In Part 1 of this series we established a foundation and looked at why Jesus preached a different type of message when He was addressing different audiences. In this article we will look at some examples of when Jesus preached law to those who were heavy handed with the law and grace to people who were open and humble enough to receive it.
The Rich Young Ruler
Remember the rich young ruler in who came to Jesus and asked Him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life? Well therein lay his problem: He wanted to DO something to inherit it. So Jesus gave Him the law.
Mar 10:17 And when He had gone out into the way, one came running up and kneeled to Him, and asked Him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said to him, Why do you call Me good? No one is good except one, God. 19 You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and your mother. 20 And he answered and said to Him, Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth. 21 Then Jesus, beholding him, loved him and said to him, One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in Heaven. And come, take up the cross and follow Me. 22 And he was sad at that saying and went away grieved, for he had great possessions. (MKJV)
This young man thought he had it made. He had obeyed all the rules since he was a child. But Jesus, knowing that law keeping will never justify anybody, raised the bar EVEN HIGHER and told him to go sell everything he had! The law will always tell us that we lack something, that we haven’t done enough and that we can do better more. It’s a relentless task-master which was designed to bring people to the end of themselves so that they would throw their hands up in the air and say, “I can’t do it! Lord help me!” The law was never designed to justify anybody, only Jesus can do that!
Gal 2:16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (ESV)
Hands and Eyes
It’s always interesting to watch the reaction of people (who claim the necessity of observing to the finest detail everything that Jesus said) when asked why they haven’t chopped off their hands or plucked out their eyes yet.
Mat 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (ESV)
Jesus’ audience was Jews who were still under the law. For a few centuries (before He came onto the scene) the only teachings these people had known were from the Scribes, the Pharisees and Sadducees. Over the years these religious groups had watered down the severity of the law to a standard that any normal person could observe if they just put a reasonable amount of fleshly effort into it. It was these “diluted” rules that Jesus was referring to when He said “You have heard it said…” He came however to return the law to its original intended purpose, to remind people that it was a ministry that brought death (2 Corinthians 3:7). The religious groups taught that if you just refrained from the physical act of adultery you are actually okay. But the true standard of the law stipulated that the mere presence of lust in the heart was enough to destroy a person.
Jesus, Preacher of Grace
When it came to sinners and those who humbled themselves, Jesus offered a different message. He always had grace and compassion for people who had come to the end of themselves and who didn’t rely on law keeping for their justification. Jesus knew that He would soon be ushering in a new order, a new way of relating to God, a New Covenant. But because His own people (the Jews) were heavily steeped under the law, Jesus in numerous instances extended grace to non-Jews, who readily humbled themselves in order to receive from Him.
Just think about the Samarian woman at the well (John 4) who had five husbands. Jesus did not judge or condemn her and His approachability in spite of her less than perfect behavior allowed her to recognize Him as being the Savior. Through this grace extended to her, she later shook that entire area, causing many to come to Christ.
A woman from Canaan came to Him once to deliver her daughter from the oppression of a demon (Matthew 15). He reminded her that He didn’t actually come for the Gentiles (who were called “dogs” by the Jews), but only for Israel, and that it wasn’t good to throw the children’s bread to the dogs (give what only belonged to Israel to the Gentiles).
Mat 15:26 But He answered and said, It is not good to take the children’s bread and to throw it to dogs. 27 And she said, True, O Lord; but even the little dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ tables. 28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, O woman, great is your faith! So be it to you even as you wish. And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (MKJV)
She humbly admitted that her natural descent disqualified her from asking His help, but her faith bolstered her to say that if there were any left-over blessings that could possibly fall from God’s table to the ground, that she would gladly receive it. She (and consequently her daughter) received God’s grace in spite of their incompatible lineage.
Then there was the woman who was caught in adultery (John 8), about to be stoned by the self-righteous crowd. Jesus told her that He didn’t condemn her, which was what empowered her to “go and sin no more”. With God, acceptance and love always precedes correction.