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. (Matthew 5:17-20)
Pastor John’s Notes:
The main idea of the Sermon on the Mount is expressed in this passage. The Sermon on the Mount is an essay in righteousness. Jesus contrasted the way of true righteousness with the false righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Although the scribes and Pharisees excelled in keeping the external trappings of the law, they were failing to fulfill what God intended in the law because they had no religion of the heart. Everything they did was not for God, but for others to observe. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his disciples a way of true righteousness that is pleasing and acceptable to God. Jesus’ way of righteousness does not negate the writings of Moses and the prophets, as it had undoubtedly been rumored by the people who opposed Jesus; it fulfills them.
The word “fulfill” means to bring to realization or to complete. The writings of the Old Testament were pointing to something that was yet to come and were therefore incomplete in themselves. Jesus is making the astounding claim that if we follow him and put his teachings into practice, we will fulfill the Scriptures and become the kind of person God intended. We will be restored to God’s original design for humanity.
Jesus’ stunning words, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of God,” is designed to shock his hearers into action. The stakes are high. Through Jesus Christ, God has brought his kingdom to the earth. We must therefore pursue the ways of Jesus Christ with such vehemence and devotion that it would shame even the scribes and Pharisees of old.
Lord, teach me your way of righteousness. Restore me to be the kind of person God intended. Orient me around God’s design for humanity. Let a deep and abiding passion burn within me for the righteous ways of God.