A long time ago in a galexy far, far away. . .
Most peole who take the time to investigate what Jesus taught relegate him to some other place and some other time. We are often not sure what to make of some of the things he said. Is Jesus relevant to today's issues or is he just a general guideline from which we need to figure out what he really meant for today's world? Did he simply live too long ago and too far away from the reality of our lives?
Jesus had a real life in a real culture with real historical events. I think it is impossible to understand the teachings of the man without investigating the world he lived in. For instance, Jesus believed stuff that he was taught by his culture, by his parents, by his teachers. In the same way that our upbringing consisted of what our culture, parents and teachers taught us, Jesus' world-view was shaped by his.
One facet of his upbringing was his indoctrination into the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament was the only Bible of his day). It was not uncommon for young Jewish men to have huge sections of the Law and the Prophets (these are sections of the Hebrew Scriptures) memorized. This appears to be true of Jesus.
But, you say, Jesus came to set us free from law and rule-keeping. It's for freedom that he set us free. I am free to follow the Holy Spirit - I am not bound by the laws of the Old Testament. This sounds consistant with good orthodox (stuff that Christians have believed for a long time) theology. The only problem I have is that Jesus taught, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (sections of the Hebrew Scriptures); I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, 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." (Matthew 5:17-18)
So how do Hebrew Scriptures fit into the world-view of a 21st century follower of Jesus? There have been many schools of thought as to how to understand what Jesus meant in Matthew 5. Some of them are:
1. Spiritualizing - Jesus was not being literal, he was promoting an ideal which we are free to use as a measuring stick as we study the Hebrew Scriptures. Put another way, Jesus was affirming the relevancy of the Hebrew Scriptures without requiring that we observe all the laws found there.
2. Judaizing - Jesus was being literal, he was demanding an adherance to Jewish religion as part of his kingdom. Jesus expected his followers to keep all of the laws contained in the Hebrew Scriptures.
3. Contextualizing - Jesus was giving context to who he was and what he was teaching. It would be Jesus' assertion that you cannot understand who he is and what he is teaching without seeing him in the context of Hebrew Scripture.
Where do you fall? What was Jesus saying? Your ability to think critically and answer this question will radically change who you think Jesus is and what it means to follow him.
Just some stuff we should talk about.