The New Message of Sonship
When the Son of Man began his ministry early in the first century, he preached a message of hope directed initially to the Jews:
“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’”
– Luke 4:16-21
Throughout his entire ministry, Jesus demonstrated his great affection for his people and his desire to lift them from their oppressed condition:
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
– Matthew 9:35-36
“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
– Matthew 14:14
He recognized the heavy load laid upon them by their religious leaders, and he assured the people that the message he brought is not burdensome:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
– Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus recognized their frailty. He had good news to share, but he did not want to crush their spirits while doing so. Specifically, he did not want to destroy their heritage or condemn their faithfulness. So when he preached his message, he told the people:
“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. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
– Matthew 5:17-18
Yes, Jesus fulfilled the Law. By fulfilling it, he finished it. He released the Jews from the Law and he brought it to an end.
“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”
– Romans 7:6
“Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
– Romans 10:4
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”
– Colossians 2:13-14
“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.”
– Galatians 3:23-25
No more did they have to be “observing special days and months and seasons and years.’ (Galatians 4:10) No more sacrificial offerings. No more types and shadows. (Hebrews 8:5) They were given the freedom to become sons of God.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
– Galatians 5:1
Jesus had preached his message of ‘for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ (Luke 4:18-19) Thousands of the common people were responding to Christ’s message and getting baptized into this new freedom that put the old burdensome covenant to an end. Yet in spite of this glorious good news, the religious leaders resisted the teaching. They regarded Jesus’ testimony of sonship as blasphemy. (Matthew 26:63-65) And they would expel from the synagogues all who listened to him. (John 9:22; 12:42)
Finally, after repeatedly trying to reach the hearts of the Jewish religious leader without success, Jesus proclaimed:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.”
– Matthew 23:37-38
Yes, their house – their religious system – was abandoned! The Father’s spirit moved away from the nation as a whole and took up lodging in the remnant of faithful Jews who listened to Jesus and subsequently formed the new Christian congregation.
In the beginning, the new converts were allowed to preach and teach right within the synagogues. (Acts 9:20) But eventually, the brothers had to separate themselves. (Acts 11:19-26) The Christian message was no longer welcome in company with the Law. Over the next few centuries, the Hebrew writings came to be known as the Old Testament and the Christian writings were known as the New Testament. As we can see, that is a fitting distinction!