Summary: Jesus commands us to have a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees and Scribes. Just how do we accomplish this?

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“Surpassing the Righteousness of the Pharisees and Scribes”

Mt. 5:20

Fr. Christopher M. Nerreau

Introduction: (READ PASSAGE) - In our gospel passage today Jesus commands us to have a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees and Scribes. (v.20)

• Intrinsically many of us already understand God requires us to be righteous. The problem is we don’t understand how to achieve it. For the most part, we seek to fulfill this task by the sweat of our brow.

o A couple years ago I was at the beach watching a little boy attempt to drain the ocean with a bucket; he would take a scoop out of the ocean, walk over to the beach and dump it.

o We have about as much a chance of achieving the righteousness of God in and of ourselves as the boy had in emptying the ocean with a bucket. Let’s be honest with ourselves, we are not very good are we…

• So the question facing us today is – “Just how do we obtain the righteousness of God?”

Proposition: It is not possible for us to possess the righteousness of God on our own. We must have the help of God Himself.

Interrogative sentence: Today, do you possess the righteousness required to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

Sermon Preview: It is my goal that by the end of this sermon you will be able to answer that question. So let’s look at the passage a little more closely as we see:

• The Problem of The Pharisees

• The Promise Of Christ

• The Prerequisite Of The Kingdom

Transitional Sentence: Let’s begin by looking at…


Explanation: Jesus begins (vs. 20) with a call to righteousness, a righteousness that is greater than that of the Pharisees and Scribes.

THE BIBLE SAYS: 5:20 “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees.”

The Scribes and Pharisees

• Scribes – A teaching class that transcribed the scriptures and was very familiar with them.

• The Scribes held a great deal of clout in the society of Jesus, they were a prestigious people.

• Pharisees -

• a member of a Jewish sect of the intertestamental period noted for strict observance of rites and ceremonies of the written law and for insistence on the validity of their own oral traditions concerning the law.

• The Common People –

• The Jews believed the Scribes and Pharisees were holy, as holy as they come.

• When I was a kid I thought my priest was “perfect”. I often wondered how he managed that.

The Challenge Of Jesus Statement

• Jesus command that the disciples surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees would have come as a great challenge to them. In their minds there were no people more holy than the Pharisees. They could not imagine trying to live a more devout life.

The Problem of the Pharisees

• The Pharisees emphasis was outward and showy by their own effort.

• Jesus reserved His harshest criticism for these people:

o Mt 6:1 – “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men.”

o Mt 6: 2 – “When you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet”

o Mt 6:5 - “When you pray [do not] stand and pray …street corners to be seen by men.”

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