Written by Taylor Mertins, Pastor of Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Woodbridge, VA.
We think the “law” can save and fix our messed up and broken lives.
From infancy we’re spoon-fed a narrative of righteous self-determination, that if you do all the right things, and go to the right school, and marry the right partner, then everything will be as it should be.
Until it isn’t.
And then the “law” refuses to let us go.
So we adopt new habits: we buy a Peloton, we go on a new diet, we stay up late into the evening looking at Zillow for the next perfect house, we “Marie Kondo” our lives in order to get things under control.
And, even if some things change, even if we get that nice dopamine hit from imagining ourselves in a new place or we can fit into clothes we haven’t worn since college, we still can’t actually fix ourselves with the “law.”
At some point the new house becomes the old house, a few weeks away from the gym brings our waistline back, and on and on.
Jesus came to bring us something better than another law, something better than another set of things we must do in order to get God to do something for us. Sure, we’re called to love God and neighbor, turn the other cheek, pray for our enemies, but those are never prerequisites for the Kingdom.
Remember: The Kingdom is already among us. Our sins were nailed to the cross and left there forever.
The Law (from scripture and from life) is good, but it kills us. It exists to accuse us and it shows us, over and over again, who we really are. For, to borrow an expression from Paul, no one is righteous, no, not one.
Even our subtle exercises in self-denial during Lent help to remind us of the condition of our condition: Lent isn’t about participating in spiritual olympics in which we compete with one another to see who can be the most holy – instead it’s about confronting the fact that our desires will always get the better of us.
But the Law, and its ability to deaden us, is Good News and exactly what we need. It’s only in death (read: Baptism) that we begin to know the One who came to give us grace.
Contrary to how we often water down the Gospel, we worship a rather odd God. Our God who, among other things, speaks from a burning bush, promises offspring to a wandering octogenarian, and saves the cosmos through death on a cross.
And for Christians, we know who this odd God is because we know Jesus Christ.
Therefore, Jesus is not a new Moses who displaces the old law with a new one. Instead, Jesus is the New Adam who inaugurates an entirely new cosmos.
Jesus is not a new Moses because, as the Gospel of John reminds us, the Word was God before the foundation of the world.
Jesus is not a new Moses who offers a set of guidelines to save ourselves and the world. Instead Jesus comes to be our salvation in himself.
Here’s the Good News: On any given Sunday (even in the midst of a global pandemic) the people of God called church gather together to hear the most important word we will ever hear: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, and that proves God’s love toward us – In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.
Notice – Christ died for us while we were sinners, not before and not after. Christ chooses to die for us right in the midst of the worst mistake we’ve ever made or will ever make.
In the end, that’s what it’s all about.
We don’t follow Law in order to get God to save us.
We are already saved which then frees us to follow the Law – we do the things Christ calls us to do not because it earns us anything, but simply because it makes life a whole lot more fun.
Jesus isn’t a new Moses – Jesus is God. And that’s the difference that makes all the difference.