Posts Tagged ‘Righteousness’

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What is Jesus really asking of us in the Sermon on the Mount?  Here is a sermon for Epiphany 6A that wrestles with the question.

A Deeper Righteousness
A Sermon on Matthew 5:17-37 (With allusions to Exodus 20:1-17)

Jesus was a lawbreaker.  That truly is how some people saw him.  In the eyes of the experts on God’s law, namely the scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus played fast and loose with the rules.  Didn’t he know that the way you please God, the way you love God is to obey God’s law?  But here Jesus was, flaunting the holiness codes, touching the unclean, not keeping himself separate from the impure, not keeping separate from women, even talking with them in public, in broad daylight.  Worst of all, Jesus broke the Sabbath law and allowed his disciples to do likewise.  The law says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.  On that day you shall do no work.  Period.”  Keeping the Sabbath law in particular was the litmus test of faithfulness.  Yet Jesus repeatedly healed people on the Sabbath, and that was clearly work.  As far as the legal experts were concerned, Jesus was disrespecting the law, disrespecting them, and disrespecting God.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, his disciples debated the role of the law.  What was binding on Christians, and what wasn’t?  Some maintained that all the law should be kept, a few even maintaining that Gentile Christians must follow all the Jewish laws. Others insisted that the era of the law was over; Christ did away with the law.  “We’re not saved by keeping the law,” they declared.  “We’re saved by the body and blood of the Lord.  Therefore,” they reasoned, “the law is obsolete.”  Some even counseled not worrying about law at all.  After all, forgiveness and salvation are free.

Who was right about the law?  According to Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, none of the above.  “Do not think that I’ve come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets,” he declared.  “I have come not to abolish, but to fulfill.  For truly, I tell you, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter of the law will be done away with until all is accomplished.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called the 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.”

What is Jesus saying here?  Is he telling us we’ve got to out-Pharisee the Pharisees? (more…)

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