Thursday, May 10, 2007



Matthew 5:17-20

I see this passage as containing the key to the entire book of Matthew. This is the primary theme of what Matthew intended to communicate to all who would read his writings. It's the Kingdom message-the good news of the Kingdom. In a very real sense, this entire seminar is best known as Jesus' Kingdom Manifesto.

Remember Jesus is answering the question that is in everyone's mind: "Jesus, how do your teachings differ from what we've been taught?" Specifically, this question comes from the Jewish community and leadership. However, I think this question is in the minds of all cultures and every religious background on planet earth. Think of it in this way as we proceed through how Jesus answers the question.

He's already painted a picture of what a Kingdom dweller or citizen looks like through the 8 snapshots of the beatitudes. Now Jesus targets the heart of the Jewish leadership with this paragraph.

17 Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever, then annuls one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever, keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

He positions His teachings in this case with the Mosaic Law. Jesus makes it clear that He does not intend to nullify the Law in any way, but has come to fulfill it. To fulfill literally means to FILL IT FULL. Imagine an empty glass as the Law and filling up the glass with Jesus. The Law was the form and Jesus is the substance. Everything written in the Mosaic Law yearns for its fulfillment in Jesus.

NOTE that Jesus in no way excludes the Jewish people and their Law of Moses, but only has difficulty with their application of it. In fact, Jesus isn't like the Christian exclusivists; He is always inclusive. Jesus unites. Everything and everyone else tends toward dividing. I don't know many people like this Jesus.

NOW, think of these same words of Jesus applied to every religious system or cultural ideals. He is the one who fills full the yearnings of all peoples. The Koran references Jesus nearly 100 times with the highest of titles, even calling Jesus the Son of God. The Koran references the virgin birth more than the Bible. Gandhi, who was viewed as the ultimate embodiment of the Hindu religion, was compared to the ultimate embodiment of fullness ever-Jesus. His people said of him that he was more "Christ-like" than anyone. NOTE he was more like the ultimate Jesus than anyone else. The Dalai Lama says that he is unworthy to even tie the shoes of Jesus. So, within the Moslem, Hindu and Buddhist religious systems Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment. He has filled their yearnings full! He came to fill all man's yearnings, dreams and standards on the planet.

Jesus then gives a clear statement on how to enter the Kingdom of heaven: 20 For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

NOTE Jesus gives the requirement for entering the kingdom of heaven. He says, "Your righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees." Wow! Is Jesus saying that we are to be more religious than these Jewish leaders? Not at all. It's just the opposite!

The scribes and Pharisee were some of the most religious people ever. Their religiosity was all about external matters-separation from sin and sinners and cleansing oneself. The Pharisees were known for: 1. Professing righteousness without possession of it! 2. Being hyper-critical-not hypocrites in the normal sense, but hair-splitters, nit-pickers, feather-pluckers! 3. Emphasizing the letter over the spirit of the Law-all truth and little grace! 4. Making absolutes out of non-absolutes-listing as many rules and regulations as possible! 5. Drawing the condemnation of men on righteous acts before God-such as praying, fasting, giving.

Jesus was not saying to outdo these super-religious people. He was saying that your righteousness must surpass their righteousness. I believe He is saying that your righteousness must go deeper-from the externals to the internals. Remember, God looks on the heart (internals) while man looks on the outward appearance (externals). Righteousness as Jesus teaches is a matter of the heart and He will delineate how this works in the next few paragraphs.

If you are counting on your good behavior or looking spiritual to get you into the kingdom of heaven, then you will be very disappointed. Unless your righteousness exceeds (goes deeper-internal) than that of the Pharisees, you will not get in.

From this point forward, Matthew will use Jesus' teaching and many other incidents to illustrate that all externals ought to emerge out of the internal-that being must come first, then on to the doing!

This Kingdom Manifesto of Jesus is for everyone. It is not exclusively for the Jews or the Christians. Jesus is all-inclusive. He is the ultimate answer for everyone everywhere. Jesus. Simply Jesus.