“Jesus the Lawbreaker,” by Andrew J. Schatkin

“Jesus the Lawbreaker,” by Andrew J. Schatkin

The life, sayings, and actions of Jesus of Nazareth bear careful and minute examination and analysis. Jesus, for all believing Christians, is fully God and every word from his mouth and every event in his life are meant to inform us from eternity and the eternal God of what is true and of lasting value.

The Christian religion, as founded by Jesus, is a faith of grace and love. For the Christian, salvation is and cannot be obtained by good works but only by and through the grace and love of Christ and God the Father. In short and in sum, the Christian faith and the Christian God is a God of love and does not require or impose legalisms and legal requirements on his humanity. So a Christian is marked of as not being required to wear certain clothes or garments in or outside of church; need not say some sort of required and ritual prayers; and in fact no legality or legalisms are imposed by Christ on his people and followers and there are no distinctions in Christianity of race or sex or ethnicity.

I would like to walk with you through some scripture passages to show what Jesus and St. Paul have to say about the law and legalisms:

For example, in Matthew 12:1-8, when the disciples plucked grain in violation of the Sabbath laws, Jesus responded that David entered the house of God and ate the bread of the presence and how the priests had blasphemed the Sabbath in the temple and are guiltless, and the passage ends with the statement that he desires mercy and not sacrifice. In this passage, Jesus sets about to abolish the Jewish ritual law as required or even at all needed. In Matthew15, the Pharisees criticize the disciples for not washing their hands when they eat and Jesus responds to this criticism by saying, “why do you transgress the commandment of God for tradition?” Again, Jesus sets about to abolish the law and defend its end and violation.

Again in Mark 2:15-17, the Pharisees criticize Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners and Jesus responds that he came not to call the righteous but sinners. Once again, Jesus defends and endorses the abolition of the law. In Mark 2:23 to Mark 3:6, the story of the disciples plucking grain on the Sabbath is related and Jesus responds that the Sabbath was made for man and not man of the Sabbath. In Matthew 3:1-6, Jesus heals the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath and again responds to the criticism of doing this on the Sabbath, Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or do harm or to save life or kill? Jesus tackles here the Sabbath law and effectively demolishes it. Luke 6:1-11 is another version of the disciples plucking grain on the Sabbath and Jesus ends with the statement that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath, a statement of law demolition by the true God in Christ. In Luke 14:1-6, again Jesus heals a man with dropsy on the Sabbath and Jesus notes and says to the lawyers and Pharisees that they would pull their son or an ox from a ditch on the Sabbath; the lawyers and Pharisees could not respond. Again, Jesus certainly here, and in the other scripture passages I have noted, challenged at least the Jewish Sabbath and even seem to be touching upon the total abolition of the Jewish ritual law.

St. Paul, in several of his letters, also comments on the Jewish ritual law and its continued applicability. Thus, in Romans chapters 2 and 3, St. Paul challenges and explains that the law cannot provide salvation. In Romans chapter 7:7-13, Paul explains the true function of the law is a mirror to humanity to reveal sin and is the only way we can come to know and understand sin. In Galatians 3:21, St. Paul explains that before faith came in Christ we were confined under the law and under restraint and the law was our custodian until Christ came and we could be justified by faith and now that faith has come we are no longer under that custodian. (See also Galatians chapters 4 and 5).

Let me conclude this essay with this: Christ and the church and Christianity stand alone in the world as not making any legal requirements on or of its adherents. The Christian is free to dress as he wishes and can attend or not attend church and can, as I said, wear jeans or a t-shirt to church. He or she will not be condemned. The Christian is free to pray or not pray. Perhaps the best way to put it is that our faith is a voluntary faith founded on love. Jesus exercises no compulsion and makes no social, or racial distinction. As of old, to this day, he calls his people from their boats and from their daily tasks of labor and says to all of us, rich and poor, peasant and ruler, follow thou me, and, as we follow him in the course of our lives, not forced to do so but doing so from faith and love, we will come to know him and the truth that lies in him and his words coming to share eternal life and joy in his holy presence.