This next section in the Sermon on the Mount is simple and straightforward, yet we tend to deeply struggle with it.
Do not think 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.
While reading the entire Bible, from what I’ve experienced myself and what I’ve heard from others, the biggest part we Christians struggle with are parts of the Old Testament. There’s customs and rituals included in the Law and Prophets that seem so foriegn to us. God gave the Law and messages to the prophets that pertained to a specific people at a specific time in history. Thus, we tend to write it off as irrelevant to our lives.
But here’s the deal, the Law and the Prophets and all the sections of the Bible we deem as hard and beyond our comprehension were relevant to Jesus as he fulfilled it. Therefore, as his disciples, they are just as relevant to us.
It would be easy to ignore the Old Testament. Yes, there are burnt offerings and rituals that no longer apply to us because of the ultimate offering Jesus did for us on the cross. But in addition to that, our flesh longs to get rid of the Old Testament because of the strict moral law it also presents. It seemed as though people in that day began to think that Jesus would be destroying this moral law that pokes and prods at our conscious. We can say for certain that people now would love to not be held accountable to God’s moral standards.
Yet here it says Jesus came to fulfill. In fact, the entire Sermon is calling us to live to a higher moral standard than there was in that day and most certainly than there is today. He lived out the Old Testament to perfection. The MacArthur Study Bible notes explain this quite well. It says, “Christ was indicating that he is the fulfillment of the law in all its aspects. He fulfilled the moral law by keeping it perfectly. He fulfilled the ceremonial law by being the embodiment of everything the law’s types and symbols pointed to. And he fulfilled the judicial law by personifying God’s perfect justice.”
Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do accordingly will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Whenever there is a “therefore” in the Bible, that is our cue to listen up and lean in; we are about to receive an important commission.
We have become a society that is consumed with being politically correct. We walk on eggshells in order to not offend anyone. We often tweak what we say to make it more palatable for others.
As much as Jesus loves us, he is highly offensive to our tender egos and selfish nature. In fact, I personally hated the Sermon on the Mount for years because of how much it picked at my sensitive flesh that determined to never change its ways. But I came to realize, if I want to grow closer to God, I cannot leave out the parts of his word that upset me.
As disciples of Christ, we need to learn that we personally will get upset by the holy word of God and we will upset others with it. And that is okay.
This is a whole other blog post, no a book, in and of itself, but we need to regain some reverential fear of God. Yes, Jesus loves us and we are the righteousness of God in Christ. Yes, we are God’s masterpiece and he knows every hair on our head. All this feel good stuff is biblical and true. Yet so is the verse quoted above biblical and true. We’re over here “living in the New Testament” and only going to churches with feel good sermons letting moral sins that are uncomfortable to address persist in our lives. Why? Because we don’t have a grasp of the full power of God nor have a worship based respect for him. If we were to have a holy, biblical fear of the might of God, I believe we would be less intimidated to make waves in our society by preaching truth.
In study of this verse, it is argued whether or not a person who picks and chooses what to teach out of the Bible will make it to heaven or not. Some say they will but have a very low status. Others argue they won’t. Regardless, not sharing the full truth displeases the heart of God. That’s not a risk I want to take, nor do I want to simply break my Father’s heart.
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus calls us to a righteousness that is higher, more radical, than that of the religious teachers of his day. Again from the MacArthur Study Bible, it explained, “Pharisaism has a tendency to soften the Law’s demands by focusing only on external obedience.” Their righteousness was one of outward works and rituals. Later in the Sermon, Jesus talks frequently about not being superficial in our faith as the Pharisees were. This surface faith will not get us into the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus desires our hearts. We in our humanity cannot be righteous on our own. While the teachers of the Law at that time tried earning their salvation via works, we now know it is only by Jesus that we are saved and able to enter the kingdom of heaven as children of God. We are made righteousness by our belief in Christ and the radical heart transformation that takes place in us. We have to be different heart wise than those working to earn their salvation.
Jesus is nothing like us. He doesn’t cut corners, he’s not afraid to ruffle feathers, nor has he had his heart in one place and actions in another. Jesus fulfills. And he beckons us to share in this full life he gave us. In reverence and with a Christ in our heart, let’s take the leap to begin to live this higher, more radical life God has called us to.