Did you ever have something leap off the page, land on your face, toss you back and forth, screaming, “PAY ATTENTION!”?
This week I was casually searching the internet for the surname, Bocchimuzzo. (I occasionally dabble in family history.) As I was scanning a document from a Catholic church looking for this surname, words–having nothing to do with Bocchimuzzo–jumped off the page and attacked me!
My rabbi, Matthew Salathe, teaches that when we find bookends, we should pay attention because God is speaking. These hostile, face-grabbing words may have been brutal, but they were clearly bookends.
So, what were the bookends that slapped me upside the head? Yeshua’s temptation in the desert and his temptation in the garden. True, these bookends cover his entire ministry. But they also spoke volumes of one thing–obedience.
Obedience to what? God the Father as revealed in the Hebrew scriptures. In both instances Yeshua was tempted to disobey the scriptures. The first to follow after another god–the Adversary; the second to love himself more than he loved God or his fellow man (which is also idolatry).
Looking at the scriptures, we see in Deuteronomy 13 that Moses warned about false prophets. He said that even if a person comes performing miracles but leads people to disobey God’s commandments and follow other gods, then we are not to listen to him.
Now, if we believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, then we must conclude he was completely obedient to the Hebrew scriptures. If not, then he was merely a false prophet, leading people to worship a different god.
Yet, we see in the gospels that Yeshua often had debates with the religious leaders of his day about those very scriptures. How can we reconcile this situation?
When we read the gospels through the lens of Yeshua’s complete obedience to the scripture, that as he said, “Do not think I have come to do away with the Torah” we realize that he was not in disagreement with the scripture, but with the man-made interpretations and rules that countered scripture.
Breaking the Sabbath
In Matthew 12 we read about the Pharisees chiding Yeshua for his disciples breaking the Sabbath by picking grain. Yeshua justified this because they were hungry. He told the Pharisees that they didn’t understand what it means that God desires mercy and not sacrifice. If they had, then they would see that sustaining life is more important than even the Sabbath.
Yeshua then punctuated this point by entering the synagogue and finding a man with a withered hand in attendance. The Pharisees asked if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Yeshua obviously thought so because healed the man and said, “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
A Building has priority over people
In Mark 7 we read of another confrontation, this one over the washing of hands before eating. Yeshua told the religious leaders that they were teaching their own commandments as doctrine and leaving behind the commandments of God. To prove his point, he said, “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say if anyone tells his father or mother, ‘Whatever you might have gained from me is korban (that is, an offering to God),’ then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, making void the word of God with your tradition that you’ve handed down.”
These are just two examples. I challenge you to go through the gospels to find other examples of when Yeshua was in agreement with the Torah, but not the man-made rules that countered Torah.
As followers of Messiah, we really should look at our own man-made interpretations and rules that counter scripture. Let’s start with the two mentioned above.
What does the scripture say?
- God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. (Genesis 2:3)
- Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. The seventh day is the Sabbath. Don’t work on the Sabbath, don’t cause your servants to work on the Sabbath, nor your animals, nor visitors. Exodus 20:8-11
- If anyone breaks the Sabbath, he should be put to death. Exodus 31:13-15
What does man say?
- Jesus moved the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday because that is the day he came back from the dead.
- In keeping with scripture, doesn’t it make sense that he would wait until the Sabbath was over before coming back?
- Jesus did away with the Sabbath by healing on the Sabbath; by saying it was okay for his disciples to ‘harvest grain’ on the Sabbath.
- As mentioned above, Yeshua said, “It is permitted to do good on the Sabbath.” Our man-made interpretation turned that into ‘he did away with it’.
Taking care of parents, widows, and orphans
What does scripture say?
- Honor your mother and father (Exodus 20:12, Leviticus 19:3, 20:9)
- Take care of widows and orphans (Exodus 22:21, Deuteronomy 14:29, Deuteronomy 26:12, James 1:27)
- Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39)
What does man say?
- We need a bigger church facility to reach the lost.
- In the meantime, parishioners are suffering homelessness, hunger, loss of job, loss of dignity. But oh, don’t we have a great youth ministry? Sanctuary? Cafeteria for believers to meet? You name it; we dump millions of dollars into buildings when we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, to provide food, shelter, and dignity for widows, orphans, and strangers.
So, when we delve deeply into scripture, we realize that we are just as guilty as the Pharisees and Torah Scholars of placing our own man-made traditions above Yeshua, who just happens to be the Torah made flesh.
This Torah-made-flesh said, “If you love me, obey me” and “Keep my commandments.” Which ones? The ones found from Genesis to Deuteronomy, expounded upon by the prophets, sung of by the writings, lived out in the gospels, and preached in the acts and letters of the disciples.
Seriously, folks, we cannot have it both ways. Either Yeshua was completely obedient to the Torah – from one bookend of his ministry to the other – and calls us to do the same, or he broke the Torah, taught us to do that, and is therefore not the Messiah. We simply cannot escape this truth.