GOSPEL READING: Matthew 5:17-19
17 “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Meditation: Why do people tend to view the “law of God” negatively rather than positively? Jesus’ attitude towards the law of God can be summed up in the great prayer of Psalm 119: “Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.”
For the people of Israel the “law” could refer to the ten commandments or to the five Books of Moses, called the Pentateuch or Torah, which explain the commandments and ordinances of God for his people. The “law” also referred to the whole teaching or way of life which God gave to his people. The Jews in Jesus’ time also used it as a description of the oral or scribal law. Needless to say, the scribes added many more things to the law than God intended. That is why Jesus often condemned the scribal law because it placed burdens on people which God had not intended.
The essence of God’s law
Jesus made it very clear that the essence of God’s law – his commandments and way of life, must be fulfilled. God’s law is true and righteous because it flows from his love, goodness, and holiness. It is a law of grace, love, and freedom for us. That is why God commands us to love him above all else and to follow in the way of his Son, the Lord Jesus who taught us how to love by laying down our lives for one another.
Reverence and respect
Jesus taught reverence for God’s law – reverence for God himself, reverence for the Lord’s Day, reverence or respect for parents, respect for life, for property, for another person’s good name, respect for oneself and for one’s neighbor lest wrong or hurtful desires master and enslave us. Reverence and respect for God’s commandments teach us the way of love – love of God and love of neighbor. What is impossible to humans is possible to God who gives generously of his gifts and the Holy Spirit to those who put their faith in him.
God gives us the grace, help, and strength to love as he loves, to forgive as he forgives, to think and judge as he judges, and to act as he acts with mercy, loving-kindness, and goodness. The Lord loves righteousness and hates wickedness. As his followers we must love his commandments and hate every form of sin and wrong-doing. Do you seek to understand the intention of his law and to grow in wisdom of his ways?
The Holy Spirit transforms our minds and hearts
Jesus promised his disciples that he would give them the gift of the Holy Spirit who writes God’s law of love and truth on our hearts. The Spirit teaches us God’s truth and gives us wisdom and understanding of God’s ways. The Spirit helps us in our weakness, strengthens us in temptation, and transforms us, day by day, into the likeness of Christ himself. There is great blessing and reward for those who obey God’s commandments and who help others, especially the younger generations, to love, respect, and obey the Lord. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with a burning love and reverence for God’s word so that you may grow day by day in the wisdom and knowledge of God’s truth and goodness.
Lord Jesus, grant this day, to direct and sanctify, to rule and govern our hearts, minds, and bodies, so that all our thoughts, words, and deeds may be in accord with your Father’s law and wisdom. And thus may we be saved and protected through your mighty help.
1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their libations of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.
5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
11 You show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: What you teach, you should do, by Chromatius (died 406 AD)
“While it is sinful to abolish the least of the commandments, all the more so the great and most important ones. Hence the Holy Spirit affirms through Solomon: ‘Whoever despises the little things shall gradually die’ (Sirach 19:1b). Consequently nothing in the divine commandments must be abolished, nothing altered. Everything must be preserved and taught faithfully and devotedly that the glory of the heavenly kingdom may not be lost. Indeed, those things considered least important and small by the unfaithful or by worldly people are not small before God but necessary. For the Lord taught the commandments and did them. Even small things point to the great future of the kingdom of heaven. For this reason, not only words but also deeds are important; and you should not only teach, but what you teach, you should do.” (excerpt from TRACTATE ON MATTHEW 20.2.1-3)
[Note: Chromatius was an early Christian scholar and bishop of Aquileia, Italy. He was a close friend of John Chrysostom and Jerome. He died in 406 AD. Jerome described him as a “most learned and most holy man.”]
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.
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