Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Our Passage in Story Form

Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I didn't come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you won’t enter the kingdom of heaven. 
Matthew 5.17-20

In in the last blog posting, I tried to explain our next section by teaching you the words and the basic ideas, but if you’re like me, you learn better with a story.  There is such a story later on in Matthew.  We call it the story of “the rich young ruler,” and here’s that story:

And someone came to him and said,
“Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?”
And he said to him,
“…If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
Then he said to him,
“Which ones?”
And Jesus said,
You shall not commit murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The young man said to him,
“All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?”
Jesus said to him,
“If you wish to be teleios, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you’ll have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 
Matthew 19:16-21

A successful and good young man asks Jesus what to do to have eternal life.  Jesus tells him to obey the law (the rules, the commandments), and when he says he’s done that – Jesus gives him the disciple’s challenge: “give up everything and follow Jesus.”

Do you see what Jesus says?  He doesn't say to do the same rules more strictly, but to go beyond the mere rules – to give up everything.  This is the same challenge Jesus gives to all of his disciples … see the following examples: Matthew 13.44-46; 16.24-27, for instance. 

The next six sections of the SOM finish up chapter five and detail the general principle taught in our current section.  They finish up with Jesus’ command to be “perfect” like God is perfect.  But this is a poor translation of a Greek word: teleios.  This word represents a philosophical idea that is more like being “complete,” “whole” or: “mature.”  Discipleship is really an apprenticeship, in which we grow into masters of our craft.  If you want to grow to the image of Jesus, the journey begins with complete sacrifice and ends when we are teleios – people who are living examples of love.  We disciples who go beyond mere rules, and strive to “the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4.13). 

Let the journey begin! 

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