Jesus and the Law of Moses
Peter D. Goodgame
The Eternal Order of Melchizedek
You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2)
The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool." ...The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." (Psalms 110:1,4)
For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. (Hebrews 7:12)
In Part Four it was shown that the entire Mosaic Covenant of 613 laws, as represented by the tablets of the Ten Commandments, was a single unchangeable covenant package. Moses declared that no one could add to it or subtract from it (Deut. 4:2). It was unchangeable yet also temporary because the Lord told Moses that the children of Israel would inevitably break it (Deut. 31:16). Isaiah then came on the scene hundreds of years later and declared —in Isaiah 43:16-21— that despite Israel's disobedience the Lord was calling Israel to forget the past and to get ready for something radically NEW! That new thing was introduced in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, who spoke of the old covenant as a tattered old garment that was ready to be completely replaced (and not just patched up).
Throughout His ministry Jesus spoke as God's anointed ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven, acting with God-given authority, offering new teaching, and declaring new commandments. Yeshua's confidence and authority set Him apart from all of the rest of Israel's scribes and teachers of the Law who merely busied themselves arguing about the right way to interpret Moses. Yeshua's teachings and actions showed that He spoke with a higher level of authority and that He was not restricted to the rigid unchangeable Mosaic box of the previous era. Yeshua was in fact laying the foundation for an eternal covenant that would be a new wineskin filled with new wine. It would be a New Covenant, with new laws, administered by a new priesthood: the eternal Order of Melchizedek.
The Baptism of Jesus
The ministry of John the Baptist was prophesied by Isaiah and Malachi. He was the one sent by God to prepare the hearts of the people for the new thing that the Lord was about to introduce, which had long been expected. John's ministry was all about repentance, and multitudes flocked to be baptized as an outward sign of repentance, even as the religious leaders watched from a distance, unwilling to either endorse or reject John's ministry. Into this atmosphere stepped Jesus (John 1:29), and John recognized Him at His arrival saying,
"Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
In Matthew's gospel we find that John at first resisted the request to baptize Jesus because John recognized that Jesus was without sin and did not need to repent. Yet Jesus insisted, saying that it was necessary to "fulfill all righteousness" (Matt. 3:14-15). Then, after coming out of the water the heavens opened, a dove came down upon Jesus, and a voice declared,
"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!"
This statement from heaven after Jesus was baptized in water and anointed with the Holy Spirit carries direct allusions to both Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1. Both of these passages can be read in their wider contexts as incredible prophecies of what Jesus would accomplish:
Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22 Psalm 2:7 Isaiah 42:1 This is my beloved Son,
You are my Son; today I have begotten you.
in whom I am well pleased Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him...
The fact that Jesus was anointed at the beginning of His ministry is confirmed by many eyewitnesses:
"The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, "What are you seeking?" And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and you will see." So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ)." John 1:35-41
"And he [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Luke 4:16-19
"He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Matthew 16:15-16
"...God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him." Acts 10:38
The Hebrew word Messiah and the Greek word Christ both mean Anointed One. However, if Jesus of Nazareth was "The Anointed One," then the obvious question remains, anointed for what? We are not talking here about a generic anointing common to Jewish life associated with hygiene or hospitality, but rather we are speaking here of a ceremonial anointing. According to Smith's Bible Dictionary in ancient Israel such an anointing can be found in Scripture only in connection with the "three typical offices" of Israel's commonwealth: prophet, king, and priest.
The anointing of Jesus at the River Jordan was much more than a symbolic anointing of the Holy Spirit, although that was a very important aspect. Beyond this, it was in fact a truly functional and ceremonial anointing that established Jesus with a mandate at the beginning of His ministry. Israel was expecting "The Anointed One" to appear, but the term "Messiah" came to be applied to Him precisely because the prophets had clearly predicted that the Messiah would be anointed, not just with the Holy Spirit, but as Israel's great Prophet, as their eternal King, and as their final High Priest. It is into these three offices that Jesus was anointed at His baptism at the Jordan River, which created the basis for Jesus to make the stunning claim in Luke 10:22 that "all things have been handed over to me by my Father."
Prophet: The fact that the Messiah would minister as a Prophet is predicted by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15-19, which is a key prophecy repeated by Peter in Acts 3:22. The prophetic ministry of the Messiah is also alluded to throughout the five Servant Songs of Isaiah. My friend Terry DeGraff has written an excellent essay, Who Do People Say I Am?, that shows that the life of Jesus was patterned after many of the prophets, and the miracles of Jesus proved that He superceded them all.
King: The expectation that the Messiah would be Israel's anointed King comes from the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7), from Zechariah 9:9, from the four Kingdom Psalms: Psalm 2, Psalm 45, Psalm 72, and Psalm 110, as well as other various prophetic sources.
Priest: In Israel it was the High Priest who administered the law covenant to the people and mediated the forgiveness of sins once a year on Yom Kippur. The Servant Song of Isaiah 42 connects the Messiah with a new Law (v.4) and a new Covenant (v.6). However, it is Psalm 110 that most clearly depicts the Messiah as the foremost Priest of an eternal priestly order, and it is Psalm 110 that is the most-quoted psalm of the entire New Testament.
Few would argue against the notion that Jesus was anointed as Israel's promised Prophet and King at His baptism, because He was publicly recognized as both by many people throughout His ministry (Luke 7:16, John 1:49, etc.). However, the idea that Jesus was also anointed as High Priest at His baptism is much more controversial, because it strikes a blow against the many false teachings concerning Jesus and the Law of Moses that are pervasive throughout Dispensationalism and much of the Hebrew Roots Movement. For this reason we will now consider the many proofs that such a High Priestly anointing did indeed take place at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.
From Aaron to Melchizedek
The baptism of Jesus concluded with our heavenly Father giving an audible endorsement of Jesus as His Son and the anointing of the Holy Spirit coming upon Him in the form of a dove. But let's step back for a second and consider the other significant figure involved in this important event. What was so noteworthy about John the Baptist that led Jesus to refer to him as the greatest of those ever born among women until that time? Was John truly greater than all the prophets? Greater than Moses? Greater than Aaron, Israel's first anointed High Priest?
The Gospel of Luke has the most to say about John the Baptist, and even before Jesus is introduced Luke's account begins with the story of the birth of John:
(5) In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. (6) And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. (7) But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. (8) Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, (9) according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. (10) And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. (11) And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. (12) And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. (13) But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. (14) And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, (15) for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. (16) And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, (17) and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."
I think it is significant for our study here that both of the parents of John the Baptist were descendents of Aaron of the tribe of Levi. At this time in Israel much of the priesthood was corrupt, especially at the higher levels. Yet, unlike the Sanhedrin and the High Priest, whose allegiance was to King Herod, both Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous and faithful before God. It appears that John the Baptist was specially chosen from this specific lineage, by way of a miraculous conception, to represent the faithful remnant of the Levitical priesthood, to call forth the people of Israel to righteousness, and to pass the baton to Jesus, the High Priest of the Order of Melchizedek.
In Israel the role of priest was passed from father to son within the tribe of Levi, and men could only become priests after turning thirty years of age. The very first anointing of Aaron and his sons as priests, overseen by Moses, involved anointing with oil which was preceded by a "washing with water" (Lev. 8:6). What occurred at the Jordan River when Jesus was thirty years old was patterned after this priestly anointing, and had nothing to do with repentance. Jesus' baptism was a "washing with water" overseen by the Father, with John, a representative of the Levitical priesthood, transferring his office to Jesus the new High Priest of the Order of Melchizedek, followed by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The way of the Lord was now prepared and John the Baptist's ministry shortly thereafter came to its end.
The New High Priest
The book of Hebrews, chapters 2-10, does the most to tell us about Jesus' role as the High Priest of the Order of Melchizedek, the eternal order that has superceded the Levitical Order of the Old Covenant. High Priests were appointed on behalf of men to offer sacrifices for sin to God, and Jesus offered Himself as that great final sacrifice, but first He had to be appointed to that office. Hebrews 2:7 gives the order of events in the life of Jesus:
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Hebrews 2:17 The Life of Jesus Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, Birth so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, Anointed at Baptism to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Sacrificial Death
Hebrews 5:1-6 goes on to speak of the moment which Jesus was "called by God" to take His rightful office of High Priest, alluding to Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 and at the same time pointing back to Jesus' baptism:
For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"; as he says also in another place, "You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek."
Throughout the book of Hebrews the Old and New Covenants are contrasted, with the New Covenant superceding the Old, and portrayed as a covenant of divine MERCY (2:17, 8:12). Was not Jesus acting within this new covenantal order when, contrary to the Law of Moses, He intervened in the stoning of a convicted adulteress, offering her forgiveness and mercy in the face of the "law-abiding" Pharisees? Furthermore, in one of the first miracles in the Gospel of Mark, before healing the paralytic, Jesus said to him, "Son, your sins are forgiven." This offended the Pharisees but, aside from proving Christ's deity, was this not also a case of Jesus acting in His priestly office, in granting forgiveness of sins?
In Hebrews 7:12 we are told that "when there is a change in the priesthood there is necessarily a change in the law as well." If this change in the priesthood took place at the baptism of Jesus, then this also explains Jesus' actions regarding Sabbath-keeping, as well as His provocative teaching on the food laws found in Mark 7:18-19. In Hebrews 9:10 we are told that such Old Covenant food laws were only in place until the "time of reformation," which can point only to the baptism of Jesus, after which Jesus declared that "the time is fulfilled, repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15). Jesus was Israel's great Reformer, as well as their new Lawgiver replacing Moses and delivering the New Covenant.
The change in the priesthood, which also brought a change in the law, also paved the way for Jesus to deliver the Sermon on the Mount in which He blatantly disregarded the Torah command of Deuteronomy 4:2. Clearly the baton had been passed from the old order to the new, and for three and a half years Jesus announced the good news of the Kingdom of God along with the new and eternal heart-based laws that would be part of that Kingdom. In the New Covenant some of those laws are new, while a great number of the old laws simply passed away, such as the provisions for polygamy, eye-for-an-eye, the food laws, and Sabbath-keeping. We can be sure that Jesus was a faithful keeper of the Mosaic Law in all its finer points all the way from his birth until His baptism, but after that point His message and His role was greatly expanded because He was anointed with a responsibility to declare the laws of the Kingdom of God.
But how should we approach the Hebrew Roots perspective that claims that Jesus UPHELD the Mosaic Law at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount when He declared that "not one jot or tittle" shall be removed from the Law until all is fulfilled? Well we must understand that Jesus was appearing at a very unique moment in history. On one hand Israel was being called to repentance by John the Baptist in preparation for the Messiah, and this repentance could only take the form of whole-hearted devotion to Israel's prior revealed Law. Yet on the other hand Israel was being set up to receive the Messiah who would be the mediator of a New Covenant with new laws under the administration of a new priestly order. So Jesus had to pragmatically deal with a very fluid situation. He had to appreciate the faithful remnant's devotion to the Law of Moses yet He also had a responsibility to point them forward to something greater than the Law of Moses.
Yes, Jesus declared that the Law would remain until all was fulfilled, yet we also find Jesus declaring right from the beginning (Mark 1:15) that "the time IS fulfilled"! I think this explains why Jesus, throughout His ministry, continued to refer to the Law as a good thing, and often directed people to continue to keep essential parts of it, yet He often acted contrary to the Law, adding to it as well as subtracting from it, in direct violation of Deuteronomy 4:2. Only Jesus had that authority, and He only had it because He had already been anointed as the High Priest administering God's true eternal Law under the Order of Melchizedek.
Years ago my friend David Lowe wrote a book entitled Earthquake Resurrection in which he briefly made the very same case that I am making now. At the time it did not resonate with me because I was committed to the dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 which places the coming of the "Anointed One" at the end of Jesus' ministry at His triumphal entry to Jerusalem. However, now I must thank Dave for the study that he did on this subject because I now see how important this issue is today for settling some very serious problems in the Body of Christ!
If Daniel 9:25 was fulfilled at the baptism of Jesus in His anointing as High Priest of the Order of Melchizedek, as I now wholeheartedly believe, then this affects how we deal with misguided Hebrew Roots teachings and how we build our end-times chronology. The bottom line is that it forces us to embrace a Christ-centered Law (as opposed to a Moses-centered law), as well as a Christ-centered eschatology (as opposed to an Israel-centered eschatology), both of which are sorely needed today. Eventually God's true and faithful remnant will realize that Jesus is our Hebrew Root and Jesus is our true Promised Land!
David Lowe provides a short but powerful study of the transfer of the priesthood to the Order of Melchizedek in chapter 10 of his book, Earthquake Resurrection: Supernatural Catalyst for the Coming Global Catastrophe (2005).
Terry DeGraff provides a good analysis of Jesus and the prophets in his article, Who Do People Say I Am?
The Great King-Priest of Psalm 110 is a good examination of this hugely important New Covenant prophecy.
The evidence that Jesus replaces Moses as our eternal Lawgiver is given throughout the works of John G. Reisinger, most notably in his book, In Defense of Jesus, the New Lawgiver.
The newness of the New Covenant, and its relationship to some of the laws of the Old, is covered by bible scholar Carl B. Hoch, Jr., in his book, All Things New.
Jesus and the Law of Moses
Part One: Does Paul teach that followers of Christ remain under the authority of the Law of Moses?
Part Two: The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
Part Three: The Sanctity of Marriage
Part Four: Yeshua the Lawgiver
Part Five: The Eternal Order of Melchizedek
Peter D. Goodgame
October 10, 2015
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