someone with lust in your heart. The Law requires compliance with its rules and regulations but Jesus requires a new heart filled with love that will eliminate the possibility of those negative actions from finding a place to even develop.

This was the intention of the law, but the religious leaders over the years, and even today, have substituted the real heart changing power of the Gospel with a poor substitute; a set of rules and regulations. Paul later describes our responsibility as followers of Christ as needing to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, and he calls this our “acceptable service”. (Romans 12:1)

No wonder many of those who heard the teaching of Jesus turned away because they found them too hard to follow as John recorded in John 6:66. It is much easier to try and keep to a set of rules and regulation that change a heart. The rich young ruler who came to Jesus had kept the law all his life but when the call came to follow Jesus by giving up his riches that was a step too far for him to take. The Samaritan proved to be a neighbour to the person who needed his help and stands as an example to all of us in every age.

Jesus not only taught about the love that God requires but illustrated it personally by his self sacrifice on the cross to deliver the great gift of salvation


Bible Reference: NKJV Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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