The relational life of allegiance to God opened to us by the Messiah

Ds J Bruintjes
Mattheus 5: 17 - 20
Sermon on the Mount
Preek Inhoud: 

If the Old Testament did not exist what would be missing in your knowledge of God?  Is it important to understanding Jesus and your life? The text today seems to say so. Today we come to one of the most important texts in terms of understanding the Old Testament, how it relates to the New Testament and how they both relate to Jesus Christ. Indeed, how one interprets this text has implications for the way you relate the old and new testament, the place of the law, and the context of the gospel.

Jesus standard is a standard that goes to the heart of a person. And drives out all pretense of self-righteous that you can get to heaven by simply doing something. There is nothing that you can do that can get you anywhere. It was always about being someone. Being in Christ. It is about a new existence that is giving to you to live in the person of Jesus Christ. It is his person that is vital in the understanding of this passage. The importance of the “I” in this passage cannot be overstated.

The relational life of allegiance to God opened to us by the Messiah

  1. I have not come to abolish but to fulfill
  2. The righteousness that exceeds.

Not come to abolish but to fulfill

“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.”

First of all he came not to do one thing, but another. He did not come to abolish. Some may have been thinking that he had come to abolish the law and the prophets. Some still think that it was Gods mission. That this is why Jesus came. That the old Testament has no more relevance. That it is a nice document, but really does not add a whole lot. The verb “abolish” is used of dismantling or destroying a building or institution. Was he making the OT obsolete? No,this was not his mission. His mission was to fulfill them.

It is important that he mentions law and prophets here. You notice that? When we read this sometimes, we just read the word law and not prophets. But just as he came not to abolish the law, he did not come to abolish the prophets! Both are still important. To understand their significance, we need to understand what Jesus means by the word “Fulfill”.

What does that mean? Whatever it means we know it was enough to get him crucified. I am the final authoritative and best teacher on the law. I am the inerrant explainer of Gods world, and I have come to tell you all what the law is really about. That is a huge claim. But he does stop there, he says I will Also fulfill them all! Jesus says in his own name, what the OT says in Gods name. Moses never said, “I say to you.” He always said the Lord says to you.

The word fulfill is important in Matthew. He uses it ten times where it points to the coming into being of that to which the OT pointed. He has prepared us for this moment in the first few chapter. The point is in a sense that in Jesus the OT has reached it destinated conclusion, and all of it should be interpreted in light of his coming, and the entrance of the Kingdom of heaven. In him the kingdom has come, and he invites his disciples into that present reality. The kingdom that the OT pointed to is now here. He is the final word – not the law or the prophets. As Matthew states in 11:13, “for all the law and the prophets prophesied until John.”

In other words the OT is first of all prophetic. We do not think Isaiah 53 is unimportant now that it is fulfilled in Jesus – no on the contrary it gains a far deeper meaning in Jesus. In the same way that is true of the law or the ten commandments! Isaiah 53 founds its meaning in Jesus. So the ten commandments find their meaning in Jesus. He is the fulfillment of them all. The telos of the law and prophets. In this way the whole to testament should be interpreted in the light of Jesus coming, and the coming of the kingdom. This does not make them less worthy of study, but more!

The law and prophets pointed to something deeper, and we only grasp that meaning by looking at them through Jesus Christ. The Passover lamb point to the Passover lamb! Do not murder points ot the transformation of God images bearers to flourish in all of life as they are remade in Christ image. It points to the ultimate command to love enemies, made possible in Christ.

And so, he goes on, “For truly, I say to you (in other words listen up!) until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, nota dot will pass from the law until all is accomplished.”  It is Jesus saying that the Old Testament will not pass away, in fact all that it points to will become a reality and is becoming a reality in my ministry. The temple. The priesthood, the sacrifices, the land, the laws of clean and unclean, the ten commandments, the psalms, the prophets! All of it. And in Christ they gain far far deeper meaning. This is still Gods word. The Breath of his mouth. Finding their reality is the word from God – Jesus Christ.  The Torah is not the last word from God. Jesus is. It is our relationship with him who fulfilled all righteousness, or the law, not to the law that teaches us how to life

An iota is the smallest Hebrew letter, and a dot is a tiny stylistic mark on the end of a letter. This is a statement about what Jesus thought of the OT. It is important down to the last word or letter! It is the very word of God! Do not think for a moment that it is not important, but neither for a moment think that you can read it without me at its center. Every single word of it must come true!

In other words, Jesus basically tells them what the law and prophets are all abouthim. So our relationship to the law and prophets should be seen through the lens of the coming of Jesus Christ and his work today, otherwise we miss the whole point, and miss the kingdom of Heaven completely, no matter how good we keep the ten commandments. Which brings us to our second point.

The righteousness that exceeds.

The scribes and pharisees would have loved what Jesus just said about not one comma being unimportant in the law. For them every detail of the law was precious. And the reason they made rules was not to replace the law of God, but to help the people to better obey the law. And in the eyes of the people at large they were strong defenders and explainers of the law as a practical guide to holy living. For them the law was the way of holy living. But the problem was they were reading the law without the person. So, it became rule instead of relationship. They were not to be righteous according to the standard of the law, but to the standard  the Father. As he says at the end of this section of the sermon, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

What I mean by this is that a law requires outward conforming. I keep to the speed limit (sometimes) because the law requires me to, not because I have a special relationship with the government or with a police officer. That is different than a relationship with my children. I want them to obey me not out of fear of condemnation but our of love for me. It is desire motivated, love motivated, not fear motivated.

This was the point of the law and the prophets a new way of living, the original way we were supposed to live, a live filled with relationships. Real ones. Heart to heart ones. This is what Jesus came to do. To set us free from the law which had us under the death penalty to enjoy a relationship with him, in the reality of his kingdom. A kingdom reality where the law is written on our hearts. Where all of life is transformed and restored to its original intent.

So this takes the law to a far deeper and more profound level. The OT gives us hints of this all through the prophets. For example, Israel knew how to look like they repented, but even though they did all the outward actions of repentance there hearts were not changed.  then would never really change. The the prophets say things like, “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments.”,” or, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.“

The righteousness that exceeds is not done for the sake of piety or holy living, but for the sake of Jesus. It is done not by obeying rules, but by being filled and motivated by a relationship with Jesus. It is not about certain rules, but about every moment of your life. You are placed in the kingdom of heaven. A different reality. A new Life.  A new way of being. Not just thinking but being! This is what it is all about. It goes far deeper and is stricter than any outward conforming.

So Jesus says, “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches other 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.

In other words, if you think the law is of no value, and you teach others to cause the law to be of no value then you are unworthy of the new way of life in the kingdom. Jesus has filled them with their true meaning and intent. Just as he has done to the prophecies. This is about heart obedience. This is not about loving those you like but loving those you hate. This is not just about not cheating, but not even desires a woman for selfish purposes. This is not about not pursuing money, but about not be anxious about anything. This is not about working hard to make it on your own this is about a life of constant prayer. This is a transformation of the whole life from the inside out. Jesus gets to the level of desire; he opens up a whole new world.

Notice he does not say you are outside the kingdom. Entrance into the kingdom is not dependent on the law – but Jesus is not just about entrance into. He is not about barely making it – he is about the fullness of life that is opened to us through his person..

The emphasis here is on doing! This is about a daily way of life. This is about transformed relationship with your family, your co-workers, you classmates. This is about a new relationship with God through Jesus where you interact with him no longer as a servant, but as a Father. This is about a transformed relationship with creation. This is about a new existence, an existence where one lives in the presence of God, and then teaches others to do the same.

This emphasis on doing comes out everywhere in Matthew but also particularly in Jesus last command where the disciples are to go to all nations and “them to observe all that He has commanded them!” Teaching them to observe! To do: This is what matters. Not what you know, but who you are!

Throughout Matthew, righteousness is profoundly a matter of doing. It is social in character, serving as active leaven in society. The verb poiein (Do), which occurs 83 times in the entire gospel, is used 22 times in chaps. 5-7 alone.

In this way he can says, “for I tell you the truth, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” You will never be part of God reign if you just follows the rules, not matter how good you look, or how religious - you are completely lost. For God is the criteria for righteousness’s now. The righteous one has set the bar of righteousness, and its only him that we can reach it.

So, Jesus is not talking about beating the pharisees at their own game. Jesus Criticism is not that they were not good, but that they were not good enough. While all their rules could create a “good” society, it domesticated the law, and lost the radical demand for absolute holiness. When it comes to the heart even the most law abiding pharisees cannot say he has kept it. this is humanely impossible. But what is impossible for man is possible for God.

The messiah will develop a people who will be call “oaks of righteousness for the display of the LORDS splendor!” The righteousness of Gods people outstrips the pharisees in its depth of obedience which goes to the level of the heart and desires. For Jesus is talking about a different concept of Righteousness that flows form the heart. The death and ressurection of the man speaking these words would forever break the power of sin and the law, so our hearts could be set free to a new obedience.  It is He and his work that stands at the center.

There is a story of a student rabbi who was listening to Jesus and went back to his master to tell him about a sermon from Jesus he had just heard. And when he was done, the master Rabbi said, “613 commandments were given to Moses, 365 negative ones, corresponding to the number of the days of the solar year, and 248 positive commandments, corresponding to the parts of the man's body.
"David came and reduced them to eleven...

"Isaiah came and reduced them to six...
"Habakkuk further came and based them on one, as it is said 'But the righteous shall live by his faith' (Hab 2:4)"

"So," the master told his young student," is this what the sage, Jesus, had to say?"
The student answered: "Not exactly, but close."
He asked: "What did he leave out?"
the student replied: "Nothing."
The master asked again: "Then what did he add?"
the student response was simple: "Himself."

Come follow me, Jesus will say again and again to all who want to enter into the Gods kingdom. Jesus holds to the law in its fullness. It is what he adds, namely himself, that changes everything. This is where Jesus message diverges with the scribes and pharisees. The commandments were defined by this persons life and teaching.

The radical approach to discipleship goes far beyond the best righteousness that the scribes and pharisees could envisage; its goal is nothing less than sharing the perfection of God himself in Christ himself. Allegiance to him. This is the fulness of life! He opens the perfect, most beautifully awesome lie to us! The kingdom just imagine a kingdom where all these things are not just preached but practiced.. I tell you now in Jesus the beginning of that is possible yes even for you. The broken. The poor. The self-righteous. The sinner. For you mother. Father. Son or daughter.

Jesus has opened the way to live today in the kingdom. He fulfilled the law and the prophets: he lived the perfect life. He did what prophecy said he would do. He is the embodiment of all truth. Lets sit at his feet and hear his words. The words of life of truth and walk in them. Or rather walk in Him. .