JESUS AND THE LAW
Forgiving One, I praise You for Your glory and grace, Your peace and power, Your greatness and goodness.
Read MATTHEW 5:17–26
The Fulfillment of the Law
17 “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. 18 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. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 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.
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Pray for willingness to be challenged deeply by Jesus’ understanding of the Law of God.
This passage may seem really difficult to understand, and a glance at commentaries will confirm that there are indeed challenges of interpretation. However, as we saw in the introduction, this Gospel appeared at a time when, after the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, Jewish opposition to the Jesus movement was increasing. Consequently, for Matthew, what Christ actually said concerning the Law of Moses was extremely important and enabled the evangelist’s contemporaries to challenge the claims made by some rabbis that the new movement was anti-Jewish, rejecting both the Law and the Prophets.
Jesus emphatically rejects the idea that it was His intention to abolish the Law. He could not be clearer in His defense of the revelation given to Israel and in the assertion of its continuing authority and value. For Christians in the twenty-first century, this compels us to question our own attitude toward what we have come to call the Old Testament. Does that very terminology mean that we downplay the significance of the Hebrew Bible? How frequently do we hear teaching on the Law and the Prophets? What part do the Psalms of Israel play in our worship and private devotions?
The key words in this passage are fulfill (v 17) and righteousness (v 20). Jesus claims that, in His life, what the Law intended is demonstrated for all to see. This contrasts with the legalism of the Pharisees because it involves a deepening of the meaning of the Law and its application in a way that is consistent with the mercy and love of God. The discussion of the crime of murder in verses 21–26 illustrates this and brings home to us the hidden reality of the evil residing in our own hearts, so exposing our failure to meet the true demands of God’s Law.
The Sermon begins to demand of us serious self-examination. Pray for the Spirit to help you live in a manner that attracts rather than repels people.
Loving Lord Jesus, I know You will complete Your work in my life. Bring to my awareness any issue I need to address and forgive me for my sins.