Jesus attracted people to Himself in various settings, including public ones. Scripture assumed a prominent role in Christ’s public proclamations. Direct quotations and scriptural allusions filled His sermons and public discourse.
Read Matthew 5:17-39. In what ways do these verses show how Christ utilized Scripture for public ministry?
During Christ’s earthly sojourn, the ordinary Israelites’ relationship with Scripture was apparently highly legalistic. They looked to Scripture for regulations and ethical guidance. Upright behavior was considered the payment for eternal bliss. Jesus, however, overturned their legalistic notions and substituted heart-based religion for a system of external controls.
Christ-centered religion is rooted in a heart transformation that leads to ethical behavior. Ironically, some of the Pharisees had bypassed having a living relationship with God in their haste to achieve moral perfection. Jesus identified these shortcomings, and as a cure He beckoned listeners to accept Him as Savior and Master. With Jesus as the internally controlling force, behavioral standards were not lowered but elevated. All one has to do is read the Sermon on the Mount to see just how elevated His moral standards were.
As something strange and new, these words fall upon the ears of the wondering multitude. Such teaching is contrary to all they have ever heard from priest or rabbi. They see in it nothing to flatter their pride or to feed their ambitious hopes. But there is about this new Teacher a power that holds them spellbound. The sweetness of divine love flows from His very presence as the fragrance from a flower. . . . All feel instinctively that here is One who reads the secrets of the soul, yet who comes near to them with tender compassion.-Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 6.
It’s easier than we think to be legalistic, judgmental, and condemnatory, isn’t it? How can we protect ourselves from falling into these common practices?