1Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
2Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
There are several implications in the above passage, but in a blog forum, you can only focus on a couple of things at a time and do it effectively. At its core, though, Jesus was saying that the scribes and Pharisees were still leaders in the religious community. As leaders, the disciples were commanded to “observe and do” what these leaders prescribed.
Why did they have such power? Because they sat in “Moses’s seat”. That is, they were the law givers or, perhaps more accurately, the judges of the community.
However, Jesus was also critical of their actions. After stating the above, He went into a list of things they did and required and ended up calling them hypocrites (vv 13-15).
Then, Jesus basically tells them their priorities are all wrong.
23Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Matthew 23:23, King James Version)
It is funny how many people seem to focus on “mercy and faith”, yet totally gloss over the words “law” and “judgment”.
It is especially interesting because in essence, you cannot have mercy without law.
–noun, plural -cies for 4, 5.
- compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence: Have mercy on the poor sinner.
- the disposition to be compassionate or forbearing: an adversary wholly without mercy.
- the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment, esp. to send to prison rather than invoke the death penalty.
Think about it. A wrongdoer is arrested and brought before a judge. An enemy does something hurtful to you. Even someone cuts you off in traffic. In each case, someone has broken a more, code of conduct or set of rules. Law is simply the codifying of these things.
If something wrong has not been committed, then mercy is not needed.
Mercy, then, is not living in a world without rules. No, that is anarchy.
Mercy, the Greek word eleos, also has the connotation of a desire to help those who are miserable and afflicted. Jesus came to show God’s mercy, in fact, by dying for our sins. We are afflicted and miserable in our sins, and He came to set us free (Lk 4:17-19; Ro 6:18). Passover is time that symbolizes the breaking of the bonds of sins.
Then, what need is there of grace? Mercy and grace are sometimes interchanged and confused, as they really are similar concepts.
Grace comes from charis. It essentially means “favor” and is sometimes translated that way. Sometimes, “undeserved” is tacked on, and while somewhat redundant is nevertheless appropriate. Sometimes, it is taught that it means “undeserved pardon”, but that goes somewhat off track, as Strong’s makes it clear that the meaning is much broader in perspective.
To sum it up, someone (not sure who originated it) once said, “Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you do not deserve.”
What do you deserve? The Law says you and I deserve death. That’s what is known as the “curse of the Law” or even “the Law of death”. It is not the Law itself that brings a curse or brings death, but it is the breaking of it that brings the penalty (curse) of death. God clearly told Israel to “choose life” in the second giving of the Law (Dt 30:19). Obedience to the Law was intended to bring blessings and life to Israel! However, no human can of their own will keep the Law, and thus fall under the curse of death from breaking the Law.
What do you not deserve? Eternal life is the #1 thing you and I do not deserve. If you read through Gal 5:22-23, you see many other blessings we don’t deserve. To be called “children of God” is something we do not deserve. Any physical blessings we receive are icing on the cake.
Notice how none of this invalidates the Law. None of this does away with the Law. None of this justifies the guilty, nor does any of this forgive the unrepentant. Sin is still sin, and sin is serious business. Sin was what drove the nails into our Savior’s hands!
However, the same Savior that was willing to die for us is also willing to assist us. Why? Because He knows it is only with His help that we can make it. We are utterly, totally dependent upon His help.
Does this mean we are free to go out and put even more nails into His hands? Obviously not. We must strive to remove sin from our lives and plead to Him for help in doing so.