The Second Sunday in May

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May 2014

May 2, 2014

     This quarter we have been examining numerous Bible passages related to “Jesus’ Fulfillment of Scripture.” In Unit 1 we saw that Jesus fulfilled Israel’s expectation that the Messiah would be a direct descendant of King David. In Unit 2 we connected the dots from the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Christ to the person of Jesus. In this final unit we study how Jesus used the Hebrew Scriptures (1) when faced with temptation, (2) to define His mission, (3) to interpret the law, and (4) to identify the Great Commandment. Jesus is our example for how to use the Bible (1) in times of temptation, (2) to understand our mission in this world as Jesus’ disciples, (3) in applying God’s commandments in our lives, and (4) to form an ethical basis for our relationship to others and to God.

     These lessons examine and challenge our views and uses of the Bible. We Christians place a very high premium on the Bible, but we must not make it an idol of worship. The Bible is God’s revealed word to humanity, but it is not a talisman. The Bible is to be read for enlightenment, studied for comprehension, and absorbed for transformation. As we read the Scriptures we find conviction for our sins, correction for our errors, and challenge to a higher level of living and deeper commitment to Christ.

     As you study the first lesson from Deuteronomy and Matthew, note the types of temptations Jesus faced: bread corresponds to basic human needs; to jump from the highest point in Jerusalem represents self-glorification; and to seek the kingdoms of the world is to trust Satan that he can and will do what he promises and to stake all on perishable wealth. Note also that when “the devil left him” it was temporary (Luke 4:13).

     Lesson two takes us to the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4). It was customary to invite a visiting rabbi to speak, but this was a special occasion because Jesus grew up there. It may seem strange to us that he stood to read and sat to preach. But what is important are the scripture he read (Isaiah 61) and his sermon. That scripture defined his mission, his purpose. Why were the people amazed when he began to preach? Why did they become enraged as he continued to speak and to answer questions? Read the rest of the story in verses 22–30.

     The challenge in lesson three is to understand what was meant by “the tradition of the elders.” The law, or Torah, was of the highest importance to the Jews. The heart of the Torah was the Decalogue, which was placed in the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place in the Temple, which only the High Priest had access once a year. The Temple was in Jerusalem where all Jews, who were able, made pilgrimage for the holy festivals. Over a thousand years the Ten Commandments were interpreted for each succeeding generation by wise scribes and rabbis. For example, the tenth commandment included a statement about not coveting a neighbor’s donkey. The commandments were given when Israel was wandering in the wilderness. Much later, when a family lived in the city, would that commandment include a neighbor’s dog? Those hundreds of years of addendums came to be known as the tradition of the elders, which was regarded as sacred. Do we need to re-examine some of our traditions?

     In the fourth lesson Jesus was challenged by a scribe to name the greatest commandment. Keep in mind that the scribes and Pharisees had identified 613 laws (not “traditions”), and Jesus was asked to pick the most important. Jesus recited two laws from Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19 that he considered inseparable; from those two laws of love hang all the laws of the Torah. Jesus went a step further in John 6:13 when he said we should love others as He has loved us.

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