Although Jesus often ministered despair and hopelessness by elevating the Mosaic law, there were times when He would provide samples of the approaching New Covenant. Even though the "New" would not be in effect until after His death, we see examples of the gospel being served, such as the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. The purpose of the old commandments was to minister condemnation and death. This woman received a taste of unconditional love mixed with mercy and grace, while her accusers walked away speechless.
Many Christians will look at the teachings of Jesus as though He were speaking directly to believers of today, when much of the time He was speaking to Jews under the law. By looking through the lens of the Old Covenant, we can begin to see quite often where Jesus said some things that were never meant to be a life application for us in the New Covenant. In fact, we'll discover Jesus was attempting to show His Jewish followers how they simply could not live up to the requirements that it would take to truly be His disciple and inherit eternal life. One of these examples is when Jesus referred to them carrying their own cross. It has become a modern-day religious talking point, but it's clear Jesus never meant for us to carry our own cross when He said, "Whoever tries to save their life will lose it."
What inspired the story of The Good Samaritan? A lawyer was testing Jesus with a question about the law that came through Moses. The Scripture states he was trying to do what other Jews did under the law — they attempted to justify themselves. In order to truly justify himself, the lawyer was told to do according to what the law says. The problem with this? Nobody had ever done it before. While the world has encouraged us to be the good Samaritan, Jesus is actually the one represented by this person in the parable.
This week we provide a perspective on the story of The Rich Young Ruler. He asked Jesus what he needed to do to have eternal life. Interestingly, Jesus did not say what we Christians might have expected — He did not say, "believe in me." He answered the law-based question with a law-based answer by telling the young man to obey the commandments from the Mosaic law. Why? Jesus was trying to show him the impossible standard of perfection the law demanded without any provision to be able to accomplish it. Have you ever walked out of church feeling worse than when you went in? It was probably for the same reason as the young ruler... The good news was missing.
It is a dangerous doctrine to assume Jesus was usually ministering a message directed at future believers who would be under the New Covenant. Jesus came to proclaim a message for Israelites first, not to those of us who were born as (non-Jewish) Gentiles. He was born under the law to redeem those who were under the law. Righteousness was never meant to be attained by the commandments, but to be received freely as an heir. On this week's podcast, we look at a few more instances of Jesus ministering to these people who were under the first covenant.
In part 10 of our series, we take a look at something Jesus stated about forgiveness. He said people should pray they will be forgiven as they forgive others. After the prayer, Jesus said they would be forgiven for sins based upon the condition that they forgive others for their sins. This was not good news to the Jews who were listening because it was based upon their ability instead of the gift of righteousness that would come through Christ. Jesus went on to tell them about something they were ignorant about — God's righteousness. They should begin to seek this instead of trying to establish their own righteousness through the works of the law. As believers, we no longer seek this gift because we have already become His righteousness.
Jesus showed His disciples what the bottom line required when it came to trying to acquire righteousness through their works: It would demand that they be perfect. With this standard being taught, we can begin to see why many stopped following Jesus. They weren't rejecting a Christian message, but they came to realize their inability to meet the standard of perfection the law required in those commandments. Jesus did not always minister the good news gospel to His Jewish audience, but there was a purpose as to why He did this.
As Jesus continues ministering the law to His Jewish disciples during the Sermon on the Mount, we find some peculiar statements that seemed to make keeping the law something that was impossible. People often wonder just exactly what Jesus meant by cutting off body parts in order to avoid sin. It's not rocket science. Jesus meant what he said as He ministered the Old Covenant law in order to help them realize the hopeless position they were under at that time.
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had a purpose of revealing to His disciples what the law truly required in order to attain righteousness. He was ultimately teaching that it would be futile for them to maintain the standard it demanded in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Religion will try to make this out to be a new Christian teaching that Jesus was laying before His Jewish audience, but what He was actually laying down was the law. Jesus would begin to show they needed to find a different way other than through the works of that law.
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was having an Old Covenant conversation with Israelites. They had been considered the salt of the earth. Those under that first covenant understood the connection between salt and the covenant, also known as the covenant of salt. In that former covenant, God found fault with the salt (the people) and salt with no flavor is good for nothing except to be thrown out. If this doesn't sound like good news, it's because it is not the gospel. By God's grace, it would be the covenant that would be tossed out instead of the people. Jesus went on to talk about the law needing to be fulfilled. He would accomplish this in us through His finished work, but first He is getting ready to show his Jewish audience how hopeless their situation was in their current state under that law.