Summary: We cannot enter the kingdom of heaven through religious observance, but we can through knowing Christ!
Jesus’ view of scripture:
Jesus was often accused of breaking the Sabbath day (Mt 12:1-2). Jesus’ disciples were accused of not following tradition (Mt 15:2), and Jesus himself was accused of blasphemy. Much more than just eyebrows were raised when Jesus entered the temple at Jerusalem, as he drove out the money changers and turned over their tables & benches (Mt 21:12-13).
It seems that Jesus was well aware that he would be accused of trying to abolish, or overthrow the Law, or to change the teachings of the Biblical prophets. Jesus knew that his teachings and his actions would challenge the status quo. Jesus’ own relationship with God would upset and offend many religious people; but we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that crowds of people flocked to hear him speak. Large numbers of people were brought to him so that they could be healed (Mt 4:24), because Jesus was authentic!
Jesus was the real thing! What follows is not an advert! However, for me, Coca Cola truly is the real thing. I know that too much of it will rot my teeth, but Coca Cola is the real thing. Diet Coke on the other hand, and especially Diet Coke caffeine free or Diet Coke with a twist of lemon is something very odd. As far as I’m concerned they are not Coca Cola! Jesus was the real thing. His deeds and his words matched up, and this short Bible passage makes it very clear that Jesus had a very high view of Jewish scripture, our Old Testament. Jesus believed and applied the teachings of the law and the prophets. For example, he honoured his father and mother. He resisted temptation. He observed the Passover, and he submitted to the will of God.
(Mt 5:17-18) Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish [the Law or the Prophets] but to fulfil them.” Jesus not only believed the Bible, he applied it; and he also fulfilled it, because the Old Testament points to him.
Jesus trusted the Bible. Sadly, I hear too many people, Christians included, who have lost their nerve concerning the reliability of the Bible. My challenge to such a view is simply this: If Jesus held a very high view of scripture, and if Jesus himself trusted it, what should our response be?
Where do we go to, to discover God’s plans for the world, and God’s plans for our lives? True, he sometimes gives us special guidance when he answers prayer through his Holy Spirit, but the Bible contains enough for us to know God’s plans and intentions. For example, Jesus later pointed out that the [Bishops, Vicars, Curates and Bible believers] of his day had become excellent at obeying the ‘law’, but they had neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness (Mt 23:23).
Is that true of us? Observing a small detail of religious practice, but neglecting justice, mercy & faithfulness.
Jesus’ attitude towards ‘Right and wrong’:
We live in an age when many people think it is only fair to approach matters of right and wrong like this: “What’s right for you is not necessarily right for me. If it is right for you and it works then that’s great for you, but if it doesn’t work for me then it’s not right for me.” This leads to statements such as this: “There are no absolutes”; in other words many people suggest that we must now accept that nothing is either absolutely wrong or absolutely right. Everything is subject to opinion and belief; and this is often what now happens with the Bible, for example:
“Yes, I like that bit of the Bible so I think it’s true for me, and it’s probably true for lots of other people as well …No, I don’t like that bit, and there’s no way it can make sense, so that bit’s just plain wrong, for me and for everyone else too.”
Jesus was clear about matters of right and wrong, and his teaching made people sit up and listen.
Jesus did not just uphold the law and the prophets, he enhanced many commandments; and he did this in order to get people thinking about the heart of the matter. Jesus wanted to move attention away from simply external behaviour, and turn attention to internal attitudes, thoughts and motives. He did this because we cannot base our faith in Jesus upon what we do. Jesus is interested in our emotions and our motivations. That is the heart of the matter. Jesus wants changed hearts, not just outward behaviour.
During May we will study Jesus’ teachings concerning murder, adultery, divorce, revenge, loving our enemies & giving to the needy. Jesus didn’t just say, “Do this, do that” or “Don’t do this, don’t do that.” No, Jesus addresses heartfelt reasons and motives, and the Good News is that Jesus can redirect our motives so that they fall in line with his! He will develop love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in us.