Over the past two weeks I’ve preached on Matthew chapter eight. On two different occasions I brought out how Jesus is greater than the Law.
1.) Jesus shows his greatness over the law in his exchange with the leper (Matt 8:1-4). The Law prescribed that touching a leper would make one unclean (Lev 13-14), but when Jesus touches lepers the unclean become clean. Jesus is greater than the Law because he is not subject to the stipulations of the Law when it comes to clean and unclean. In similar fashion Jesus takes upon himself (at the cross) my defilement, my leprosy of sin. Therefore, like the leper I now present before men the gift of Christ, which serves as a testimony that I am clean. In other words, I point men to Jesus as the one who has made me clean and as the one who can make them clean as well.
2.) Jesus shows his greatness over the law in his exchange with the disciple (Matt 8:21-22). The Law instructed Jews to honor their father and mother (Exo 20, Deut 5). It was a serious sin to dishonor your parents (Deut 27:16). One way to honor your parents was to give them a proper burial; however, Jesus teaches the disciple that he is to first honor him. Jesus is greater than the Law because he deserves supreme honor and attention. The disciple must not only first honor Christ, but must abandon his earthly family to join his new spiritual family (Matt 10:37-39; 12:46-50). This statement by Jesus would have been defamatory and offensive, but the greatness of Christ does not allow for any other obligations besides him.
A few weeks ago I preached Matthew 5:17-20. The title of the sermon was The Greater Moses. This passage has been one of the most challenging in my life and yet it has been extremely rewarding thinking through the implications of Jesus’ words. The main idea of the sermon was that since Jesus fulfills the OT Law, it can only be rightly understood and applied in relation to him.
I brought out several applications, but one in particular was that we must be wise in how we understand and teach the Law. Being wise means understanding and teaching the Law from a Christ-centered perspective. We now understand and apply the Law through the lens of the cross. If we “lift” the Law from its context and apply without understanding it through Christ we run the risk of ruining our lives and the lives of those we teach. How many believers have been put under legalistic bondage because someone taught from the Law without carrying it to its salvation-historical conclusion in Christ (e.g., don’t get a tattoo because Leviticus 19:28 prohibits it)? If we fail to understand Christ as the end of the Law we might end up with a works based salvation, rather than a grace based salvation; a gospel based on morals, rather than on Christ. As Jesus’ disciples we want to imitate the way he understood and applied Law. If we want to be true teachers and keepers of the Law, then we need to instruct others how to see that Christ is the end of the Law.
If you’re looking for an explanation of New Covenant Theology, Chad Richard Bresson has drafted a lengthy description. Read it here.