Summary: Matthew 5: 17-20 Mission Impossible
Matthew 5: 17-20
You know each week as we go through a book of the Bible, we cover a different passage of the Bible. And perhaps you look through ahead and see what passages are coming up, and what topics will be covered in those passages. Well of course, I also look ahead and see what I’ll be preaching on. And sometimes I look ahead and I really look forward to preaching on a particular passage. Why? Perhaps the passage is an encouraging one that tells us the wonderful things God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Then again there are some passages that I feel are really good for practical Christian living and that as I explain them, I’m hopefull they will help you greatly in living your Christian life. And then, to be bluntly honest, there are some passages that I enjoy preaching on because they are easy to prepare! Their meaning is evident, it’s easy to put together a structure, a catchy illustraion, and it doesn’t take me long to prepare the sermon so I’ve got the rest of the week to do all the other sort of stuff a pastor is supposed to do.
Well, today’s passage doesn’t fall into any of those categories - at least on the face of it. Is it encouraging? Well, it tells me that unless my righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees that I don’t get to go to heaven. Personally, I don’t find that very encouraging! Do you? And then everday practicality. This passage doesn’t seem to tell me something that I can apply to my everyday life. It doesn’t seem to tell me how to relate to my wife, kids. It doesn’t seem to tell me how to live as a Christian in the workplace. It doesn’t seem tell me how to tell people about Jesus. In fact it seems to be a very theologically deep passage. It is complicated both to understand, and to explain. Which leads to the third thing I like in a sermon: that is – I like a sermon that is easy to prepare. This sermon was certainly not easy to prepare! It was just plain difficult. I’d been seeing it coming for some time, and I’ve been struggling with it. What does it mean? What is it saying? And how on earth do I explain it?
So as we go to the passage today, I want to tell you that – yes, this passage is complex. It is hard to understand, and hard to explain! And yes, it is deeply theological. But, it is also practical, because it is the key to understanding the rest of the Sermon on the Mount and the other teachings of Jesus, especially in relation to the Old Testament. And those teaching are very practical. And as to whether it is discouraging or encouraging - well, let’s just say it’s challenging!
So remember, this is the Sermon on the mount that we are in. Jesus has His disciples around Him. He’s told them His beatitudes, which are ways of living that run counter to what the world tells us is the way we should live. Jesus has told His disciples – and us also if we are also His disciples - that we are the salt of the earth, the light of the world. That is, it is up to us to be proclaimers of what Christ has done for us. And while we preach the Gospel with the words we say, it is backed up with our holy lives - right living, good works, as it says in:
Matthew 516 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
So good works are essential. As people see them, our light shines and our Father in Heaven is glorified. And God’s glory should be the ultimate desire of all Christians. But what are good works? What are these good works we are supposed to do? In fact, in the rest of the Sermon Mount, Jesus tells us what some of these good works are. But before He does that, He preaches this little section here from verses 17-20 to tell us what He came to do, and to tell us how He fits in with the Old Testament and its laws.
As you probably know, the Old Testament is full of Laws, full of them, describing in much detail how one should live. So full of laws is it in fact, that the Jews call the first five books of the Bible the “Torah” – which means “Law”. The Law. But what about us as Christians? Do we need to follow the Old Testament Law and all its regulations? For example, the Ten Commandments? Do we follow them? I’m sure none of us would dispute most of them. For example, commandment number 6: Exodus 2013 “You shall not murder. I don’t think there’s any argument about whether that commandment applies. But what about commandment number 4: Exodus 208 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work. Does that still apply? Before you say yes, remember that the Sabbath day is the seventh day – that is, Saturday, not Sunday. Also remember that this commandment forbids any work, absolutely any. For example: Exodus 35 3 You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day. So if you can’t kindle a fire in your house, where does that leave cooking Sunday lunch? What about people who have to work: doctors, nurses, electricity workers…… pastors? Hmnmmm, it’s not so easy is it? On the other hand, many Christians say that Christ came to do away with the Old Testament laws. Well, what did Jesus say about all this?