Reflections for the Week of Sunday, October 7, 2018 Twentieth after Pentecost

Gospel: Mark  10.2-16. Jesus says that in marriage man and wife become one flesh and marriage cannot be dissolved. He is disagreeing with the Mosaic law which permitted divorce, and is  saying that His interpretation is the correct one. Jesus says people must receive the Kingdom of God as a child or they cannot enter. This probably means trustingly and innocently. Jesus goes behind the Mosaic law to the creation in Genesis (2.24) to answer the Pharisees’ question showing that it is not God’s purpose for His people to divorce. Jesus is asserting authority over the law, which only God can do.

The Mosaic law was given some four hundred and thirty years after God’s covenant with Abraham  as Paul says in Gal 3.17, 3.23-4.7. The Mosaic law, as a set of external rules including the ten commandments, was a temporary expedient  until faith came (i.e., until Christ). The Mosaic law, including circumcision, the dietary laws and the purity laws, played an important role in attempting to segregate Israel from her pagan neighbors once Israel entered the Promised Land. It was God’s purpose to protect His people from foreign customs and gods who sacrificed children in fire and practiced temple prostitution and polytheism. The Mosaic law insofar as it kept Israel separate from their Gentile, pagan neighbors was clearly temporary because  it was God’ intention to bring the Gentiles into religious union with Israel as the Christian church after Christ came. Circumcision and the dietary laws had to be discontinued after Christ to accommodate the Gentiles. But the Israelites had not been very faithful in living by the Mosaic laws. The law was impossible to keep perfectly. Idolatry and the worship of pagan gods was very common and a source for bitter condemnation by Israel’s prophets. There are indications in the Old Testament that Israel practiced child sacrifice and worshiped the Baals and Astarte (Canaanite gods). Some, like the Pharisees, who wished to require the Israelites to keep YHWH’s law, made the law even more rigorous than Moses’s law, and modified God’s law to become what was called ‘the tradition of the elders’. Jesus was very critical of this practice of substituting man’s laws for God’s law (Mt 15.2-6; Mk 7.3-13). But the most important thing is that with Jesus the rigorous, unforgiving,  external law, ‘written in stone’ (as referenced in Rm 7 and Gal 3), referred to as ‘the curse of the law’, was very different from ‘the law of Christ’ (Gal 6.2), or ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’ (Rm 8.2) in which there was ‘no condemnation of those who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit’ (Rm 8.1). Christ was teaching His followers, in contrast to the old Mosaic law, to love God fervently and love their neighbor as themselves (Rm 13.8-10). This was a law ‘written on the heart’ as a matter of love (Jer 31.31-34). The pouring out of the Spirit ‘on all flesh’ at Pentecost, as prophesied in the Old Testament (Joel 2.28) after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, gave Jews and Gentiles alike the fervent desire to obey the law in gratitude for Christ’s redemption of believers from sin and death and the ‘curse of the law’ by His loving sacrifice on the cross. Jesus had said that He came ‘to fulfill the law’ (Mt 5.17), ‘not a jot or tittle of which would pass away’, but in fulfilling it, Jesus transformed it  to be a matter of the heart rather than rules ‘written in stone’. Unlike the Mosaic law, the law of Christ was based on love for God and neighbor rather than under the threat of guilt and condemnation, and was lived out in the power of the Spirit expressing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5.22,23).

Memory Verse:  Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law (Rm 13.8).

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