Sermon for November 15, 2020

 Practice and Teaching

Matthew 5:17-20

Matthew 5:17-20 New Living Translation

17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

Last week we talked about the wedding in Cana and then later going to Jerusalem before Passover and he flipped the tables over and drove all people and animals out of the Court of Gentiles with a whip.  Now, the Gospel of John precedes that story with Jesus’ baptism.  So, when we begin to pick of the story in Matthew, we must understand that there are certain things that John left out.  Matthew shares that after Jesus’ baptism that he was led out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  John shared about how Jesus called his first 5 disciples.  So, Matthew should next have the “Water into Wine” story next but instead goes into Jesus healing the sick. (Matthew 4) This makes sense as Cana is in Galilee and as he is on his way to Jerusalem, people are healed.  A transition is made in Matthew about these new followers on a mount (Luke 6:17 is translated plain but the Greek word means “flat place”).  This place can be no other than the Mount of Olives that overlooks the City of Jerusalem. 

We are at a part of the story where the Sermon on the Mount happens just before Jesus enters in and flips the tables.  Matthew does not record this now (he does later in Matthew 21:12-13), why?  Matthew (Levi) was not there. (Matthew 9:9) He was there to witness this again! (Yes, Jesus did this twice!  Once at the beginning of his ministry and again at the end!)

There would have been a large crowd traveling on their way to celebrate Passover.  Those travelers just so happen to witness these miracles along the way.  They stopped at the same towns to rest. They shared their food with one another.  They talked along the way.  They heard Jesus preaching at their regions’ Synagogue.  Jesus sees this large crowd and as they were all on their way to Jerusalem, Jesus goes up to the Mount of Olives plain and teaches the crowd, starting with the Beatitudes and being Salt and Light.  But the heavy message that Jesus shares starts at verse 17.

Teaching the Law given to Moses on Mount Horeb, (Sinai is actually the desert that surrounds Mount Horeb.  Both names are of Babylonian origin and are not Hebrew names) Jesus teaches these the way that they were to be understood. 

  • Statement One: Jesus did not come to abolish the Law of Moses, but to fulfill them.  What does that mean?
    • Down through the centuries the Law of Moses had been changed by the way that it was taught.  The Rabbi’s, who taught the Law, took liberties in defining what the ancient text meant and how it should be applied.  Look at how we understand the 10 Commandments today; the seventh commandment is often written as “Thou shall not kill” when the original text says that “Thou shall not murder”.  In the first two books of the Torah, murder is never clearly defined up until Moses.  The reason why Moses flees is because both Israelite and Egyptian believe he had committed murder, but did God see it that way?  Why would God choose Moses via the burning bush and then give him a command about murder?  Perhaps Jesus has the answer.
  • Statement Two:  Murder according to Jesus.  It is the attitude (the thinking) more than the action.  Matthew 5:21-22
  • Statement Three: Adultery according to Jesus.  What you focus do you look at or focus on? Matthew 5:27-28
  • Statement Four:  Making promises according to Jesus.  What do you say to others?  Matthew 5:33-37
  • Statement Five: How to treat people according to Jesus.  Do not turn people away.  Matthew 5:38-42

You must remember that Jesus teaches the crowd these things before he makes a very recognizable entry into the Temple area.  Jesus explains that what was being taught and practice by the teaches and religious leaders was a twisted version of what God intended.  The Law of Moses had turned into the legalistic way that they used to judge people, but Jesus says that the rules were given to reflect within one’s self.  The priests used these rules to keep people out and yet they themselves did not understand or even practice this correctly in their own lives.  They professed righteousness but the righteousness they celebrated was based on wrong attitudes, wrong focus, led to words that oppressed people, and their righteousness turned people away. 

Now read Matthew 5:20 again:

20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

What did the Pharisee’s and Rabbi’s lack in their teachings of the Torah according to Jesus? That is simple, the Spirit of the Law.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against these things, there is no Law!

The Temple’s practice of their understand of the Law led to the death and crucifixion of Jesus.  They wanted their authority, not God’s authority.  But God’s authority is victoriously shown in the resurrection of Jesus.  This proves that the high-minded priests were wrong, and Jesus was right!

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