ACCORDING TO THE LAW
Luke 2:39 & Galatians 4:4-5
39When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.
4But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
Our Christian creeds list some vital facts about Jesus:--> His birth, suffering and crucifixion, burial, resurrection and ascension. The Nicene Creed claims that Christ rose again "according to the Scriptures." - Did you ever wonder how we should understand that statement? Does it mean that the Bible only CLAIMS Jesus rose again, for example, or does it mean He DID rise as Scriptures FORETOLD that He would?
It's the second sense that is intended, of course, that He deliberately fulfilled each step that was predicted beforehand! He rose "according to" the path Scripture had already prescribed.
We need to understand the theme for this message, "ACCORDING TO THE LAW," in a similar way. It was an absolute necessity for the accomplishment of human redemption that Jesus match-up with these two following aspects of the ancient Divine Law:--> 1.) that He perfectly follow its demands, and 2.) that He fully suffer its curse for failure.
JESUS PERFECTLY FULFILLED THE LAW'S DEMANDS
(THE EXAMPLE OF JOSEPH AND MARY)
In the first matter, that Jesus had to perfectly fulfill the Law's required demands, it's helpful for us to first notice how His earthly parents, Joseph and Mary, conducted themselves. - They both had consciences concerned with doing what was right. They obeyed God's directions concerning their marriage and having and protecting the Son that they dutifully named Jesus. But, not only was the Moral Law against adultery not really transgressed by them, but good parenting and pious example were shown in other ways---
(Obedience to Government)- They were law-abiding citizens, although they were subject to a despotic government with corruption entrenched at every level. They obeyed the decree of Caesar Augustus to travel to the hometown of the head of the family and became enrolled for census and tax purposes. And, having done that, when it came to paying their taxes, they no doubt "rendered unto Caesar" what was "his." - Their example showed submission to earthly government, in other words, recognizing it as operating by God's will and authority.
(Faithful to Ceremonial Requirements)- Beyond civil laws handed down from Rome, though, they were also conscientious about following the requirements of the ancient Ceremonial Laws of Israel. - After her pregnancy and giving birth, the ritual purification of Mary was done "according to the Law" given in Leviticus, Chapter 12: "A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days... On the 8th day the boy is to be circumcised. Then the woman must wait 33 days to be purified... When the days of her purification...are over, she is to bring to the priest...a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin-offering... If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons..."
Joseph and Mary likewise obeyed the requirement of the Law of Moses to dedicate Jesus, as recorded in Exodus, Chapter 13: "You are to give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the Lord (and you are to) redeem every firstborn among your sons."
Beyond this dedication, though, Joseph and Mary were careful to follow the Divine Covenant with Abraham which also came to be required by the Law, to have Jesus circumcised on the 8th day. - They gave it their very best, traveling to the National Temple in Jerusalem to have the rite performed and, as Luke 2:39 states: "When they had performed all things according to the Law of the Lord, they (eventually) returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth." (We know that in between, of course, was the temporary sidetrip to Egypt directed by God's Angel for their safety, - and another command from the Lord which they obeyed!)
(Done through Faith)- Mary and Joseph weren't perfect, of course, but their attitude and hearts were "right" through humble faith. Their obedience to God's Moral law, to government expectations and oppression, and to traditional ceremony were ALL motivated and accomplished through faith. - Of Joseph we're told: "When Joseph awoke from sleep, he DID as the Angel of the Lord commanded him..." From Mary we hear: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word..."
(CHRIST'S OWN FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW'S DEMANDS)
Now let's turn our attention to Christ's OWN relationship to the demands of the Law. - As He grew up and exercised His earthly ministry, He HimSELF purposely and conscientiously "performed all things according to the Law of the Lord," although He was Himself Lord and Law-GIVER!
(In His Youth)- Remember how at 12-years-old Jesus stayed behind at the Jerusalem Temple, while Mary and Joseph guessed that He was with relatives? After three days they found Him there amazing the teachers of the Law. - Did He break the Fourth Commandment? - No, for we know that He was "without sin." Luke's Gospel later says that He "was subject" to Mary and Joseph, but He had ANOTHER Father to whom He FIRST subjected Himself!
(In His Ministry)- Christ's own relationship to all God's Law can best be summed-up in His own words: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill! For truly I say to you, till Heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle shall by any means pass from the Law, till all is fulfilled."
He taught that the WHOLE of God's Law is essentially to 'Love God with all that we are and have, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.' He did so Himself to the very end, even praying for His enemies in His death: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And there we can see that even His THOUGHT-life was untainted with disloyalty, selfishness, hatred or revenge. JESUS CHRIST PERFECTLY PERFORMED ALL THINGS ACCORDING TO THE LAW..." - !!!
JESUS SUFFERED THE FULL CURSE OF THE LAW
(HE SUFFERED FOR THE WHOLE WORLD)
The other item for us to consider is Christ's suffering the full curse of God's Law; - not for His own failure to keep it, but for all the sins of everyone in the world! - There are presently an estimated six-billion people in the world. Through all of human history, then, do you suppose we might hazard a conservative population estimate of 25-billion with an average life-expectancy for each of 70 years? - Someone once suggested that, if a person was to commit only three sins of "thought" each day of his-or-her life, it would come to a total of almost 77,000 - without even considering all the external sinful words and deeds or utter depravity of the nature of the "Old Adam." -- 77,000 times 25-billion results in the enormous figure of nearly two-quadrillion sins! If we compared each to a mile, it's the distance from earth to the sun over 20-million times.
Can we get the point? - Jesus actually took on Himself infinitely more than we can imagine, and we really MEAN it when we say that!
(HE SUFFERED THE CURSE OF HUMAN LAWS)
The Gospel of John relates through Chapters 8-10 how people resented and considered it to be blasphemy that Jesus claimed to be "One with the Father." It resulted at His trial before Pilate in their claiming: "We have a Law, and according to our Law He ought to die." - Already subject to so much, we see Jesus bearing the additional burden of human opinion . . . people's unbelief . . . the curse of human law.
(HE SUFFERED THE CURSE OF GOD AND HIS LAW)
Scripture prescribes a number of DIVINE statements of curse, however, under the Law of God Himself:
"...according to the Law things are purified with blood;
and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (of sins)."
"Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law
and do them!"
"Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree."
Jesus is who bore what WE therefore deserve! - The ultimate curse prescribed by the Law was the cutting-off of transgressors from God and His people, and so it was when Christ cried from the Cross: "Why hast Thou forsaken ME?"
(HE SUFFERED WITH WILLING TRUST)
Our Lord's attitude in both keeping and suffering under the Law is expressed well in an old hymn stanza that described His commissioning from the Heavenly Father:
Yea, Father, yea most willingly I'll bear what Thou commandest;
My will conforms to Thy decree. I DO what Thou demandest...
Bearing shame...stripes, and wounds and death, Anguish and mockery,
He saith, "WILLING, ALL THIS I SUFFER."
Jesus went to the end in the same way His earthly parents showed us, humbly obeying God in TRUST, emptying Himself! Scripture tells us: "When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered He did not threaten; but He TRUSTED to Him who judges justly," and "...for the joy that was set before Him (Jesus) endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is (now) seated at the right hand of the Throne of God. - Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that YOU may not grow weary or fainthearted."
By His obedient trust, Jesus was brought to resurrection and exaltation, and He holds out the offer for us to join Him!
It would likely not be humanly possible to detail every way in which Jesus both fulfilled and suffered ALL "according to the Law." What we need to fully realize, though, is that every last "jot and tittle" was in OUR STEAD!!!
Galatians Chapter 4 states that Jesus "was born under the Law, to REDEEM those who were under the Law, that we might receive...adoption" as God's children and be His heirs. - A young orphan boy was once adopted and then submitted to a miserable existence. The adopting father had a habit of lording-over the boy what had been done for him whenever that father was displeased, by pulling out and showing the boy the old ragged shoes he had worn before his adoption. God does NOT drag out our dirty old shoes or sins, but, for the sake of Christ's work for us, "reckons" us as FULFILLERS of the Law, remembering our sins no more!
Through faith we are FULLY adopted into God's family;- not halfway. IN faith, then, let's obey Him as Joseph, Mary and Jesus did, for the Law can only be truly kept THROUGH trusting faith!