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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 6: Matthew 5:21-7:29, by Kevin M. Williams

In first century Israel, there may have been up to 80 different sects in Judaism, including the lawyers and the zealots. There were the liberal Hellenists who cared little for the Torah. There were the scribes who had to memorize every “jot and tittle” of the script in order to transcribe it exactly onto parchment. There were the Pharisees of whom we read in the gospels, who were fastidious about things like ritual purity and Sabbath-keeping. Within their ranks was the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai, with Hillel6 considered the more lenient and Shammai the more conservative. And of course there were the Essenes from the community at Qumran. They were reportedly deeply opposed to divorce except in cases of infidelity.

The Essenes were considered even more strictly conservative than the Pharisees of the School of Shammai. They were deeply concerned over the weightier issues of the Torah. There is a movement afoot that attempts to link both John the Baptist and Yeshua to the Essene community. If this claim is true, then John and Yeshua would have been reared and trained amidst the strictest Torah keepers of the era.

Even if they were not Essenes, Yeshua—the Word made flesh—in all integrity would have remained faithful and true to that Word.

“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the City of the Great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; and anything beyond these is of evil” (Matthew 5:33-37).

In other words, keeping an oath or a vow is easier than letting your yes be yes and your no be no. Yeshua says that anything else is evil.

In a modern setting, if you look at your driver’s license (assuming you have one), it bears your likeness, your signature, your address, your unique and identifying number. It may even reveal your weight, eye and hair color. A simple thing really. You pass the test, pay your money, and get a license.

What if it is not merely a license, but a covenant? You made a promise to follow the laws of the road. There is a contract with your signature on it on file somewhere and you were rewarded with a “license” demonstrating your trustworthiness. You said “yes” but when you are on the road do you live “yes?” Yeshua says that anything less is “evil.” Does that mean that if you speed, or slide through that stop sign, race through a red light, or refrain from using your turn signal, you are participating in “evil?”

And so it goes on through chapter five. The Torah proclaims truths and Yeshua does anything but annul them. He does what was expected of the Messiah—He explains the heart of God’s will and the heart of God’s instructions—the Torah. Who can keep the spirit of Yeshua’s Law perfectly—let alone the Torah of Moses? His enlightenment makes it so obvious that even the most diligent and pious Israelite (or Christian) still needs a savior.

Does Yeshua’s revelation about the Torah in some way negate grace? In no way! It may make passages like John 1:17 more understandable and impressive, “The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” The Torah under the Mosaic system was a list of do’s and don’ts—a revelation of sin and a path toward atonement—but it never promised eternal life. It was always supposed to draw people closer to God, understanding that it is only by His grace that they had any relationship with Him to begin with. They were chosen, freed from bondage, brought through the sea, and formed God’s first foreshadowing of the community of the redeemed well before reaching Mount Sinai and the giving of the Torah.

Through the Messiah, however, through His unprecedented teaching on the Torah and its application to our lives, we realize how pitifully we fall short of righteousness. Through Yeshua’s death and resurrection we realize more fully “grace and truth.”

This seems to be in accord with Paul’s statements: “And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:12). After Yeshua’s teaching on Torah, listeners with a healthy conscience may have realized that even though they might keep the letter of the Law, they were still guilty of breaking its spirit, hence as Paul says, “transgression increased.” Because transgression increased, through Yeshua, “grace abounded all the more.”

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Summer 2002

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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