Luke 16:16-18 (winter, AD 29)
There are still those who, while calling themselves Christians, insist that we need to keep to the civil and ceremonial code of Old Testament Law. And yet, throughout the gospels Jesus made it clear that those codes were done away with, and no longer acceptable because the prophesied Messiah had come who fulfilled the law and became the ultimate sacrifice.
Jesus repeated that again here in verse sixteen. He contrasted “The Law and the Prophets” aimed in the first instance at the Jews, with “the good news of the kingdom of God” which had become available in a more obvious way to “everyone”.
And yet the Law was not thrown out as a mistake – it was fulfilled. Every stroke of the Law remained to show them, and us, our inability to be holy and our need of a saviour. Then, Jesus’ flawless adherence to the Law, not an abandoning of it, made him acceptable as the ultimate sacrifice. As an example of the still-relevant moral law, Jesus’ cited the Commandment prohibiting adultery.
The old covenant is like a life-maintaining, life-extending drug that manages a condition so that you can keep living for the time being, but without providing a cure. Or like chemo that keeps a tumour small enough so that it doesn’t kill you, until the day you can have surgery to remove the whole thing. You can’t survive today without the drugs, but you won’t make it until next year without the cure.
The sacrifice of animals during Old Testament times didn’t save anyone’s sin. Sin can only be forgiven by the sacrifice of a substitute, and the only acceptable substitute is one who has been subject to exactly the same trials and temptations as you and me, and yet was without sin – hence Jesus.
So if you were to remove any of the Law, it’s effectively saying Christ’s sacrifice was less important, which is why not “the least stroke of a pen [will] drop out of the Law”, and why it is still in our Bible to remind us of the standard we cannot reach, and cause us gratitude for the penalty that has been paid on our behalf.
We must feel the weight of the Law before we can appreciate the freedom of the kingdom of God. At the same time, we can rejoice that we live in a time when God has provided not merely drugs with a promise (the old covenant), but the cure itself (the sacrifice of Jesus).