Hi there Azim
Thank you once again for your reply. I must say that you are obviously a very learned scholar. As a Muslim, you seem to know the Bible pretty well. I am learning more about the Qu’ran but I must confess, I do not yet know the Qu’ran as well as you seem to know the Scriptures. I also appreciate your approach to understanding verses of Scripture better within the surrounding context.
Yes, I agree with you concerning the issue of the law. Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 5:17:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
My first question is, why did Jesus not say, “I have come to keep
the law and the Prophets”? Why did He say, “I have come to fulfill
the [law and the Prophets]”? Jesus came to bring people a greater understanding of the law and the Prophets. As a fulfiller of the law and the Prophets, Jesus was going to keep the “skeleton” of the law that was given and was going to “flesh” this skeleton out. There was more the people needed to understand about the law than they understood at the time. How did Jesus “flesh” out or fulfill this law. Lets look at the next several verses of Scripture. In these Jesus and the law deal with the issues of murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, eye for an eye, and hatred of enemies. Jesus’ address of each of these issues begins almost exactly the same:
“You have heard that it was said…but…” (5:22-22; 5:27-28; 5:31-32; 5:33-34; 5:38-39 and 5:43-44).
With each of these laws, Jesus was about to make some “modifications”. Concerning the law, “You shall not murder”, Jesus pointed out that anger and despisement of other people was as bad as murder. How could this be? GOD looked at the heart of people. Maybe they did not murder someone physically, but harbored hatred in their hearts toward people; they spread false rumors about people. They may not have murdered the body, but they did a good job of killing reputation and personality. Yes, the law was important but there was more to life than this law.
Concerning the law, “Do not commit adultery”, Jesus pointed out that looking at a woman lustfully was adultery. People may not commit adultery physically—what the law addressed, but many people, particularly men, look at woman and dwell on sex with those women. In GOD’s eyes, this is adultery. GOD’s standard on the law is perfection in every way—He is the Perfect Creator.
Concerning the law of divorce, Jesus pointed out that there was no valid reason for divorce other than marital infidelity. Once again, men were obviously abusive to their wives and very self-centered about their lives. The wives were there to meet them at their point of need, and if the wives failed, they divorced their wives. Yes, on valid grounds for divorce, the law of issuing a certificate needed to be kept. But there was a whole lot more to this issue of divorce than this simple law addressed.
Concerning the law of oaths, Jesus pointed out that real truth was more important than an oath. It’s easy to make promises and then break them. If a promise is not truly made from the heart, it will be broken. A yes or a no made from the heart will be kept—no promises needed. People tried promoting themselves through oaths and promises that were as shallow as an empty pond.
Concerning the law of an “eye for an eye”, Jesus points out something that almost seems contradictory. He says, “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (5:39). This law of an “eye for an eye” is seen in the Torah—Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21. Law was introduced to make people aware of sin. It was also used to try and “balance” people out. Under this law, people could seek revenge for any little reason—to the point of making the law null and void. Yes, people must pay the price for their sin. However, Jesus tries pointing out to people that there is much more to life than retribution; there is more freedom found outside of retribution. Feeling like you need to pay back people for what they have done can become a huge burden to carry. If I may say as well, that Jesus asked His Father to forgive the people who crucified Him. He could have asked His Father to send them to hell, but he did not. Jesus did not pay back an eye for an eye.
Concerning the law of loving neighbors and hating enemies, Jesus points out once again the reality of the burden this law can become to people. Yes, we have every right to hate people who hate us. But, as Jesus says, even sinful people love one another and hate their enemies. Truly righteous people are different. True righteousness loves the enemy and prays sincerely for the persecuter.
Jesus concludes this whole issue of the Law and the Prophets in 5:48 by saying:
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
In conclusion, I think it’s important to realize that there is more to life than simple laws. Anybody can fulfill these laws. But can anybody fulfill them in the way Jesus explained them and way Jesus fulfilled them? Can we be truly perfect? Do we not all, at some point or another, fail to fulfill these laws in the way Jesus has fulfilled them? Why would His standard be that of perfection?
Thank you for taking time to read through this. It realize it is quite long.
Peace be upon you