I had mostly drafted my promised ideas about the dawning of the kingdom of God on earth when I realized that before I posted them I ought to share with you one more thing that Jesus came to do for all of humankind. He came to abolish the concept of sin and transform our notion of right and wrong! I blush to admit that this added mission has only lately occurred to me, when clearly it was not an afterthought. In fact, I am beginning to see that killing the whole fear-based notion of sin is the core of what Jesus came to do. It really changes everything!
Jesus talks about sin throughout the Gospels, which is probably why I missed what He was saying. He cleverly misled the Temple guards, and He just as cleverly misled me! For Jesus to speak against the prevailing religion would have been a capital crime, so He could not flat-out tell the world that He had come to abolish all religions, toss out the entire Old Testament, and end the very notion of sin. All of this was His earthly mission, but He couldn’t say that plainly! We have been talking of late about how He was able to get most of His message through by using some devices that we must keep in mind if we hope to understand His message. By accepting those tricks and digging deeper, we have learned from the Gospels that Jesus came to help us relate to God on our own so we can better raise our spiritual vibrations away from fear and toward more perfect love, and thereby bring the kingdom of God on earth.
He accomplished much of this with a single stroke! When He was asked what was the greatest commandment, He didn’t name any of the Ten Commandments. Instead He said,“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (MT 22:37-40). The Law and the Prophets was of course what the Jews of His day called our Old Testament. And He confirmed that His abandonment of religious laws was consistent with the divine plan when He said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (MT 5:17).
The concept of sin is grounded in religious laws. In throwing away the Old Testament, Jesus discarded every Jewish law, so by definition He abolished sin! But was this what He intended to do? If He had been able to speak to us plainly, would He have said, “Take heart, you who labor and are heavy-laden, for I have come to abolish sin, and with it every reason you might have to fear”? I think the answer to this question is yes! Let’s see why.
Jesus Broke Religious Laws Repeatedly
To the open-minded Gospel student, the many times that He pushed what were then inviolate laws and gave us cagey reasons for doing so look like a campaign to discredit those laws. Here are some examples:
“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, ‘Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.’ But He said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, “I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’
“Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’—so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, ‘What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’ Then He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand!’ He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other” (MT 12:1-13).
“And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.’ And some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This fellow blasphemes.’ And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—then He said to the paralytic, ‘Get up, pick up your bed and go home’” (MT 9:2-6).
Jesus Made a Point of Loving and Caring for Sinners
The strictly religious folk of His day acted pretty much the way Christians do now: they shamed and shunned anyone they judged to be sinful. Jesus, on the other hand, especially loved even the most unlovable! For example, we read, “And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him” (MT 2:15). He even told us why He especially loved sinners. He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (MK 2:17).
“Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So He told them this parable, saying, ‘What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!” I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!” In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents’” (LK 15:1-10).
“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?’ They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more’” (JN 8:3-11).
Jesus Came to Give Us New Definitions For What is Right or Wrong
The more you read the Lord’s Gospel words with the thought that perhaps He abolished sin, the more you realize that was indeed precisely what He did! Jesus had replaced the Law and the Prophets with God’s law of love, and in doing that He was announcing that we were ready to move above a stark and puerile thou-shall-not morality and begin to live by a standard that is based entirely in love. Whatever we might do is no longer important, but instead all that matters is what is in our hearts! If we have raised our spiritual vibration sufficiently that our every thought, our every impulse is based in nothing but love, then everything we do from out of that love is good and moral by definition. This is a much stricter standard than any old-style law could be! It requires that we make no decision without first weighing it on the scales of love that are ever more perfectly manifest in our hearts. It may be that only when we achieve this level of spiritual development can we begin to bring the kingdom of God on earth. We’ll talk about that next week.
Micah of Moresheth was an early Hebrew prophet, a contemporary of the great Isaiah. He has not been much considered, perhaps because He spoke for mercy and against religiosity. You might say he was three thousand years ahead of His time! He long ago foresaw a day when we would serve a gentler, more loving God that did not inspire our quivering fear or demand our sacrifices, and certainly one that did not demand that we sacrifice God’s beloved Son. From a time eight centuries before the birth of Jesus, Micah speaks to us. And His words sing!
“With what shall I come to the Lord and bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:6-8)
Praying photo credit: Pamela P. Stroud <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/138014685@N08/43088689381″>How Peter Came to Know Jesus</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Seaside photo credit: Pamela P. Stroud <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/138014685@N08/41277066900″>How Peter Came to Know Jesus</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Prophet photo credit: L’art au présent <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/144232185@N03/35794148312″>RUBENS (d’Après BUONARROTI Michelangelo) – Le Prophète Zacharie, Chapelle Sixtine (drawing, dessin, disegno-Louvre INV20229) – Detail 59</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>