Do you ever have one of those eureka moments when something comes clear that you have been puzzling about for a long time but couldn’t ever get it to come clear? I sometimes think I have more than my share of those moments probably because there are so many things that I often am puzzled about. When I’m reading the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John I think that the apostles must have had an amazing number of such moments. I’m not at all certain it was things they were wondering about. Probably many times when Jesus opened their eyes it was about things they thought they fully understood before but when he pulled back the curtain they knew they hadn’t seen even a small portion of what was available to see.
I’m thinking today of those times when Jesus said, “For this is the Law and the Prophets.” The religious leaders of the time, including the scribes, the lawyers, the Pharisees and Sadducees along with the Essenes who we don’t hear mentioned in the New Testament sure thought they had a clear grasp on the meaning and purpose of the Law and the Prophets. In their minds it was the law that set them apart from the rest of the world. It demonstrated that they were God’s chosen people. It also seems that they often felt it was their job to try to make the law clear to everyone else. They could string one law on top of another to add regulations on how to obey God’s original law. Imagine adding 600 restrictions on how to obey the law, “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” There is something strange about us when we think we can clarify what God said to us.
But, think of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “In everything, therefore, treat people in the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Since he used the word “Therefore” it is important to look back quickly and see what he had been discussing with them. I would suppose he was pointing to the things just said, but it could certainly go back to the entirety of the Sermon on the Mount. Consider the idea that it was the things just said. He had warned them not to be judges of others without first getting the beam from our own eyes to see clearly to get the specks from another’s eyes. He warned them not cast the holy before dogs or pearls before swine and then turned to the encouragement for them to ask, seek and knock knowing that God will answer them. He used the illustration of a child asking his father for a fish and noted that the father wouldn’t turn around and give him a snake or if he asked for bread he won’t give the child a stone. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him?” That was what was just before the Lord’s statement about the Golden Rule and was likely what he was pointing back to when he said, “Therefore”. If God will answer our prayers and give us the good gifts we ask for should we be ready and willing to treat others around us the way we would want to be treated?
If you go all the way back to the beginning of this segment it would be since we aren’t to be judges of others in the sense of condemning another shouldn’t we treat others as we would like to be treated. None of us want to be judged by others. We may get some morbid pleasure out of judging, but we don’t want anyone to turn it around and judge us.
Jesus said, “In everything” we are to treat others as we want to be treated. That is pretty strong isn’t it? If we could pick and choose the times to apply the Golden Rule it would sure be easier. But he offers no limitations. That means, at church we treat others like we want them to treat us. At home we treat others as we want them to treat us. At work we treat others as we want them to treat us. At Walmart we treat others the way we want them to treat us. At the ballgame we treat others the way we want them to treat us. I think you get the point. Hopefully, I do to.
Notice we are to be the proactive ones. We don’t wait to see if they will obey it and then decide how we will respond. We become the first to offer the treatment we want from the other person. It isn’t treat them the way we want to be treated so they will treat us that way. It isn’t some form of psychological manipulation. You treat the other person the way you would like to be treated no matter how they act or what they say or do. It may change their actions, but it may not at all.
That, Jesus said, is the Law and the Prophets. That is the kind of conduct God has been trying to develop in us all along. He gave the Ten Commandments and sent the prophets to get us to treat others the way we want to be treated. The religious leaders were using the law to hammer people. Jesus said, use it to learn how to treat others in the way you would like them to treat you. Behind every law or teaching in all of God’s word there is a point or purpose that is being driven toward. If we knew that purpose or point, what a difference it would make in how we read the Bible and how we apply it to others.
The most well known time Jesus used this phrase was when he said, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” in Matthew 22:36-40. The lawyer asked him what was the first and great commandment. Jesus told him it was to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. On those commands hung the Law and the Prophets. Applying the same principle, Jesus declared that the whole point of the Law and the Prophets that God sent was to get us to love God with all our being and love our neighbor as ourselves. That point sure seems close to the one about the Golden Rule doesn’t it?
Does this help explain why Jesus would look at a hurting person on the Sabbath and heal them even when he knew it would aggravate everyone of the religious leaders around him. He knew the purpose of the law and prophets and refused to allow the regulations they applied to it, to drive him from doing what had always been in the mind of God for his people.
It all seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? The challenge isn’t in understanding, but in doing!