April 5 - Matthew 5:17-20

Friday, April 5, 2013

April 5 - Matthew 5:17-20

“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 say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were the upholders of the Law.  They were trained in all of the minute inflections of what the law would allow.  Throughout Jesus’ ministry, these men would watch his actions, in order to catch him in any small betrayal.  No person could claim to be from God and then disobey what His Holy Law proclaimed.  Their jealousy and misunderstanding of the power and Spirit of God would cause them to fall far from grace.

While the Pharisees were a political power during the time of Jesus and on the face of it, lived out the Law of the Torah, they were morally corrupt.  Because they knew the intricacies of the Law, they also knew just how far they could go and still stay within its limits.  It was to them Jesus spoke when he accused people of relaxing the smallest commandment and allowing others to do the same.

When the Law told them they couldn't steal from others, they would create methods of taking someone’s land or money.  As long as they could justify their actions, they felt superior and righteous.

Jesus’ challenge to those who thought that by emulating the behavior of the Pharisees they would receive blessings from God, was to be better than they were, to be more than a Pharisee.

That is his challenge to each of us.  We know what the law requires. We know what good behavior requires of us.  We know exactly how to circumvent that Law.  Jesus doesn't ask us to do what is required of us as the Pharisees did; he asks us to be more righteous than they can imagine.

In Matthew 22, when Jesus is asked once again by the Pharisees what the greatest commandment in the Law is, he responds by saying “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV).

He doesn't tell them what to do or what not to do, he tells them … and he tells us that to love with everything we have will cover every commandment or intricacy in the Law.

Love is the foundation and the expression of the Law. Love is to be our commandment.