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The Cross of Bethlehem II

The Blind Law

If ye were blind, ye should have no sinJohn 9:41

 

 

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John 9:40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
9:41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

These verses summarize the attitude of Jesus towards the Pharisees and the Mosaic Law. He claims that they are perfectly aware they are interpreting the Mosaic Law to their personal convenience and not following the way God's expects us to. This theme is deeply related to others I touched in other occasions about the attitude of the modern State of Israel; this attitude is what brought the atrocities we saw in Gaza in January 2009.

I would like to speak today about Jesus teachings about the Mosaic Law. In other occasions we saw that these laws can be divided in three groups: ceremonial, dietetic and moral. We will see one example of each, see what is done in the modern State of Israel and what Jesus taught us.

The most obvious example of the ceremonial laws is the one related to the Sabbath:

Exodus 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
20:9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
20:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

In the modern State of Israel most shops are closed by state law during that day. Strangely enough, ultra-orthodox Jews communities - the modern successors of the Pharisees - connect neighboring communities with threads. They explain the law saying that although walking is a type of work, it is permitted to walk the "length of a thread." Sometimes the thread is several kilometers long and allows them visiting friends on Saturdays. That's a perfect example of an interested, biased interpretation of the original text.

Jesus answer was clear:

Matthew 12:1 At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.
12:2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.
12:3 But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;
12:4 How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
12:5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
12:6 But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.
12:7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
12:8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

Before analyzing, let's look at the dietetic laws. Many exist, I chose this one:

Leviticus 17:10 And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people.
17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
17:12 Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood.
17:13 And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust.
17:14 For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.

Harsh text; in the modern State of Israel that means that all the meat available in supermarkets and Jewish owned shops is "kosher," that means the poor beast was killed in a way that its corpse is left without blood. Yet every time my fork pierced the cooked meat, invariably a drop or two of blood would appear. There is no technical way of separating all the blood from the meat. This is yet another example of law that cannot be fulfilled, unless we become vegetarians. The purpose of these laws is to humble us and to bring us to the recognition that there is nothing we can do for our redemption, except for having Faith in His Grace. As Apostle Paul taught:

Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

What about the moral laws?

Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

Here, Jesus reaction is different:

Matthew 22:34 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.
22:35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

And here, also the reaction of the State of Israel is different. There is nothing so cheap there as Palestinian blood; their neighbors life. We saw the testimonies of assassin-soldiers given at Beit Oranim on the newspapers. Grandmother, mothers, and children were killed by snipers. A mother and her two children were killed in such a way. What was the order? Did the mother see her children killed and then she was killed, or was it the other way around? Is that the behavior of proper soldiers? Why aren’t they punished? Why isn’t the tractor driver that killed Rachel Corrie brought to court? (His identity is known, no soldier can move a vehicle in the IDF without a special permit)

If they cheat themselves on the ceremonial and dietetic laws, nobody cares. However, cheating on the moral laws leads to the violation of human laws and to the suffering and death of many people.

There is no error here, they act as the spiritual blinds we saw at the beginning in John 9:40-41. They know what they are doing. And Jesus answer?

Mathew 23:1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
23:2 Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:
23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
23:4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
23:5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
23:6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
23:7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
23:8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
23:9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
23:10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
23:11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
23:12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
23:16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!
23:17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?
23:18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.
23:19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?
23:20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.
23:21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.
23:22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.
23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
23:24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
23:25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
23:26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
23:27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
23:28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
23:29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
23:30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
23:31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
23:32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
23:34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
23:35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
23:36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
23:38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
23:39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.


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