Who of us hasn’t had a hand in making cookies (of any kind)? We get all of the ingredients and utensils out of the cupboard. And, we start following the recipe we have on hand. Now, when we start, we have a pretty good understanding of the individual items that we handle. If it is chocolate chip cookies, it is clear-cut that four is flour, eggs are eggs, and sugar is sugar. By themselves, the items’s are easily distinguishable (black and white). But, once we start mixing all of the ingredients together, that black and white distinction fades. And, not only does it fade, but the resulting concoction of ingredients becomes messy. If you’re experience is like mine, no more do I get the flour out and measure it into a cup — without fail it seems, flour is somewhere it is not intended to be: on the counter, on the floor, on the top of your dog (if you’re at my house). And, the same applies with many other ingredients — egg yolk slime ends-up down the side of the bowl, some of the pinch of salt doesn’t just make it into the bowl, vanilla dribbles down the side of the bottle when measuring. A mess — on all accounts — ensues. And, that’s not the end of the mess. As the ingredients are combined, especially once the dry and wet ingredients get combined, the concoction gets even messier. Now that we have this sticky, blob of dough, if we touch it with our fingers, it doesn’t just wipe off easily. If it touches a pan, it can’t easily be picked-back-up without leaving residue. And, depending on your evaluation of uncooked eggs, the dough is not even the safest to ingest.
What use to be a group of easily distinguishable items in their black and white categories is now a mash of indistinguishable items. As good as it tastes for those of us that like to eat cookie-dough, let’s admit it, the process of making cookie dough is a messy process, even the dough itself is messy.
I think this process is a helpful analogy for better grasping a statement that Jesus makes in Matthew 5:17ff, “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. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Jesus, here is one: describing something his context, and two: offering a fresh interpretation on his context. One, Jesus grew up in a Jewish culture, where the history, heritage, and constitution of the people of Israel was the Law of Moses and the teaching/preaching of the prophets. In a simple sense, we could boil this down to Jesus talking about what we know as the Old Testament part of the Bible. Jesus is saying that his teaching and way of life is not meant to abolish or do away-with the Old Testament teachings/instructions. Rather, two, Jesus says that he came to fulfill the Old Testament teaching/instructions. Jesus offers a fresh interpretation — or understanding — on his context (a fresh interpretation on Israel’s history, heritage, and founding principles). And, Jesus offers more than just words in his interpretation. Jesus says that his very presence on earth and his very living-out of what he teaching/preaches is THE fulfillment — the fuller interpretation/understanding — of the teaching/instructions given in the Old Testament. Jesus came to bring the Old Testament to it’s intended goal.
You see, if we think back to the beginning of creation, God’s will and instruction is like our cookie ingredients before making them into dough. God’s will was clearly understood and in black and white categories: follow my will and you’ll have life, disregard it and you won’t experience life. But, once those simple ingredients get mixed with evil desires, a mess ensues — the messed-up world that we know-of now. The Old Testament law and the message of the prophets, is one half of a drama in which God — the epitome of black and white categories — steps into the messiness of humanity. And, the result of him stepping into humanity is first seen in a move that we know of as, the Law of Moses: God giving laws to his chosen people, Israel. We could essentially see this as one of the earliest moves of God to bring good out of the mess that humanity had become. And, this first move of God, is a crude, messing-looking move. God inserts black and white categories, but we see some sticky-residue remaining: messed-up family relationships, violence, sacrifice, and killing. This part of the drama of humanity looks very much like our messy cookie dough concoction.
But, when Jesus steps into this drama, he introduces a whole new move of God amidst the mess of humanity. Jesus introduces a whole new activating force upon the messiness of humanity. God introduces a crucible — an oven, if you will. Now, the crucible that Jesus introduces was not entirely of his own doing. Rather, he was subjected to it by others who did not like him. But, the crucible that Jesus endures — the cross — activates God’s regenerative work upon humanity. As Jesus undergoes the suffering of his wooden crucible, and dies, and then resurrects three days later — something new emerges: resurrected life, a new fresh life on earth.
When cookies come out of the oven, the mash of messy ingredients are transformed into something new — something fuller than what they appeared earlier, but only through their transformation in the oven was does that happen. Cookies are the intended goal of the cookie dough. So also, when Jesus emerges from the cross, the messiness of human existence is transformed into something new. In his resurrection, Jesus shows a fuller human existence than the mold that the Old Testament teaching/instruction cast. In Jesus’ resurrected body, the messiness of normal human existence is seen transformed into a newer/fuller existence — an existence in the will of God.
Jesus’ self-sacrificial and resurrection-looking life is the intended goal of the process that God started back with the calling of Israel to be his people, the giving of the Law of Moses, and the teaching/preaching of the Old Testament prophets.
Just as the messiness of cookie dough paves the way for the freshness and delight of cookies, so also the messiness of the Old Testament paves the way for the freshness and delight of the resurrected life of Christ Jesus. Now, it is not that messiness of humanity is part of God’s will, but once it is there, God willingly steps into that messiness in order to redeem and transform it into something wonderful and new. Cookies are a wonderful thing that we enjoy as part of God’s creation; and no analogy is perfect to describe what God is doing in the world, but baking cookies can can help remind us (who have surrendered to Christ in faith) of the fullness of life that comes only in Jesus and the transformation that is possible through his death and resurrection.