THERE'S A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN
Movies about the Wild West often feature a new sheriff or Law man who comes to restore order and justice to the unruly town. Jesus entered the domain of Judaism where a group of townsmen called Pharisees had established their own style of justice and oppression.
If we are to make sense of Christian thought, we need to go back to our Teacher. Jesus was politically incorrect for much of the surrounding religion and culture.
The Pharisees accused him of being a lawbreaker and son of the Devil. At the same time, Jesus called people to live by a higher standard than the politically acceptable observance of Jewish law. Let us explore Jesus’ teaching about the Law of God.
Israel lived in a paradigm of thought based on their Scriptures. The Mosaic Law contained in the first five books of the Bible gave them rules to live by. The prophets gave them corrective motivation and insight into God’s demand on their obedience to the Law.
The ministry of John the Baptist brought a final expression to the Law of God. He called people to repentance and right relationship with God. But the mustard seed of John’s message was now being put in the ground and growing into a new tree called ‘The Kingdom of God’.
Jesus stands up and proclaims something higher than the Law. He calls it ‘The Kingdom of God’. It is His central message and it extends beyond the mindset of Judaism.
Those who enter the Kingdom are ‘forcing their way into it’. This is not a self-seeking, power grab spoken of here. The idea of violence and force speaks to the upheaval of a paradigm shift. The Kingdom of God is being seized and grasped by people who are desperate for something better.
To a Jew, what was better than the Law? It was an offensive suggestion that anything could be holier than God’s past message. Jesus is not calling for an overthrow of the Law, but a fulfillment of it.
Contrary to the fans and critics of Jesus, He was not abolishing the Law. It would be easier to destroy the Universe than to ‘unsay’ what God had proclaimed.
To the serious followers of the Law, Jesus is challenging their ability to obey it. Not only were people missing the point of God’s decrees and policies, they had tripled the load of law-keeping for their followers. Too much commentary without enough listening—they were playing the game of cosmic telephone. As God’s Law was passing from one to the next, it was being diluted and polluted beyond recognition. Jesus announces the Kingdom of God where everyone must learn to listen to God again.
To the ones who saw Jesus as a rebel overthrowing the Establishment, He offers a disappointing message. God’s Law was not going away. Entering the Kingdom of God would hurt intensely. The archaic and threatening Law of God would no longer be the property of lawyers and religious cops. It would become a living message written on the hearts of people.
Jesus would teach a new understanding of Law that you couldn’t bluff your way through. Conformity to Jewish culture would now become a complete invasion of your private world. The Kingdom of God will demand a violent interruption into ‘business as usual’.