Summary: Jesus tells the people that He has not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them. How has Jesus fulfilled them and, if we live by grace, what does this mean for us?
Living Inside Out - Matthew 5:17-20 - October 16, 2011
Series: Kingdom Life – A World Turned Upside Down #10
This morning we continue in our series on the Sermon on the Mount so I’ll invite you to open your Bibles with me to the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 5, beginning in verse 17. Now, I’ve chosen to call this series “Kingdom Life – A World Turned Upside Down,” because this is what Jesus is talking about. He’s telling the people what life in the Kingdom of God is really all about – this is what it looks like and this is how a citizen of the Kingdom lives. And if you’ve been following along in this series you will recognize that the life we are called to, and the life that is made possible for us as Christians, is a far cry from the life that the world would have us live. Life in the Kingdom of God truly is a life that is turned upside down.
In the Kingdom of God, it is the poor in spirit who enter in, the meek who inherit the earth, those who mourn their sin that are comforted, and those who are persecuted for righteousness sake that are blessed. While the world around them goes it’s own way the Christian is called to be a peacemaker as he, or she, seeks to bring the peace of God to a world lost in the turmoil and deception of sin. We are called to be the salt of the earth – a preservative influence of the things of God in our society. We are called to be light to a world blinded by the darkness of sin and shame. This is the high and holy calling to which we have entered in through faith in Jesus Christ and which is made possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And these words which have gone before, set the stage for the Scripture passage which we will look at this morning.
See, the crowd which has gathered around Jesus, and in the King James Version it’s called a “multitude,” – we’re talking about a lot of people here - those who have been listening to His teaching - are hearing things they’ve never heard before. They’re hearing truth as they’ve never heard it proclaimed. In fact, if we were to go to the very end of the Sermon on the Mount, chapter 7 of this Gospel, Matthew makes this declaration: “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7:28–29, NIV)
And Jesus knew and understood the effect His words were having on the people. He knew that His teaching would be revolutionary to them. Which brings us to verse 17 because Jesus says this, in way of warning, and in way of explanation, … “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17–20, NIV)
Now before we can really grasp what Jesus is saying here, and why it is that He is saying it, we need to understand what He is talking about when He speaks of the “Law” and of the “Prophets.” If you have a Bible with you this morning, I want you to take it and, just for a moment, hold it up so we can see it. Now, if you’re holding a Bible in your hands – and every one of us should be – if you’re not, I want to challenge you to bring the Word of God with you wherever you go, but certainly at the very least, bring it with you on Sunday mornings as we gather for worship – if you’re holding a Bible, you’re holding the revealed word of God in it’s entirety.
You can put your hands down now but think about what I just said. You have in your possession everything that God wanted you to know, and everything which you need to know, about who God is, what He is doing in this world, and about His love for men and women beat up and broken by sin, blinded by the darkness and in desperate need of salvation. You have in your hands the treasure of the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus – which has restored hope and life to a people who were dead in their sins and transgressions and who were without hope in this world!