The Blurred Line – Part 1
“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7
St. Augustine said about the Old and New Testaments, “The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed.” The foundation for the Christian Faith is rooted in the Old Testament. The central figure of the Christian faith, Jesus Christ, is the common thread that runs through every book of the Old and New Testaments.
The tug-a-war between Law and Grace was first set in motion when after his time of testing in the wilderness for 40 days and nights, Jesus came to Nazareth where he was brought up and entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.
Nazareth was where He had grown up and where everyone knew Him just as Joseph the carpenter’s Son. The Scriptures say, it was Jesus’s custom to go to the Synagogue on the Sabbath, and I imagine no one was prepared for the events that would unfold that day.
The passage He read was Isaiah 61. ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” [Isaiah 61:1-3]. Now the custom in that day was to read a passage of Scripture that was predetermined for each Sabbath— particularly prophetic passages that were linked to actual events in the life of the Jewish people, much the same as we do each year reading the Resurrection story on Easter Sunday or the Birth of Christ on Christmas and so forth.
On this particular Sabbath, Jesus began to read the Isaiah passage for that day but He stopped short of completing what was the prescribed portion for that day.
He began with Isaiah 61:1
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord…”
And then He stopped, abruptly in mid-sentence and made a most profound declaration.
“Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ “ Luke 4:20-21
Now, you would think that anyone hearing that Word would have been awed and amazed that they were sitting in the midst of a Man preaching that the Prophetic Words of the prophet were being fulfilled right before their eyes. The most learned among them would have immediately understood that He was saying He was the fulfillment of the coming Messiah. But instead of being awed they were outraged at His audacity and became violently angry with Him and tried to kill Him right then and there by throwing Him off a cliff, but He passed through the crowd of them and went on His way.
The Grace of God was there, speaking to them, but they could only hear the Law demanding His death for claiming to be God.
Jesus abruptly stopped reading the passage in Isaiah 61 at verse 3 because the next words in the passage were not being fulfilled that day. The rest of the sentence reads, “…and the day of vengeance of our God.”
He was not declaring the “day of the vengeance” but He was declaring the “acceptable year of the Lord,” the time of God’s grace for His people. Therefore, He said, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’
There blind adherence to the letter of the Law made them deaf to hear that day that they were being released from the Law of sin and death and were being given the freedom to believe and receive the very salvation they prayed for and hoped to receive for generations — now come to reality in Him, the Son of God.
That same grace extends to this day and is at the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ, the body of believers from every generation.
“(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)” 2 Corinthians 6:2
Now is the time of God’s immeasurable grace, incomprehensible grace. We, in Jesus Christ, are free from rules and regulations, from requirements of sacrifices and rituals, from all that binds us to the Law that we could never completely fulfill. We are free to be human, earthen vessels, but possessors of a treasure so great it cannot be fully comprehended — the Love of God that passes knowledge, the presence of God in us, the hope of Glory!
“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:6-7
But what about the Law? Was it suddenly, on that day no longer in effect? Not at all. Jesus was living and observing all the Law even as He was preaching the time of God’s grace a favor on His people. He still went to the Synagogue on the Sabbath, and when He was no longer welcomed there He taught throughout the region by the seashore, on the hillsides, from house to house and in private and public places wherever people would receive Him. He taught, He healed, He delivered and He raised up life from the dead. He forgave sins and made the lame to walk the blind to see and the death to hear, all while He lived His earthly human life under the authority of The Law.
The “Law” according to the Pharisees, not according to the Spirit of the Law, rejected Jesus’s message of grace and refused to believe it. Moreover, they sought to keep in bondage those who were coming to Jesus for grace, forgiveness and healing.
The “keepers of the Law” were not concerned so much about the preservation of the Law but rather their exercise of control over the people for their own profit and enrichment.
Under the Law they exacted taxes and demanded sacrifices for which the poor were ill equipped to pay. The Grace that Jesus was teaching threatened their fraudulent “livelihood” not withstanding the fact they were breaking the very Laws they were “consecrated” to uphold and minister to the people.
Grace opposes the Law when it is imposed without mercy or compassion. Grace fulfills the Law when the Law is motivated by Love.
More on this tomorrow.