#0002 A cultural rift in the Church (part II)
The Law of Moses was well-embedded into the culture of the Hebrew people. It was embedded so well one might say the Mosaic Law was the Hebrew culture. When Jesus came on the scene the two religious factions we’ve been discussing (the Pharisees and the Sadducees) were each busily engaged in promoting their own narrative. The promotion process included the business of putting up their doctrinal assertions against the bigger panorama of the Mosaic Law. Whichever faction was successful at winning the approval of the people would then be able to impose their brand of authority over them. And when Jesus showed up—the Pharisees seemed to be ahead in this competition. But when the Pharisees noticed Jesus using a completely different approach in His assertions about God they were totally taken off-guard. They began to feel threatened by Him and His message of God’s love when it became apparent that it was Jesus who was rapidly gaining the attention and approval of the people.
I mentioned in the last post that the backbone of both of these factions was the Law of Moses and I think it might be helpful to get into some specifics about that for a minute. The Law of Moses or the Mosaic Law was allegedly written after the children of Israel arrived in the Promised Land. It is 613 individual commandments or laws that describe behaviors which are allowed and others which are strictly forbidden. Some of the forbidden ones listed incorporate specific punishments that are to be meted out to any and all transgressors. Within this extensive list are included rituals, ceremonies and protocols which go into great detail describing the hows, whos, whens, wheres of each one; but not a lot of whys are provided. Prior to the inception of these 613 laws, Moses was allegedly visited by God and given just 10 laws, or 10 Commandments. This took place while he and the Children of Israel were still wandering in the dessert. I talk in Section Two of The Jesus Clone about how it’s highly feasible that these original 10 laws were brought into play as a preemptive tactic by Moses to help him control the massive crowd and keep them moving forwards. It is out of this same imperative to handle this massive crowd that the much bigger version of 613 laws immerged. Moses was given the herculean task to not only free the entire Hebrew nation from their captors, but to then move them through the dessert—and the grueling conditions that came with that—to a new location. This whole ordeal required lots of cooperation and organization. To better facilitate these conditions Moses needed to incorporate a sort of martial law to best insure the success of this exodus campaign. With this being the original purpose of the 10 Commandments it is easy to imagine that once he got the Israelites safely to their destination, things would’ve just naturally escalated from there. Just as Moses seemed to grow more and more dependent upon the escalating set of laws, it would seem that his line of his successors came also to depend on them to rule the people and keep them in line. All the while this was going on, another factor was in play in a synchronous orbit above their heads…the intense and judicial nature of God was escalating too.
Referring back to Matt 22: 36-40 (NIV): 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” when Jesus answered the question about the law in an overly-simplistic manner we can now see why it was more than a little perplexing to those Pharisees who heard Him. In His 2-part answer Jesus referred to love. The Mosaic Law isn’t a study in love; it’s a study in legalisms, accountabilities and punishments. All the religious authorities in the audience were hyper-aware of these factors. They were thoroughly invested in the process of going over the law again and again with a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers, considering each of its doctrines point-by-point. Jesus answer and His talk of love seemed to come from a place completely unfamiliar to them and totally skewed to their Law of Moses state of mind. They were talking apples and Jesus was talking oranges. The Pharisees were seeing God as a referee standing next to a judgment high jump beam with his clipboard, pencil and whistle watching the Hebrew people as they were lining up to attempt to jump it. Their success or failure was determined by the bar—if they cleared it, God would give them a favorable score, if not they were found unacceptable. Their religion was made up of formulae and codes, if gotten through successfully, would bring contestants to their goal. The laws of Moses were laid out like a minefield that God was goading people to get through. Jesus on the other hand was inviting people to concern themselves less and less with the Law and focus more and more on strategies that would bring them into relationship with the Father. He was enticing humans into an intuitive relationship with God, the sort of relationship that feels natural and comfortable and right. Jesus was selling a God whose goodness was the motivator attracting people to Him, not a God working with whip and chair to drive them into state of compliance with His will. Jesus wasn’t just talking a new marketing strategy for bringing people to church; He was talking a new God!
Questions relevant to upcoming postings of this article…
- Today, who might be included in a group practicing the spirit of the law; that is to say, practicing principles that Jesus taught when He was alive? Would religious people, striving to go deeper into the word, be included in this group? How so?
- Today, would religious people who tend to cast aspersions on certain groups (i.e.: LGBTs, Muslims, illegal aliens, liberals, etc.) feel more at home hanging out with Jesus or the Pharisees?
- Today, can scripture-based doctrines which clearly seem to cast a shadow upon these types of groups be illuminated by the bright light emanating from the principles of love spoken of by Jesus?