Last week we discussed natural law, the moral law, civil law, and ceremonial law. Which one is the "Law of Moses?" Moses delivered both the moral law and the ceremonial law in written form to God's people when they journeyed to Canaan. However, did they exist prior to Moses writing them down? Do they apply today? Let's plunge into our Bibles and see what we can learn!
02: Christ and the Law of Moses – Lesson Plan
Posted: 07 Apr 2014 08:30 AM PDT
See more posts by Michael Fracker
Key Thought : Jesus respected the law and underlined the lessons about God’s grace and power revealed in the law.gless02-2014b
[Lesson plan for Christ and the Law of Moses April 7,2014]
1. Have a volunteer read John 5:1.
a. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
b. How did Jesus relate to and demonstrate His obedience to the law?
c. Personal Application: How do the feasts help explain to us what Jesus has done to save His people then and now? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your relatives states: “Why don’t we keep the yearly feasts anymore? Isn’t it better to observe them than to keep the pagan holidays of Easter and Christmas?” How would you respond to your relative?
2. Have a volunteer read Luke 2:41-45.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
b. What does Jesus being in the temple show about the focus of Jewish life and the importance of their faith?
c. Personal Application: How does your activities throughout the week show the importance of your faith and focus of your Christian walk? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your neighbors states, “Why was Jesus subject to His parents as He grew older? Don’t most teenagers want to leave home and get away from parental influence and guidance? What does this tell us?” How would you respond to your neighbor?
3. Have a volunteer read Matthew 17:24-27.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. Why did Jesus tell His disciples they should pay tribute “lest we should offend them.”?
c. Personal Application: What are some of the positive aspects of our culture that we should celebrate? What are some of the negative aspects that should be shunned? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your friends states, “I give a few dollars every week to church. I don’t think the church or God needs my tithe and offerings. That’s a little too steep for me. God is happy that I give, and the church should be happy with whatever I give them.” How would you respond to your friend?
4. Have a volunteer read Matthew 5:17-20.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. Which of your behavioral patterns may be giving your family or friends a negative impression of God’s law?
c. Personal Application: How should I treat those who are living lifestyles contrary to God’s law? Should we treat them differently if they are part of the church family? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.
(Note : “Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.” MH p. 149.
"Christ and the Law of Moses"
April 12, 2014
Texts: Luke 2:21-24; Exodus 13:2, 12; Luke 2:41-52; Matthew 17:24-27; John 8:1-11; Deuteronomy 22:23, 24
For Americans, the month of April is the month in which we are required by law to pay our personal income taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. What if you knew you owed the government a certain sum of money, but were willing to gamble that you wouldn't get caught if you only sent in half of the amount?
In an August 2013 article titled, "Why do people obey the law?" blogger R.D. Walker suggests there are two possible reasons why people obey a government's law: 1) fear of penalties, or 2) because it is the right thing to do. Walker takes the position that Americans obey laws even if they might not be caught. They see obeying the law as being a responsible citizen.
By contrast he points out that in many nations of the world laws are obeyed only when there is a threat of penalty for breaking the law. The people of these nations have learned to ignore the laws from their own government. In these countries the government has violated the social trust of their people by placing themselves above the law. Citizens in these types of nations reason that if their government isn't bound by the law, they are not bound by it, either.1
Did Jesus, a Jew, keep all the laws while on earth? We continue our study of Mosaic laws in this week's lesson, specifically circumcision, temple tax, and festivals. God of the Old Testament (The Trinity) designed laws that helped avoid the problems Jews were confronted with every day. God didn't trust Moses to write the law. God wrote it. The contract, or covenant, between God and Abraham's descendants (the Jewish people) was given to this chosen people so they would be safe and promote God's moral law.
The Psalmist wrote: "The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple."2
Jesus was born a Jew. From birth to death Christ was immersed in the Jewish culture. Therefore Jesus was subject to the Mosaic laws. Jesus was circumcised eight days after being born. Jesus attended religious feasts in Jerusalem with Joseph and Mary. And even though Jesus knew the temple would soon be destroyed, the temple tax was paid.3
When a rabbi or another human interpreted the law to their liking, Jesus shifted the challenge by asking a question, or, as in the case of one of our lesson's texts, writing in the dirt instead of giving an answer. This took the focus off the twisted interpretation of the law, returning the attention to the law's original purpose.
What will you do if your government violates a law given by God? What if a member of your church or your denomination's interpretation of a law infringes upon your covenant with God?
2. Psalm 19:7
3. Adult Bible Study Guide, pg. 14
Christ and the Law of Moses
Commentary for the April 12, 2014 Sabbath School Lesson
“Who is a Jew? …A Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism.” [i]
A strange transformation has taken place over the past few thousand years that perhaps has distorted our perspective about what it means to be a Christian. Today, we see ourselves as being distinct from Judaism and some even are perhaps hostile to it. However, when we examine the roots of Christianity, we discover that such distinctions may have been unknown to the Apostles and the first century church.
Judaism has had several sects within the faith over the centuries. The Bible speaks of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots. We also know of others such as the Essenes through Josephus as well as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls which apparently were secreted by the Essenian community at Qumran in caves to protect them from some perceived danger. Yet, members of all of these groups, which differed widely at times over articles of belief, were still considered to be Jews.
From the quotation above, perhaps we can see that Jewishness is less a question of faith than of genealogy. This would seem to make the case for why the genealogy of Jesus was laid out in both the gospels of Matthew[ii] and Luke.[iii] Based on these passages, He was unquestionably a Jew. Even apart from knowledge of His ancestry, He also was apparently readily identifiable as a Jew by observation.[iv] Jesus never contradicted this Jewish identity, but rather He embraced it. When we consider His statements about Jewish practice,[v] we cannot help but wonder how Christianity became a separate religion. Would Jesus consider Himself a Christian and not a Jew if He were here, today?
When we look at the record of the Apostles, we can perhaps see that they probably did not self-identify as anything but Jews as well. For instance, they continued to meet regularly at the temple.[vi] Also, they continued to participate in the sacrificial services of the temple, as Paul was doing, several years after Jesus’ ascension, when he was taken into protective custody by the Roman authorities.[vii] While the Bible record is not clear on how long this went on, perhaps the early Christians in Jerusalem continued to consider themselves Jews at least until the destruction of the temple in 70, C.E. Even Paul, who was the noted Apostle to the Gentiles, regularly sought out synagogues to worship in and to inform the members about the Jewish Messiah, Jesus.[viii] We are therefore left to wonder at how and why Christians came to no longer be considered Jews.
It may have been hard for outsiders to make the distinction, since both groups were professedly monotheistic and refused to participate in the cult of emperor worship. The fact that they commonly shared places of worship and worship ceremonies may have added to a perception that they were just sects of the same religion. Perhaps incentives to develop separate identities were the varying political circumstances affecting each group.
The Jews became enemies of the Empire under Nero when they revolted against the plundering of the temple treasury by the Romans for “back taxes.” Maybe this caused the Christians to want to be sure they were not considered Jews to avoid the stigma of belonging to a group seen as being rebellious. If so, it may have backfired because they became the scapegoats for the burning of Rome under the same emperor. Many Christians were martyred during the persecution following that conflagration. While the Jewish faith, even when the Jews were persecuted, was a legal religion in the empire, once Christians sought to distinguish themselves from Judaism, they placed themselves in legal limbo. This may, in part, account for their various persecutions and misfortunes until the early 4th century, when they finally received the protection of being a recognized, legal religion under Emperor Constantine.
Why is all of this history important? Because experience often informs theology as it changes our perspective. While we may wish to consider the historical context of whatever passage we are studying, we cannot entirely divorce ourselves from our modern experiences and education. In part, this may be because in many cases, we cannot have perfect understanding of historical context. Also, we may be unable to extricate ourselves from how these modern influences affect our understanding on a sub-conscious level.
When we approach the historical aspects of our faith, today, we see ourselves as distinct from Judaism. This colors our understanding and creates a barrier to faith practices that might minimize those differences. A good example would be the idea of observing the seventh-day Sabbath of the fourth commandment.[ix] Today, many Christian denominations, both Catholic and Protestant, denigrate the idea of observing that day by calling it that “Jewish” Sabbath. This serves to further divide the two faiths as opposed to developing commonalities that once existed between both groups.
While on the face of it, there is little scriptural reason to observe Sunday as a special day of worship as opposed to Saturday, since one is biblically commanded and the other is not, one might see how it could help distinguish Christians from Jews in the context of persecution. The Jews, who would typically not kindle a fire on the Sabbath,[x] could be easily spotted as those whose homes had no smoke rising from their chimneys on Saturday. By changing to Sunday observance, the Christians would be free to kindle a fire on Saturday and any persecution of the Jews would not sweep them up as well. Perhaps it is not too far a jump to see how a passive disassociation from their Jewish neighbors could grow to become an active participation in their persecution to avoid being identified with them at all. (If you don’t join with us in persecuting them, you must be one of them.) We have seen a similar behavior in regards to the persecution of homosexuals in our day, when some of the most rabid anti-gay individuals were discovered to have hidden homosexual partners. Pastor Ted Haggard and Idaho Senator Larry Craig are two examples of several that come to mind.
Perhaps the unfortunate influence of an anti-Semitism that may have had pragmatic roots in avoiding persecution is what causes us to dissect scripture into portions that we may safely observe today as Christians and other segments that we should ignore for no better reason than that they are “Jewish.” While some of these changes may have occurred early on, this process may continue to color our understanding today, even without our knowing it.
Circumcision was one practice that was relegated to the practice of “Judaizers” during the first century according to Paul’s Epistles and the Book of Acts. This being the early understanding in spite of it being almost a certainty that Jesus was circumcised. Was Jesus then a Judaizer because He did not speak against the practice? When we try to understand theologically any basis for consistency, the Bible can become a minefield, especially for the literalist. On the one hand, we have clear commands for circumcision and Sabbath observance, with some Christians not observing either. Then, on the other hand, although there is no clear command to abstain from eating any meat, some Christians feel vegetarianism is an important part of their faith and evangelize over the practice. Problematically, there may be many who want to draw the lines which define our faith, but they too often do not want to draw them in the same place.
Some like to say that Jesus “fulfilled” certain requirements, so we do not need to observe them now. This only begs the question “How do you know which ones He fulfilled?” For instance, why did He fulfill the Sabbath commandment such that it does not matter which day we observe as some say, but failed to fulfill the need to pay tithe?
Others like to say that fulfilling does not mean abolishing so we are still required to observe the Ten Commandments, but these also draw lines. They may say that we still need to observe the dietary requirements of Leviticus, chapter eleven, but then balk at requirements that different types of yarns not be woven together.[xi] Is our faith as Christians based on inconsistent practice? How then can we as one denomination point out the inconsistencies in another denomination when we ourselves are doing the same thing only with the lines being drawn differently?
Are we gerrymandering the borders of our faith to accommodate our denominational or individual preferences, and then referring to that gerrymandered understanding to produce “biblical” support for our position? It is easy to say that we define our faith thus and so and then claim because we define it that way and others do not, they are in error and apostate. The religious of Jesus’ day did that with Him. They failed to see that even though they could not agree on a common understanding of their faith, such as disagreeing on whether or not there is a resurrection, they could nonetheless agree on one thing. They had no use for Jesus.
[i] "Who Is A Jew?," Judaism 101, http://www.jewfaq.org/whoisjew.htm
[ii] Matthew 1:1-17
[iii] Luke 3:23-38
[iv] John 4:9
[v] Matthew 5:17
[vi] Acts 5:42
[vii] Acts 21:24-27
[viii] Acts 19:8, et al.
[ix] Exodus 20:8-11
[x] Exodus 35:3
[xi] Deuteronomy 22:11
[Thought questions for Christ and the Law of Moses April 9, 2014]
Image © Steve Creitz from GoodSalt.com
Image © Steve Creitz from GoodSalt.com
1. Introduction. What is your attitude toward the Mosaic law? When you read the Bible through, how do the descriptions of feasts and sacrifices and other rituals as described in the Old Testament affect you? Are you ever tempted to skim past those chapters and “get on with” the rest of the Bible? Why did Jesus and His earthly family follow the requirements of the law of Moses so faithfully? In what sense(s) was Jesus a Jew?
2. Circumcision. Is circumcision today considered a religious ritual or a minor medical procedure? Circumcision is not a requirement for church membership, but many members of our church follow the procedure for males. Why? For a religious or a medical reason? Why were the naming process and circumcision for the newborn male infant combined in one ceremony? Why was Abraham so readily convinced to circumcise himself and to set forth a rule that every son born in his household would be circumcised on the eighth day? Why did the family of Jesus fully support the Mosaic law in this respect?
3. Feasts. What can you and I learn from the feasts and festivals required of the Israelites during their years as a nation ruled by God? For example, should we recognize our freedom from sin (Passover) and its consequences? What about the Pentecost celebration? Do you remember when people came to camp meeting and stayed in tents? Was that a reflection of the third annual feast of the Jews–the Feast of Booths? Since we don’t celebrate these feasts since Christ’s ministry on earth, should we still plan family and church events that recognize our deliverance from sin?
4. Jesus in the Temple. Imagine you are a parent of a twelve-year-old boy who disappears while you’re attending a major church event. What would your first words be when you find him sharing insights with the leaders of the event? Why did Jesus say to His parents that it was none of their business what He was doing in the temple? Or is that what He meant? How did Mary respond to the way Jesus defended His absence from His parents at this busy celebration?
5. Taxes. Was the temple tax a religious or a civic requirement? Or neither? Why do you think Jesus made a public statement in favor of the tax when He had no real obligation to pay it? Or was He “in favor of” the temple tax? What phrase turned Jesus’ words about the tax from wholehearted endorsement of it to a question about its need? Are you and I as willing as Jesus was to meet a lawful obligation whether we approve of its purpose or not? Or should we obey and complain?
6. Law Enforcement. In the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery, what trap did the Pharisees lay for Jesus? Why did Jesus approve of Moses’ law that called for stoning the adulterous woman? Or did He? Does God make a clear difference between allowing or ordering certain behavior? Why was Jesus a faithful Jew? Does He expect us to be faithful Jews as well?
Gina on April 10, 2014 at 4:20 pm said:
One thing that I've learnt from this week's lesson is that irrespective of where we are, what our positions or status is in society today, if there are laws to be followed we must adhere to it, but it must not compromise our position in what we believe in as Christians. Jesus was in complete submission to the laws and obedient to the principles while on this earth as an example to us; that knowing he was the son of God, heir to the throne, he still abide by human laws, tells us that we must not think that because we have such important position we are exempted from observing any laws or that we can do anything we like. Christ is our example, we must follow likewise.
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