Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.
This morning’s verse was spoken by Jesus during lunch with a Pharisee. Jesus came in and sat down to eat and the Pharisee was amazed that Jesus did not go though the ceremonial washing process before sitting down to eat. Jesus commented on the outward righteousness of the Pharisees and a Scribe; a lawyer chimed in, saying that Jesus’ chiding remarks also applied to the scribes. The scribe claimed that Jesus insulted them. While they may have taken insult, the comments are statements of fact.
The scribes; lawyers were “experts” in the Mosaic Law. They wrote commentaries on how, exactly, one went about honoring their father and their mother or what was meant when God said that no adultery was allowed. They had written tomes on these subjects and the whole ceremonial washing thing might have been derived from their ideas.
Jesus’ comment about the key of knowledge seems a bit abstruse, but really is not all that difficult. The purpose of The Law was to show us how completely incapable we are of keeping it. The Law is the standard of perfection. We none of us are perfect. If The Law is viewed through that lens, then we stop squabbling about how to keep it, because we know that we cannot. If we understand that we are in bondage to sin — slaves to it — then we begin to read through The Law in order to find the requirements for our redemption.
A friend of mine once told me that I could read through the OT looking for Jesus and find Him in every single book. I cannot say that I have faithfully done so, but every book I have taken the pains to look for Jesus in has yielded deeper understanding of my Lord. He has been present in every book. Every. One.
The key of knowledge about which Jesus speaks is, I think, Himself. The Messiah. The Redeemer. The key to understanding The Law and the prophets is not long-winded explanations or extensive commentaries but an understanding that all of it points to Christ. All of it. Jesus is the key of knowledge and the scribes; the lawyers had so muddled things with their diatribes that those who had caught glimpses of Jesus in The Law were forced to turn away from those or risk offending in some minutia that had been put in writing by a scribe.
This morning, am I looking to obey some set of rules or am I looking to obey the Rule Maker? Do I want to know the relationship of one Law to another or do I want a relationship with the Lawgiver? The difference is worlds apart and only one allows me to enter.