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Turning Over, Breaking Open

Turning Over, Breaking Open

by Rev. Hilary Marchbanks on June 18, 2024

Turning Over, Breaking Open

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets;
I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

~ Matthew 5:17

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus shares many parallels with the prophet Moses. After being threatened as a baby by jealous royalty just as Moses had been, then wandering in the wilderness just as Moses did, Jesus shared his divine wisdom in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ mountain revelation was reminiscent of Moses’ and the Ancient Israelites’ reception of the law on Mount Sinai. The Ancient Israelites had been delivered from Egypt with no blueprint for what was next – the Commandments were the beginning of their new road map with God.

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus shares his inspired moral teachings, including the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus mentions the Commandments several times in the gospels, and helps us understand them in the context of his life and teachings.

Later, in the Gospel story, we encounter a mystical account we call the Transfiguration. Jesus shares a luminous mountaintop moment with disciples Peter, James, and John. (Moses and Elisha appear too!) Jesus appears radiant and dazzling, and again, looking back to God’s powerful display to Moses with the second set of Commandments, where Moses face was dazzling.

Wait, second set of Commandments?

Oh yes, as Moses received the initial holy tablets from God and brought them down from the mountain, the newly freed Israelites were already building idols to other gods. Moses threw the tablets at the foot of the mountain. He was angry. A second set came later (Exodus 34).

When Jesus went to Jerusalem and approached the money changers who were taking advantage of those coming to worship God in the temple, he was angry, too, flipping over their tables and asking people to remember their priorities in God’s house of prayer.

While I don’t want to elevate Moses to Jesus’ divine status, I do want to recognize that Jesus’ story is a part of a long line of prophetic stories in that he comes “not to abolish, but fulfill,” and he often fulfills them by turning them on their heads.

Just as Jesus flipped tables, he restructures our priorities. The Beatitudes rearrange and reprioritize what the world sees as important.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Which of these Beatitudes seem simple for you to understand, and which ones will take some rearranging of your own priorities? How does Jesus turn over and fulfill teachings for us today? How are you learning as we break open the Ten Commandments, and listen for the ways that Jesus quotes them?

I am so enjoying the time we are spending in these foundational teachings, and am enjoying the ways Jesus fulfills the road map through the Gospels. Let’s journey together.

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