Christ's Observance of the Law.

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Jesus regarded Himself as keeping the Law, even in its ceremonial part. Christ no doubt kept the moral Law ;
  CHRIST'S OBSERVACE OF THE LAW. ROBERT MACKITOSH, B.D.,I our course of study we have now to face thequestion, How did Christ comport Himself inpractice towards the Jewish Law ? And we shall tryto answer the question, by showing that Jesus regardedHimself as keeping the Law, even in its ceremonialpart. Christ no doubt kept the moral Law ; but Hissinlessness cannot be proved by an induction of facts ;He was not even brought to trial on the charge of breaking the statute law of the Old Covenant ; and,as regards the religious or covenant side of the Law,Jesus claimed Messiahship in a sense which impliedthat His life was essentially too great for measurementby the Old Covenant.We must keep this in mind throughout in consider-ing the question, whether Christ's conduct squares withthe Law. We never, indeed, find Him putting in forceMessianic immunities or indulgences ; but His Messi-anic functions are duties not to be trammelled. Theheavenly Healer does not even set aside the Law bytouching the polluted in order to restore them. Howcould the Law forbid, or even contemplate, such a caseas that ?Our practical inquiry, therefore, is, whether Christkept the ceremonial Law. We shall try to prove thatCHRIST AD THE JEWISH LAW,He did, by showing that He meant to. keep the Law.  And we shall need all our powers, for, perhaps, amajority of those scholars, who are free from dogmaticprejudice, hold that He deliberately broke the Sabbath.On this question our inquiry will hinge, — Whether weadmit or deny the exhaustive accuracy of describingthe Sabbath as a ceremony, those Christians who holdthat Christ broke it, hold that it was a ceremony, andthat our Lord regarded it as such.I. In opening the discussion of Christ's behaviourin regard to ceremonies, I may refer first to two of ourLord's sayings, which throw light on the generalprinciples of His conduct.The palmary passage Matt. v. 17 tells us that ourLord came not to destroy the law or the prophets,but to fulfil. It is true, we have found reason to con-clude that, in these words, our Lord is thinking of theethical side of the Law ; but the ver}^ generality of theexpression involves a disclaimer of opposition to theexisting Law, and gives a broad pledge of obedience.The other passage referred to is specially calculatedto make good any lack of distinctness in the first. Itoccurs in Matthew's report of our Lord's baptism.Mysterious though the grounds of that transaction are,and uncertain as is the meaning of the words in whichour Lord overrules the Baptist's hesitation, the wordsthemselves are plain enough (Matt iii. 15), ''Thus itbecometh us to fulfil all pious observance (comparevi. i). Even if the letter were less distinct, the spiritof the transaction points out Christ as a keeper of thereligious ordinances of His day. Is it not thenevident, that Christ designed, at least, to keep theLaw ?CIIRISrS OBSERVACE OF THE WRITTE LAW. 6 1  2. ext, it may be noticed that Christ's habits of life were not ascetic or sectarian, but . were those of the people. An Essene or a azirite might vary thehabits of his nation w^ith popular approval, or at leastwithout check ; Christ could not do so. According toJohn's Gospel, He always endeavoured, while it waspossible, to attend the Passover. The Synoptists(Matt. xxvi. 17; Mark xiv. 12) represent the disciplesas taking for granted that Christ will keep 'the lastPassover. In His teaching,^ He repeatedly acknow-ledged the currency of parts of the Law of ordinances.3. If details fail us, a further consideration mayreconcile us to their absence. Christ was exposed allHis life to the criticism of Pharisees, — i-e., of fanatics,who were zealous for the Law, especially for its mosttrivial jots and external tittles. These men form, forus the most efficient of all possible courts of inquiry.If they found nothing against Him in the matter of their Law, — bitterly as they hated Him, stung as theywere to the quick by His rejection of their tradition, — there can have been no point in which His conductdiffered frora what the Law required. At His trial,they did their best ; Many bare false witness againstHim, and their witness agreed not together (Mark xiv. 56J. If they could have convicted Him of Sabbath-breaking, or of any ritual transgression, theywould gladly have done so ; but they were helpless.We hear, indeed, of an attack upon His teaching ; There stood up certain, and bare false witness againstHim, saying, We heard Him say, I will destroy thistemple that is made with hands, and in three days I. ^ — ,' Below, ch. vi.  62 CHRIST AD THE JEWISH LAW,will build another made without hands (vers. 57, 58).In this evidence, possibly, we meet with a reminiscenceof John ii. 19; beyond a doubt it was based on somesaying of our Lord regarding changes which Hisdeath should bring about. But this charge, too, cameto nothing. He had not broken with the Law. Hewas indeed found guilty, — but not of traversing theJewish Law, only of claiming what was incredibleand hateful to Pharisees. The claim itself condemnedHim.-4. More will need to be said in regard to Jesus'treatment of the Sabbath. It may be argued that, inregard to it, the Pharisees were silenced but not con-vinced. Although, so far as we hear, they were toomuch ashamed of the charge to use it at His trial,although, at any rate, they did not use it with success,it may be alleged that the one justifiable charge againstJesus, from a Pharisee or legalist point of view, wasthat He broke the Sabbath. Many theologians think that He did so. A review of the facts, about whichthe question arises, will show us its importance in thehistory of our Lord's ministry.The Synoptic Gospels record five cases in whichJesus broke the traditional rest^ of the Sabbath. Of these cases Matthew records two ; Mark, repeating these,adds another ; and Luke records all five. Four of themwere cases of cure wrought in synagogues. Our Lord'sministry in Galilee began (Mark i. 21; Luke iv. 31)with the cure, of a demoniac in the synagogue atCapernaum. As yet, His conduct was not un-favourably criticised ; astonishment,' we may suppose,' Above, ch. iii., pp. 42, 43.
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