Living the Spirit of the Law
These past few weeks, as we out at North Beaver Creek have been working through the Beatitudes, there has been one particular phrase that has stuck out to me: Jesus said to them, “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.” (Matthew 5:17)
What does it mean for Jesus to fulfill the Law?
Think of driving laws – one could study all of the driving laws of Wisconsin and follow them meticulously, but that still doesn’t mean you will be a good driver. The Law cannot mandate courtesy. The Law cannot mandate that you care about others on the road. The Law cannot mandate that sometimes we need to be considerate of what others might be thinking as they are driving.
I believe that this is the essence of what Jesus is speaking to when he says he came to fulfill the Law.
The Law says, “You shall not murder,” but it is not just about following the letter of the law; it is about following the spirit of the Law. The letter of the Law might be, “You shall not murder,” but the spirit of the Law is not just about murder; it’s about anger, divisiveness, slander, arrogance, or running your neighbor’s name into the dirt.
It is not just about adultery; it is about lust, temptation, and faithfulness of the heart to our spouse.
We can live by the commandments not to lie, cheat, steal, or murder – but that doesn’t mean we might still not be an angry, arrogant, or mean person.
When Jesus fulfills the Law he asks us in all ways to question what it truly means to live in the Kingdom of God.
As with most new pastors, my writings lean heavily on materials from learned teachers. I’ve based this text on gospel commentary from Karoline M. Lewis -- Associate Professor of Biblical Preaching and The Marbury E. Anderson Chair of Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminar.