Jesus And The Law
During the course of Jesus’ ministry, he is consistently criticized for not following the Law or the rules of the people of Israel. It shows up time and time again. The Pharisees and other teachers of the Law want to know why Jesus does what he does.
And this is a question, of course, related to the question of authority that we discussed last week, but it is also more than that. Because remember, the Jewish people, especially the Pharisees believed that if they kept the Law perfectly, then God’s kingdom would come–they would be restored as a people and as a nation. Rome would be overthrown and the true king of Israel would come forth again.
So, this is not just a question about where Jesus’ authority comes from. This is a question about why Jesus is trying to thwart God. The Law gives the clear guidelines or directives for God’s will to thrive, and from the perspective of the religious leaders, Jesus is standing in the way.
And so, we come to a scene like the one found in Mark 7, and we have these two groups that seem to be standing opposed to one another: the religious leaders (and presumably God on their side), and Jesus and his followers (who truly have God with them). And the legal experts ask Jesus why he and the disciples do not keep the cleanliness regulations that have been passed down generation after generation. And Jesus has a great response. He says, “this people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (quoting the prophet, Isaiah).
Jesus’ whole point in having this discussion is to try to reorient them to a truth about life and spirituality. Spirituality is not just a series of laws or rules that you follow. Spirituality, being one with God’s Spirit specifically, is something that comes from an entire life change. It is not only about what you do, but also about the way that you do those things. It isn’t just about making sure that you get the motions down, it is about understanding the motions and living with the heart of what the motions are trying to accomplish.
Jesus is clear just a few verses later: “Nothing from the outside that enters a person has the power to contaminate…It’s what comes out of a person that contaminates someone in God’s sight.”
Jesus desires that we follow God and God’s instructions–not blindly but because we have taken them into our hearts and because they have become a part of who we are. We are not ruled by our selfish desires or sinfulness. Instead, we become participants in the Kingdom of God–a Kingdom that is meek and humble. That hungers and thirsts for righteousness. That mourns with those who mourn and is compassionate with those who are hurting. That makes peace rather than demanding from someone else. That is joyful, kind, and loving. Pure. Merciful. Faithful.
This week, may that be our desire. May we be a people who are ruled not by rules, but by God’s heart and God’s Spirit.