Bible reading for March 10: Exodus 21; Luke 24.
"But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." (Exodus 21:23-25)
Case law, limitations, and laws of restitution (Ex 21). The core of the covenant law is now applied to various real life situations, which is also known as case laws. An "eye for an eye" has come to mean having a rigid and strict standard of judgment and it is believed that Jesus spoke against this. After all, he said, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matt 5:38-39). But Jesus upheld the inspiration of the Old Testament law (Matt 5:17-18). And the two contexts are different. In Exodus this law, an "eye for an eye", is a law of limitation. It was designed to keep justice from becoming unfairly punitive. In a criminal case one could not demand more from the offender than what was lost in the victim. It was designed to make sure that penalties were measured and fair. In Jesus' world the Pharisees had turned this judicial limitation into a personal obligation, a personal code of conduct. It was thought that it was godly for an individual to always demand retribution. Therefore, if someone knocked your tooth out, you should knock his out. It made a virtue of personal retribution. There is no contradiction between Moses in Exodus 21 and Jesus in Matthew 5 when the contexts are understood. The book of Exodus goes on to mandate what kinds of restitution are needed in judicial cases. We expect this in the civil realm. The courts should uphold justice. As followers of Jesus, however, we are not under obligation to demand retribution or restitution of those who oppose us, but rather we have reason to forgive freely. Like Jesus.
What about slavery? In the Old Testament, slavery (or servitude) included a complex range of situations, from prisoners of war who were spared from death, to fellow Hebrews who had fallen on hard times and needed to work off debts. The Mosaic laws were intended to insure just treatment for all of these classes. Servitude is first mentioned in the curse of Canaan (Gen 9:25-26). God did not ordain this institution as a blessing -- as he did marriage, family, church, and government -- but as a condition which he allowed in history for his own purposes. Joseph was sold into slavery (Gen 39; Ps 105:17). Christ came into this world as a servant (Phil 2:6-8). The Apostle Paul often calls himself a bond-servant (or slave) of Christ. This is in likely reference to verses like Exodus 21:5-6, speaking of a state freely entered into because of love. All Christians feel this, that Christ redeemed us to be his own. In the western world the ending of the institution of slavery can be traced back to the influence of Christianity. See, for example, Paul's letter Philemon and the NT teaching on the treatment of slaves. There's much more on this in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) online at internationalstandardbible.com. See under the topic of "slave, slavery".
And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)
The Emmaus road encounter (Luke 24:13-35). I love the resurrection stories recorded in the gospels! Just as Jesus exists as a union of divine and human natures, so too, his resurrection appearances combine both human and divine characteristics. The risen Lord Jesus is at the same time both mysterious and familiar. He appears and disappears, but then he eats meals with his disciples. At first Mary Magdalene does not recognize Jesus by sight, but then she hears him speak her name. The disciples are frightened, yet comforted. There's a special winsomeness to the story of Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. As an apparent stranger he comes alongside of them and joins their conversation. Concerning the events that sadden them, he asks, "What things?" And, instead of just proving to them that he was risen, he leads them in a survey of Scripture passages. Literally, it was a walk through the Bible. (Keep in mind who is leading this discussion!) When they arrive in Emmaus he acts as if he would travel further (compare with Mark 6:48). At their invitation he stays for supper and reveals his identity -- after most of the day has passed -- when they break bread together. Why was his appearance supernaturally veiled to them? Was it the scars on his hands that they saw at the supper table? Whatever the case, once they realize who he is, he disappears! But then later he appears to all of the disciples (behind locked doors) and says, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And then he has a bite to eat with them... You cannot make this up!
The Bible is ultimately all about Jesus. How often Scripture is mentioned, as well as Jesus' own words (24:6-8; 25, 27, 32, 44-45). The risen Lord pointed his disciples back to the Word of God, saying, "'...everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures..." (24:44-45) He is the center and unifying theme of God's revelation to us. This is not to separate him from the glorious triunity of God, since it was the Father's will to send the Son to redeem us, and it is the Holy Spirit's role to enable us to know and to glorify Christ as Lord. As J. C. Ryle wrote, "Christ is the meeting-point between the Trinity and the sinner's soul."
Image above is "Road to Emmaus, by Irish painter John Dunne. He and his wife are members of Nazareth Community in Dublin.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.