In my previous post, “According to the Law of Moses,” I mentioned the sub-theme running through the chapter after it records that “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God….” Luke, writing under the direction of the Holy Spirit, repeatedly emphasised throughout the rest of the chapter that the Son of God had been brought into a family that was very serious about keeping not only the letter but the spirit of the Law. They loved the Lord their God.
Why does it matter? It’s part of a larger theme that we see elsewhere in Scripture.
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
Just came to fulfill the Law, not just to fulfill its prophecies and illustrations, but to fulfill its righteousness, to live it out completely. He follows this promise of fulfillment with a warning:
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
In the rest of the chapter He goes on to elaborate, that it is not enough to avoid adultery, one must avoid adultery of the heart. It is not enough to avoid murder, one must avoid hatred, murder within the heart. It is not enough to love one’s friends, but one must love one’s enemies as well.
Jesus, of course, lived that righteousness to the full, even loving His enemies all the way to the point of dying for them (Romans 5:8). He certainly did fulfill the righteousness of the Law — but as He told John the Baptist (Matthew 3:15), He meant to go further than that:
Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.
Jesus was telling John that it was fitting for Him to complete every righteous act which would please God — and the following response of the Father bears that out.
And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
This was all for us. When Jesus died on the cross, His righteousness was exchanged for our sin. He, who knew no sin, became sin for us, that we might be made righteousness with His perfectly fulfilled righteousness.
II Corinthians 5:21
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
As I said on Sunday:
Because Jesus came to be
Righteous for Us
So that when He became
Sin For Us
We could be
Righteous in Him
When we truly internalise this truth, it destroys any pride or self-righteousness, as we realise that the only righteousness that matters is that which was given to us.
It destroys complacency, as the new nature within us longs to live up to that which has been given to us.
It destroys fear, for perfect love casts out fear. As we realise that no one could ever be saved by living up to God’s perfect standard of righteousness, so also no one could ever keep their salvation by living up to that standard. That would be devastating if we had not been given the righteousness that does satisfy His standard, but once we recognise that, we can rejoice in confidence in His love and forgiveness based on His perfect righteousness.
This knowledge also eliminates murmuring and complaining. When we truly accept that we can never match God’s standard, but the satisfaction of that standard has been given to us, there is nothing of which to complain. No matter what life in this world may send our way, Heaven is ours by right (albeit a right that was given to us) and Hell is not in our future.
Yes, Joseph and Mary kept all the provisions of the Law! It might not catch our attention the first or second time we read Luke’s second chapter, but it matters for us. It was part of God’s plan to do a work which would, even 2000 years later, be refining and purifying His people.