It is disheartening to perceive ordinary people cherry-picking Jesus’s teachings. But, this is due to the fact that, physically, many things taught by Jesus appear inapplicable. This is especially, so, for those of the gentile stock, not connected to Jewish statutes. Should the Law of Moses be kept, according to the statutes? The answer is a resounding yes!
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I tell you until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-21 NIV).
This is a profound Scripture but misunderstood by both the legalists and those professing that the Law is done away with. This world lacks bold Christians, taking Jesus’s words verbatim. Common believers are faced with the reality of what is perceives physically, yet with a spiritual meaning. Jesus remains controversial, just as He was controversial in the first century.
The problem lies in not understanding that Jesus’s teachings were spiritually focused, rather than physically absorbed. Jesus taught in parables to outsiders, yet clarifying everything to the insiders. Nevertheless, even those of the inner circle struggled to understand Jesus, as they had not yet received the Holy Spirit.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:21-24 NIV).
Humanly speaking, there was nothing sinister with Peter’s comment. The strong rebuttal by Jesus, against Peter, must have left Jesus’s entourage bemused. Peter had simply expressed His convivial support of His Master. How could Jesus use such strong language, likening Peter to Satan?
The answer lies in that human concerns are different from Godly concerns. God views things from the Spiritual realm, while humans view things from the physical realm. The spirit does not have limitations, while the physical carries limitations. For instance, it would be illogical to talk about travelling to Cape Town, without funding. Yet, spiritually, reaching Cape Town is instantaneous.
This describes one of the differences between spiritual and physical considerations. True Christians focus on Spiritual matters rather than physical matters. This is why Jesus advised renouncing everything, before following Him. Obviously, what Jesus taught does not make sense to those existing physically.
Leaving everything, including income-generating activities, cannot be acceptable to physical humans. Interestingly, the disciples left their fishing businesses, including families, to follow Jesus. That kind of behaviour cannot be workable physically, as also not acceptable to ordinary humans.
“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:24-28 NIV).
The above Scripture highlights the impracticability of conflating the physical and spiritual applications. This is why Jesus did not force anyone to apply what He taught. Hence, there is no relationship between physical and spiritual existences.
It pains me when I observe many Christians attempting to simplify Jesus’s teachings. While at the same time persuading others to accept Jesus as their personal Savior. Jesus never persuaded anyone to follow Him. He, actually, discouraged most of those intending to follow Him.
When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18-22 NIV).
The above represents many Scriptures, commonly ignored by those claiming to be Christians. Those attempting to apply such Scriptures are labelled heretical—considered as advancing unorthodox teaching. Of course, they would be heretical, just as Jesus was considered heretical. Nevertheless, the Laws given to the Israelites were spiritual.
“Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19-20 NIV).
Such Scriptures are generally explained away by pastors, giving comfort to the converts, remarking; “If Bishops cannot take them seriously, why should ordinary believers be bothered?” Ordinary believers would therefore be nicely deceived, as taking comfort in Christianity, but without conviction.
There is no worse thing than deception, but what is common with most deceptions is that they give temporary satisfaction. Before experiencing bad effects in future. Zimbabweans got their independence in 1980, with promises of self-determination. But they have experienced worse things, than before independence.
Deception stared the entire nation, whose subjects could not see anything wrong, right from the day of independence. To those who saw the deception at that time, nothing is surprising with what currently goes on. For most people, over forty years have gone by, without realizing that our independence was fictitious. The negative effects being experienced, are blamed on sanctions.
The sanctions mantra may grip Zimbabweans, for another length of time. Although refreshing, to hear some quarters, now decrying such deceptions. But most of our young people look for employment in other countries. This reveals that Zimbabweans have never experienced independence.
Nevertheless, nothing is worse than Christian deception. Jesus indicated that there would be gnashing of teeth, at His second coming. The cause of deception, in Christianity, is a misunderstanding, due to conflating the spiritual and physical realities. I suppose we should now unpack the significance of law-keeping:
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:21 NIV).
God’s perfect Law reveals the nature of God’s Kingdom. The life of Jesus revealed the perfect example of keeping God’s Laws. The Sabbath-keeping Pharisees tried to harass Jesus, due to their clear misunderstanding of spiritual issues. They did not understand the significance of those Laws. See [The Seventh Day Sabbath is a sign of God’s Kingdom].
Nevertheless, Jesus never instructed anyone to avoid God’s Laws—applicable to those of this world. “For truly I tell you until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished”
When will heaven and earth disappear? The answer is right there, in the Judeo-Christian Bible. The total banishment of the Law will come, immediately after the final judgment, as recorded in the Book of Revelation:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4 NIV).
As stated, previously, God’s Laws remain intact, until everything has been accomplished. After the final judgment, the wicked people would have been destroyed, so that only the redeemed, collectively, become God’s Children. They will not need the Law, just as Jesus and His brothers do not need the Law.
Jesus’s brothers constitute true Christians having attained the status of being God’s children, after baptism. Although loathed and persecuted, they became God’s Children. While Revelation 21 narrates what encompasses everyone, God’s people have experienced being with God, all along.
The only difference is that Christians go through physical persecution. Whereas, those in New Jerusalem would not have been persecuted, for Christ’s sake. Their bad life experiences would have been a result of violating God’s Laws. Jesus said, those having accepted His teachings would not experience death:
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me” (John 6:53-57 NIV).
The Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus, who had said what they could not accept. They could not intellectually understand the spiritual principles taught by Jesus. The Heavenly things that Jesus talked about, made sense, only to His followers, whilst the Jews were stuck on earthly things.
The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honour my Father and you dishonour me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” (John 8:51 NIV).
That last line, remains a mystery, even to most Christians of our time. But this Scripture confirms the fact that true Christians have already been granted the right to be with God, forever. True Christians are not under the Law, anymore. However, this is different from the mischievous utterances, that God’s Laws were done away with, after the death of Jesus.
Nevertheless, being under the Law, means being under a curse, according to Paul, whose communication was with Galatian Christians: “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” (Galatians 3:10 NIV).
The entire humanity is under a curse, except for the true Christians, who Jesus said would never see death. The question, whether the Law of Moses should be kept, or not, is irrelevant. That Law was badly bastardized by the Israelites. It has only been validated by the blood of Jesus, leading to eventually keeping it according to its Spiritual intent.
True Christians are no longer under the Law, having become God’s children. They live under the dictates of the Holy Spirit, where Jesus would have become their intercessor. Living under the dictates of God’s Spirit is not difficult for those having renounced everything to follow Christ.
Even though keeping God’s Law is important, true Christians are not mandated to preach Law-keeping. Their mandate is to preach the gospel, as instructed by Jesus. But they cannot teach ordinary people to avoid keeping those Laws, lest they become least in God’s Kingdom.
Having decided to forsake the idea of following Christ, after counting the costs (Luke 14:31), Law-keepers cannot be adjudged as wrong. There is no doubt that some people could effectively keep those Laws. The worst, though, are those striving to keep such Laws when assuming to be Christians, at the same time. Christianity implies allowing Christ to live in one’s physical body, so as to behave exactly like Jesus.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99
Also available as an e-copy at Lulu.com for $6.99