Jesus and Mosaic Institutions

Featuring Worshipedia Posted on March 9, 2010


During his ministry, Jesus evidenced a respect for the institutions of Mosaic worship, though he often criticized the Pharisees and their scribes for their superficial and casuistic approach to the Torah. After healing a leper, Jesus instructed him to follow the Mosaic procedure outlined in Leviticus 14:1-32, showing himself to the priest and making the required offering (Mark 1:44). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of the need to be reconciled with a brother member of the covenant community before offering worship. Leave your gift there in front of the altar . First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift  (Matthew 5:24). Jesus told of the respected Pharisee and the despised publican, who collected taxes for the Roman administration, both of whom entered the temple to pray; he commended the publican, who threw himself upon the mercies of God, rather than the Pharisee, who saw himself as spiritually superior (Luke 18:9–14). In an extended diatribe against the Pharisees, Jesus utters a remarkable statement concerning the temple and its altar. The Pharisees had taught that the worshiper’s gift is more important than the sanctuary, so that one is obligated if he swears by the gold contributed to the temple or by the gift on the altar; to the contrary, Jesus declares it is the temple (naos) that makes the gold holy and the altar that sanctifies the gift (Matthew 23:16–22). Jesus‘ high view of the Israelite sanctuary—the destruction of which he nevertheless predicted—is foundational to an appreciation of the depth of temple symbolism in the New Testament‘s picture of the body of Christ as the temple of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:16) or of the Lord God and the Lamb as the temple in the midst of the people of the new covenant (Revelation 21:22). 


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