We move on in our readings in the Sermon on the Mount to Matthew Chapter 5 verses 17-20, which serves as an introduction to the various sections which make up the end of the Chapter.
As we know Jesus and His teaching caused huge crowds to follow him and acclaim Him, but He also seriously upset the Jewish leadership in their various forms, because He seemed to be bringing a new teaching and challenging their interpretation of the things of God and thus their authority as well. For example right from the outset He healed and did other things on the Sabbath, and confronted evil spirits in a radical new way.
Similarly the relationship between the OT (summarised here as the Law and the Prophets) and the NT (summarised by the coming of Christ and His teaching) has caused lots of different views and opinions within the church, and is sometimes a difficult path to negotiate.
But here Jesus clearly claims that He hasn’t come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfil them (v.17). He does this in a number of ways, including perfectly obeying the Law that has been given, and being the answer to various predictive prophecies about the Messiah that are contained in the OT.
He also challenges His followers (vs.19-20) not to break even the least of the commandments or teach others to do the same, but that their righteousness should surpass that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law of the time, which probably astonished His original hearers. The Law is God-given and is good, but what Jesus seems to be speaking against is the human interpretations which concentrated on the externals and ignored the heart, what was going on inside a person. Jesus wanted His followers to have a deeper righteousness than that of the Jewish authorities because it affected their hearts.
I hope this will become a bit clearer as Jesus sets out 6 examples in the verses that follow. Feel free to read ahead a little but we will return to these matters on Monday.
From our church address list, let us remember today in our prayers,- Tina McGowan- Azaria, Charlene’s older niece.