Do The Rules Apply To Me?

One major failing during the pandemic is the authorities who have defied the lockdown orders they have imposed on others. A British scientist whose catastrophic models helped formulate U.K. policy had trysts with his married mistress. Mike Pence famously toured the Mayo Clinic without a mask. Other examples abound.

It confuses and alienates people when leaders exempt themselves from their own rules.

When Jesus came into the world, His ethnic identification was clear. The genealogies of Matthew and Luke establish His Jewish lineage from Abraham. Hebrews states, “It is evident that our Lord arose from Judah.” (7:14). Paul affirms He was “born of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3; cf. Acts 2:30; Luke 1:32; II Tim. 2:8).

As a human, Jesus was subject to the law of Moses; thus Paul describes Him as being “born under the law” (Gal. 4:4). By the standard of that law, Jesus was flawless, “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (II Cor. 5:21; cf. Heb. 7:26).

However, Jesus was of another nature that made the application of the law to Him superfluous. Jesus was also the Son of God and had come into the world of His own making (John 1:3, 10-11). Though subjected to real temptation, the ultimate purpose of law did not apply to Him: “for the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine” (II Tim. 1:9-10). Law arrests man’s sinful inclinations and punishes those who have no regard for God or others.

So what did Jesus do? Did He disregard the demands of law that He Himself imposed on man?

First, Jesus submitted to John’s baptism “of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4). John’s work was remedial, to restore spirituality to Israel so that they would recognize their Savior. None of this applied to Jesus particularly, and John even balked when Jesus approached Him: “I have need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” (Matt. 3:14)

Second, when Peter affirms to tax assessors that Jesus will pay the temple tax, Jesus poses a question to him: “‘From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their own sons or from strangers?’ Peter said to Him, ‘From strangers.’ Jesus said to Him, ‘Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and for you’” (Matt. 17:25).

Peter’s understanding of Jesus’ divine nature needed depth, and Jesus provided it in this often overlooked encounter.

Jesus did not circumvent His own standards. To do so would have caused weak men to stumble. When leaders – politicians, policemen, parents and pastors – flout the standards they urge upon others, they discourage them. Let us emulate the humility of Jesus, who did not live by a double standard. Rather, He deferred to God’s will and set an example for others.