There is a Greek legend from Jesus’s time about Alexander the Great. It says that before his conquests, Alexander undid the Gordian Knot, an impossible fastening in a Phrygian palace. Supposedly, an oracle had prophesied that whoever could solve the knot would rule Asia. Alexander did not untie it; he did not even try to solve the puzzle. Instead, he drew his sword and simply cut the Gordian Knot in half.
In the time before Advent, the tables of God’s law seemed like the Gordian Knot—impossible—an old and unanswered question, unlived and unfulfilled. Some of the Israelites anticipating the coming Messiah, and present-day antinomians looking back to Advent, suppose that the only way to accomplish the law is to abolish it: The knot can never be untied! It must be cut!
And when the Messiah did come, and began His ministry, it looked worse before it got better. Because Jesus taught that the law—”the knot,” for our purposes—runs far beneath the surface. The cords weave and tangle deep into our hearts. Do not murder? Easy enough, perhaps, but Jesus said that even to call your brother a fool subjects you to hell (Matthew 5:22). Do not commit adultery? (vv.27–30). Fine. But don’t even think about it? There must be some way around that. In each case of murder, adultery, and divorce, keeping the letter of the law proves only the faintest outline of our snarled bondage to sin.
In truth, we have broken all these commandments, and the knot seems to tighten. Then Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). There is just no going around the law because Jesus didn’t come “to abolish the Law or the Prophets”; He came to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). Jesus didn’t cut the knot. He untied it. He fulfilled the law. God does not take us around His commandments. Instead, He guides us through them, showing us the “harder” way, which in the end, proves to be the easier way, the more liberating way. Because the fulfillment of the law is love.
After Jesus clarified the meaning of the law in His Sermon on the Mount, He gave His followers a new command: “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another” (John 13:34). Christ fulfilled the law and His righteousness has become our righteousness. Because of Him, we are free from sin and death and condemnation (Romans 8:1–2). That is what began with Advent, when Jesus arrived in this world. It is part of what we celebrate here, at Christmas. A world mired by sin, collapsing from its weight, but then, with the arrival of Jesus, the cords began to loosen.
Written by David Chaniott