The values that Jesus held during his earthly ministry are pivotal for us to understand if we are to mature in representing the character and priorities of Jesus Christ through our lives. Given that Jesus is THE expression of a life fully lived that brought maximum glory and honor to God, we must calibrate our lives under the Lordship Jesus Christ.
Jesus and the Law
Jesus said emphatically that he had not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (see Matthew 5:17–20). So, what are the main features of the law and how did Jesus build a system of values and priorities on it?
First, before God gave Israel His Law He gave them Himself, as their Redeemer. It was through the family of Abraham, and then in the imagery of being the rescuer of Israel from Egypt, that the picture of redemption takes shape. The storyline of these two events shape the value of how Jesus viewed the role of the Law in Jewish worship and life in general. In the life of Abraham, there is the cycle of blessing, protection, promise and fulfillment, reaching its climax in the great act of liberation in the Exodus. In short, it is a story of God’s grace in action.
Second, God cherished the people with whom He had made a covenant. Just prior to the dissemination of the Covenant and Law God says this to His people:
You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine … (Exodus 19:4-5).
Only three months prior, the people of Israel had been making bricks as the slaves of Egypt. Now they were free. Israel was rescued by THEIR God. No other nation on the face of the earth could make this claim of a personal and exclusive Deity. God had rescued His chosen people because the covenant made with Abraham could not be fulfilled if the bondage of Egypt was not broken. It was God who had taken the initiative in setting Israel free. In His grace and in faithfulness to his covenant promise, God had acted first. God cherished and then redeemed the people of Israel.
Jesus and “Relationship”
The priority in order needs to be clear: God saved the people of Israel on the basis of having a relationship with Israel. The Lord then asked them to keep His law in response to His goodness toward them. To further the relationship between Deity and covenant people, God gave the Law to Israel. The Law served two purposes: (a. to reveal the character of their “personal” God and (b. to provide a grid for living a life that pleased the God who had saved them. The Law was not given to provide a means of achieving a relationship with God, but furthering the already established and secure relationship with God. This explains why the 10 Commandments begin with a statement of relationship and then a command of obedience in light of this relationship:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:2-3
Therefore, Jesus viewed the perversion of the Law by the religious leaders of His day as not only wrong, but a perverted and damning expression of self-worship. Why? Because they saw the law as a way to express their devotion to God, the basis of their relationship with God. The lives of the “religious” leaders were effectively an expression of an anti-covenant with God. In response, the values that Jesus expressed epitomized God’s faithfulness to His covenant people through the context of a loving relationship. It was Jesus’ understanding of the role of the Father’s Covenant and the giving of the Law, that empowered Him to freely express love to “sinners” not on the basis that they would reform but on the basis of God’s established and secure love toward them.
The values of Jesus are the perfect expression of the values first established by the Father at the beginning of the redemptive story that traces its roots all the way back to God establishing the covenantal-relationship with Abraham in Gen. 12, 15 and 17.