In Part 1 we looked at Y’shua’s three major statements concerning the Torah in his Sermon on the Mount. In Part 2 we will examine Y’shua’s feelings towards religious hypocrisy.
Y’shua Condemns Religious Hypocrisy
There was a real problem with the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. The heart of the matter was that their righteousness was defective in that it was external only. They appeared to obey the law to those who observed them but broke YHWH’s law inwardly, where it couldn’t be seen by others. Notice Y’shua’s scathing denunciation of their hypocrisy in making a show of religion:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence . . . For you . . . indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness . . . You also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” Matthew 23:25-28.
These self-appointed religious teachers emphasized minor aspects of the law while neglecting more important issues.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” Matthew 23:23
Y’shua was concerned that every part of the righteous requirement be obeyed, and angry that they were blind to the “weightier” parts—the major spiritual aspects—of the law. While they were fastidious with their ceremonial traditions, at the same time they took liberties to disobey YHWH’s direct commands. In some situations, they actually elevated their traditions above the clear commands of YHWH (Matthew 15:1-9). Behind their actions was the base motive of self-exaltation and self-interest. They went public with what should have been their more private devotions toward YHWH—prayer, fasting and giving of alms—all so they could be seen and thought of by others as righteous (Matthew 6:1-6; 23:5-7).
Religious Leaders Did Not Keep the Spirit of YHWH’s Law
Immediately after His statement that He had no intention of doing away with YHWH’s law, Y’shua proceeded to give examples of the traditions and teachings of the Jewish religious leaders that completely missed the point or even contradicted the spiritual intent of YHWH’s laws.
The first example He gave was the Sixth Commandment, “You shall not murder.” All that the Pharisees understood about this commandment was that the act of murder was prohibited. Y’shua taught what should have been obvious, that the intent of the Sixth Commandment was not just to prohibit the literal act of murder, but every evil attitude of heart and mind that led to murder—including unjust anger and contemptuous words (Matthew 5:21-26).
He did likewise with their narrow view of the Seventh Commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.” The Pharisees of the day understood the physical act of sexual relations with a married woman to be sin. They should also have known, as in the case of the Sixth Commandment; that lust for a married woman was sinful because the one lusting had already broken the commandment in his heart.
These are examples of the “righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” that Y’shua characterized as making the outside of the cup and dish clean, while on the inside remaining “full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:25).
Y’shua instructed His disciples that YHWH’s law must indeed be obeyed outwardly, but it must also be obeyed in the spirit and intent of the heart. When Y’shua taught such heartfelt obedience to YHWH’s laws, He was faithful to what the Old Testament taught:
“For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7
The prophet Jeremiah looked forward to a time when YHWH would establish a new covenant in which YHWH promised to “put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). YHWH’s original intent for His law was that people would observe it from their hearts (Deuteronomy 5:29). The failure of human beings to obey YHWH’s law in the “inward being” (Psalm 51:6, NRSV) inevitably led to outward disobedience.
Y’shua Did Not Change the Law
Y’shua prefaced His contrast of the scribes’ and Pharisees’ narrow interpretation of the law with its true spiritual intent using the words, “You have heard that it was said . . . But I say to you . . .” (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28).
Some erroneously think Y’shua’s intention was to contrast His own teaching with that of Moses and thereby declare Himself as the only true authority. They assume that Y’shua was either opposed to the Torah or was modifying it in some way, but it’s hard to imagine that Y’shua, just after delivering the most solemn and emphatic proclamation of the permanence of YHWH’s law and emphasizing His own high regard for it, would now undermine the authority of that law by other pronouncements. Y’shua wasn’t inconsistent; He honored and upheld the Torah in all His statements.
He is not pitting Himself against the Torah, nor is He claiming a superior spirituality. What He was doing was refuting the wrong interpretations perpetuated by the scribes and Pharisees. This is why He declared that one’s righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Y’shua was restoring, in the minds of His listeners, the Torah to its original place, purity, and power.
It should also be obvious that because the same God is the Author of Old and Renewed Covenant alike, there can be no vital conflict between them, and that the fundamental laws of morality underlying both must be and are in full accord. YHWH tells us in Malachi 3:6, “I am the LORD, I do not change . . .”
Judaism Forsook Moses, Christianity Forsook Y’shua
When it comes to Y’shua and the Torah, we have to conclude that the “Mainstream Christian” religion has let us down by not holding to the original teachings of Y’shua, who Himself held to the original teachings of the Old Testament scriptures. And as the teachings of Jewish religious leaders corrupted Moses, so did later teachers of Y’shua—that is, false teachers claiming to represent Him—corrupt His teachings. In reality, Y’shua and Moses agreed.
Let’s ask a question here. If Y’shua were here today, which day would He observe as the Sabbath? It would be the day commanded in the Ten Commandments, the seventh day. Y’shua kept the law and expected His disciples to do the same. He made clear His attitude about anyone diminishing one iota from the law. Anyone not keeping it is only using the good name of Y’shua without doing what He said.
He warns us:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” Matthew 7:21-23.
So where does this lead us? It leads us to the conclusion that not all churches claiming to represent Y’shua represent Him accurately. Like so many of the ancient Pharisees, they have accumulated traditions that lead them astray. Y’shua often pointed out that His teaching was based on the Old Testament Scriptures. When others challenged Him concerning His teaching He responded, “Have you not read . . . ?” before pointing His challengers to the Scriptures that supported what He had said (Matthew 12:3, 5; 19:4; 22:31).
Those who say that Y’shua departed from the authority of the Old Testament scriptures are simply wrong. We have demonstrated that the Jewish religious leaders of His own day and most professing Christians today are incorrect in their assessment of Y’shua’s teachings. Y’shua faithfully taught the written word of the Old Testament. Y’shua is consistent, “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He has not changed His view of YHWH’s law!