Jesus the “Filter”
As the “filter,” Jesus’ fulfillment renders certain aspects of the law obsolete, as each of them is superseded by the realities to which they were pointing all along. Temple sacrifices are fulfilled, of course, in Jesus’ cross-work (Matt. 26:17–20; Hebrews 7–10). Circumcision in the flesh is eclipsed by the circumcision of the heart, performed by the Spirit (Rom. 2:25–28;Col. 2:11–12). The external function of the food laws is replaced by the internal witness of the Spirit regarding those things that defile the person (Mark 7:1–23; Gal.5:19–24). And Moses’ temporary concession to allow frequent divorces is largely rescinded by Jesus’ summons to lifelong marriages characteristic of the “one flesh” union (Mark 10:2–12). Although each of these results in the obsolescence of an aspect of the law, thereby changing its ongoing function, profound righteousness of word and deed is the consistent outcome.
Jesus the “Lens”
As the “lens,” Jesus brings back into focus an element of the law that had become obscured by the traditions of the elders and teachers of the law. In this role, Jesus does not do anything to the law itself. But he does invalidate contemporary interpretations that have gone awry, inhibiting the living out of true righteousness. Here Jesus recovers the demand to show mercy toward sinners by pursuing them into their contexts (Matt. 9:9–13) and commanding that his followers sacrificially care for the needy they encounter (Luke 10:25–37). Jesus also recovers the demand that God’s people serve as the conduit of Sabbath blessings to those otherwise destitute and in need of rest (Luke13:10–17). Similarly, he restores the demand to speak the truth in every situation (Matt. 5:33–37). In each case, Jesus restores the original intention of the law, rebuking and discarding those interpretations that paradoxically were giving rise to less than what the law was intending.
Jesus the “Prism”
As the “prism,” Jesus raises the demand of the law to a new level of righteousness. This heightened demand should not surprise us, since with Jesus the kingdom of God has come, replete with its empowering new-covenant blessings. Accordingly, Jesus raises the murder prohibition to the proscription of misplaced and unrepented anger (Matt. 5:21–26). He elevates the adultery prohibition to condemn even the lusting after another in one’s heart (Matt. 5:27–30). He also adjusts his followers’ use of the law, exhorting them to forgo personal rights instead of defending them (Matt. 5:38–42). And he stretches the love command to extend far beyond one’s neighbor to include within its purview everyone, even one’s enemies (Matt. 5:43–47). Each of these examples demonstrates that Jesus not only preserves the Old Testament concern for righteousness—he extends and even elevates it!
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