A New Sheriff In Town
Today we will continue our look at the scriptures that I believe Jesus would have focused on as he “opened the minds” of his disciples after his death and resurrection. There is no real record of what OT scriptures that he used, however, many editors have speculated and I have taken some of these scriptures for us to look at. Last week, in Isaiah 53, we focused on Christ’s sacrifice for us while he was on the cross. This week, we will look to Christ’s ushering in of the New Covenant, sweeping away the Covenant of Law administered by the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law.
To begin, we need to establish the need for this change. Ezekiel 34:1-2, firmly establishes this need.
“The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?’”
With this rebuke, God is singling out all the leaders, kings, princes, Pharisees and teachers. All have sinned, and God is telling them that he will hold them all accountable. They have all been poor shepherds of Israel. A change is coming, there is a new sheriff in town (I love westerns). I mean a new shepherd is coming. Let’s stay in Ezekiel 34: 22-24, where God, through Ezekiel, explains how this will happen.
“I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered (by the previous shepherds). I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David (a ruler like David from his line, the Messiah), and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David (Jesus) will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.”
I hear no ambiguity here, do you? The Lord is making a change in leadership, and to do this, he has to change the system that empowers the corrupt kings, Pharisees and teachers. It is out with the old, the Covenant of Law, and in with the New Covenant of Peace. Ezekiel 34:25-26,
“I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of wild beasts so that they may live in the desert and sleep in the forests in safety. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessings.”
All of God’s covenants aim at peace. Peace being the absence of hostility, a fullness of life enjoyed in complete security. This New Covenant, mentioned by Jesus himself at the supper table with his disciples on the night that he was betrayed, will, ultimately, usher in the final peace. This is all explained by another prophet, Jeremiah. I can just see Jesus, as he “opens the minds” of his disciples, segueing from Ezekiel to Jeremiah. This is exactly what we will do. Jeremiah 31:31-34,
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time”, declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and will write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Imagine being one of the disciples and hearing Jesus himself teach you about himself from these words of the Prophets. After all that you have witnessed in the last through weeks, the ups and downs, the betrayal and death of Christ, then his resurrection and the empty tomb. Can you not sense the illumination, the understanding, flowing through them, “opening their minds” to the scriptures and Christ’s purpose?
Then what about the disciples’ hearts? What about the impact of God’s Spirit upon their understanding?
What kept the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law in power for 1300 years or so? Why it was the law of course. The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law, through manipulation and deceit, conspired to oppress the people of God and exalt their position in Israel.
Through Jeremiah God tells us that the Pharisees and Teachers will no longer control the law. The Law will be in their minds and written on their hearts. How in the world will this happen?
This will be the work of God’s Holy Spirit. This is why the Holy Spirit of God is so important. Forgiveness is no longer the work of the Pharisees through the many sacrifices of the Israelite nation. Forgiveness and assurance now comes through God’s Holy Spirit.
Now Jesus would probably not have done this, but I will. There is a passage in the New Testament that effectively explains how this will happen. But first, why must this change happen? Hebrews 10:1-4,
“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once and for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
This isolates for our understanding the inadequacy of the Covenant of Law, it is a reminder of guilt and not a forgiver of guilt. The work of Christ on the cross is our substitutionary sacrifice, yet the feeling of forgiveness that we receive from this loving sacrifice of Jesus comes to us through the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit testifies to our hearts and minds this assurance. Listen to Hebrews 10:13-18,
“Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’ Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.”
So, no longer is there a need for ritual sacrifices for sin.
No longer is there a need for administration by corrupt Pharisees and Teachers of the Law. God, through his Holy Spirit, because of Christ’s work on the cross, will now administer forgiveness to all of God’s people. Christ’s sacrifice is a complete work, once and for all.
This teaching of Christ to the disciples had to blow the disciples’ minds.
Remember that the real purpose and function of the law was to make people aware of their sinfulness and their need for God. Yet, the Pharisees would take advantage of this by manipulating the people of Israel with their guilt. Also, carrying guilt around does not make for a healthy human.
Through the New Covenant, with the single sacrifice of Christ on the cross, God would forgive us our wickedness and remember our sins no more. From now on, once you believe in Christ, every time that you sin, it is for the first time.
Every time God forgives you, he remembers that sin no more.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC