Getting Righteousness Right (Matthew 5:21-30)

We observed in our last lesson that Jesus set up this section of his teaching by warning about relaxing any of God’s commands. But Jesus does not simply tell everyone that their righteousness needs to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Nor does he simply tell everyone to stop relaxing his laws. Instead, Jesus is going to spend quite a bit of time illustrating how the religious leaders in his day were actually doing what he said they must not do. If you scan through chapter 5 you will see that Jesus begins each topic with the phrase, “You have heard that it was said” (Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43). It is important to observe that Jesus does not say, “It is written.” Jesus is not saying, “Here is what the Law of Moses said, but I am telling you something new and different.” Often the Sermon on the Mount has been understood in this way. But Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. Jesus’ concern is about the teachers of the relaxing what the commandments said. Therefore, what Jesus is doing is not giving new law in contrast to the Law of Moses. Rather, Jesus is exposing what the religious teachers are saying and how they are relaxing the law. Then Jesus places God’s standard back where it ought to have been in the first place…

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