How I Completely Misunderstood Jesus and The Old Testament

It’s easy to get it wrong.  In fact, the prevailing notion on this is generally wrong.   And, when you get this wrong, you miss out on the beauty of the Old Testament.  You miss out on who God really is in the Old Testament.  Just think:  You could have been reading the Bible and going to church for years and completely misunderstood some basic thoughts about the Old Testament.  If I’m right about this, then we’ve got some serious thinking to do.  We’ve got to re-examine our thinking about the Old Testament.

Here’s where to start:   Do you agree or disagree with the following statement:

“The Old Testament Law was mostly about the outward act.  When Jesus came, he gave us a whole new way of relating to God that is not just about the outward act, but is about our intent.  It’s now about our heart.”

Let’s see you how you answer after you’ve read this entire post.

Let’s start with the Sermon on the Mount.

It went like this:

“You’ve heard it has been said……, but I say.”

Jesus starts off with the teaching about anger:

“21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[c] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[d] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell[e] of fire,” Matthew 5:21-22.

Now, here’s the question.

Is this Jesus versus the Law OR Jesus versus wrong interpretation of the Law?

I am convinced that this passage is about Jesus showing them a correct interpretation of the Law (versus their incorrect one).

Here was the wrong interpretation:  They made it all about the outward act.

The Misunderstanding:

Now, what about us?  Have we gotten it wrong?  Have we gotten this idea that following God under the Law was all about the outward act? Well, I admit I have said it before.

Is it the case?  Is it true that the Old Testament Law was just about the outward act?  Did Jesus give them a completely new Law that said, “This is not just about the outward act…it’s about what’s in your heart”?

Well, let’s let the Old Testament answer that.  Read a little from the book of Leviticus (Law):

“17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord,” Leviticus 19:78-18.  

Wait, doesn’t that sound just like Jesus?  Isn’t that about the….heart?He said that it’s not just about the outward act of murder.  It’s about the inward thought of your heart.  It’s about loving your neighbor and not hating him.  Wait….so, that means…Jesus was simply pointing them back what the Law really said.

In fact, Jesus would later say that the greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40).

Overarching Principle:  Fulfill the Law

In fact, the truth is, Jesus came, not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.

In fact, before Jesus made all those “you have heard/but I say” pronouncements, he had just said this:

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished,” Matthew 5:17-18.

So, let me ask you again.

Agree or Disagree:

“The Old Testament Law was mostly about the outward act.  When Jesus came, he gave us a whole new way of relating to God that is not just about the outward act, but is about our intent.  It’s now about our heart.”

Did you change your mind?  I suppose the question we’re really asking is whether God changed his.  I don’t think he did.

For further reading, check this out.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr/RickyRomero.

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