We Must Be Perfect
August 19 - Nº 231 Matthew 5:13-48
The sermons Jesus preached on the hillsides around the Sea of Galilee amazed his listeners. His principles contradicted most of the ones their religious leaders lived by and taught. Jesus wanted his followers’ lives to be different. He did not want them only to be blessed (see #230 - Jesus Selects Twelve Apostles and Begins to Teach Them), he wanted them to bless others. Just like salt added flavor and took away the bitterness in their food, he wanted the actions of his disciples to add satisfaction to the lives of others. And, in the same way that salt protected and preserved their food, he wanted their faith to show others where they could find safety and security. He wanted them to shine like oil lamps in a dark room. Their good deeds should cause others to see God and want to praise Him. Jesus knew that the Pharisees were terribly hung up on obeying the Law—so much so that they had added thousands of regulations to the 613 commands already written in the Old Testament. They demanded strict obedience to every one of them. But they only measured obedience externally. They never dealt with what was going on inside their minds and hearts. Jesus pointed out that if someone really wanted to fulfill the Law, their thoughts and intentions had to be 100% pure. That kind of righteousness— the kind required to live in God’s presence—far exceeded anything practiced by the Pharisees (see Matthew 5:20 and 48)! As a matter of fact, no one could live a life that pure—except Jesus! Only he could fulfill all the requirements of the Law both externally and internally. And that is exactly why he came—to fulfill the Law (see Matthew 5:17). Jesus gave his followers several examples of how their laws didn’t measure up to God’s standards. Many times he said to them, “You have heard it said . . .” referring to what the Pharisees taught. Then he contrasted their interpretation of the Law with what God really meant for them to understand and do. For instance: “You have heard it said . . .”
You shall not murder. The Pharisees felt that they had kept this Law as long as there was no dead body. But Jesus explained that murder actually took place when someone became angry in their heart.
You shall not commit adultery. The Pharisees taught that violation of this Law involved sexual action. But Jesus said that sexual desire outside of marriage was sinful. In fact, it was wrong to look at anything that would cause such a desire.
It was okay to break a promise unless you swore by God’s name that you would keep it. Jesus instructed his followers differently. He wanted them to keep every promise and live up to all their words without taking any oaths.
An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Jesus did not want his followers to resent the insults or physically react to the intrusions of others. He wanted them to be patient and loving even toward their enemies.
No matter how good we are, we will always fall short of God’s requirements for holiness. Jesus is the only one who ever obeyed the Law perfectly. Yet he was willing to take our punishment when he died on the cross. He fulfilled the requirements of the Law for us! But we must be willing to accept his sacrifice in our place. Have you done this?