This quarantine has me feel sorry for Wile E. Coyote. Sympathetically, I get what he is going through, COVID-19, social distancing, masks, and curves have me feeling as if I have been hit by a train. And as I have been reading from the Gospel of Matthew these past few days, something else struck me –
I am the Coyote.
I am the coyote. Every day I wake up and try to capture my own salvation. I try and fail. I order things from ACME (or Amazon) and try again only to fail. I fail to be a good friend, father, and husband. It seems, the harder that I work, the more I fail. There are sins that I cannot outrun. There are struggles that I cannot overcome. But none of my failings ever stops me from trying.
Matthew 5:17-48 are part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In these verses, Jesus offers us the authoritative interpretation of the Law of God. In these short verses, Jesus takes the law and makes it more personal and more intense.
I used to read this part of the sermon as something that I needed to be like, as something that I needed to do. I used to read it as the old Adam. Wait, you don't know who this old Adam (or Eve is)? Never heard that term before? Allow me to expand. The old Adam is that deep dark part that lives in all of us. He is supposed to be dead having drowned in our baptism, however, he is a good swimmer. The old Adam is the one that still thinks that he can do it if he tries hard enough. He is the doubter, the one who believes that a few fig leaves will hide his sin from the Eternal and All-Powerful God. The old Adam is the one that tries with all his might to keep God's judgment at arm's length. He is the one that believes he has it all figured out and with just the right amount of luck and stuff from ACME everything will be good. The old Adam is precisely like the coyote; he doesn't quit. He is forever scheming. He is always making orders and plans. But no matter how hard he works (how many hands he cuts off, eyes that get plucked out or roadrunners get caught) … there is nothing that the old Adam can do because sin does not reside in our eyes or hands but is embedded in our hearts!
We need to read Scripture (or better yet hear it) as dead men. We must hear the words as the coyote at the bottom of the pit. These words are only understood by the one who cries out, "where does my help come from?" (Psalm 121:1) or "Oh, what a wretched man I am…Who will deliver me from this body of death" (Romans 7:24)?
It is the dead who notice that the words of Matthew 5:17 are in RED LETTERS!! “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.”
The I in this verse is Jesus!! The law is not mine or yours to fulfill. The Law exists to reveal our desperate need for a Savior! It is the dead that knows there is only One who is perfect like the heavenly Father is perfect! The dead know that they are helpless and need not only their ransom to be paid but also to be rescued!! It is the dead that need Jesus!
This is where the Gospel of Matt dropped the lifeblood of the Gospel into my heart. No, Jesus did not come to abolish Scripture; he came to fulfill it, that is, obey it (v. 17). If we were to read/believe all of Matthew’s Gospel, we would already know this truth! Just take a look, it is all over in the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth. There we hear five times that Jesus is to “fulfill” this or that Scripture. Later at his baptism, Jesus urged John to proceed “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Then again at the start of His public ministry in Galilee fulfilled prophecy (Matt. 4:14). We could go on but you get the point.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells our weary hearts that He has indeed come to fulfill the Law and not just messianic prophecies. He is the promise that is mentioned in the garden (Genesis 3:13). The culmination of that promise is the Cross. It is there and only there that the coyote, the old Adam, and even I can stop trying because it is all FINISHED!