We’ve spent these last few weeks looking at the greatest instance of “the law” in the Old Testament. In light of that, I thought it would be useful for us to look at some of Jesus’ teaching on the Law. In the next few days we will look at the worlds of the text of Matthew 5: 17-20. Today we’ll look at the world behind the text:
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks 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. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
What the Ten Commandments are to the Old Testament, the Sermon on the Mount is to the New Testament. That is the way that Matthew frames it. Remember that Matthew is Jewish and he is writing to a mainly Jewish audience. They would have understood the deep symbology that is happening here. In Exodus, Moses goes up on a mountain and receives a law for the people to live by. In Matthew Jesus goes up on a mountain and gives the people a new law to live by, but Jesus’ law is not a law of actions as much as it is a law of the heart. So not it is not just enough not to murder (an action) but you should not hate in your heart (inward). Jesus’ law is deeper in that way.
And that is the contrast that Matthew is trying to paint for us. This is a word written originally for Jewish Christians but it is important for all of us that know, love, and live under the authority of the whole of scripture. This is what the Law looks like for us.
Moses went up on the mountain and got a law. Jesus goes up on the mountain and gives a law. And notice, who gave the Law in Exodus. God. Who gives the Law in Matthew? Jesus. And who is Jesus? Fully God and Fully Human. In the giving of this Law, a Jewish audience would understand this as a statement of Jesus divinity as well.
Tomorrow we’ll dig deeper into the world of the text.
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