Summary: Can you imagine the faces when Jesus told them their righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees to go to heaven?
Can you imagine the faces of all the people sitting on the Mount of Beatitudes listening to Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus told them their righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees to go to heaven?
In Jesus day there were many people deeply concerned about righteousness. They were the Scribes and the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the most zealous in a human attempt at righteousness. No one even compared to them when it came to obeying the law and emphasizing righteousness.
All those listening to Jesus must have had the same look on their face as Nicodemus had when Jesus told him no one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless he is born again. The people must have been in shock to hear this. Do you mean our righteousness is to exceed the Scribes and the Pharisees? That is humanly impossible!
Jesus calls us to go beyond the law to a true relationship with God, where we enjoy and experience His love. The emphasis of the Pharisees righteousness is outward and the true righteousness Jesus speaks of is inward.
Jesus Stance on the Scripture Vs 17-18
17"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. 18I tell you the truth, 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.
It was important that Jesus established what he believed about the written Word of God, the Holy Scriptures. The Pharisees claimed to hold closely and adamantly to the law. When Jesus went head to head with the Pharisees they might charge him of not having a very high regard for Holy Scriptures. That is totally false. In fact it was Jesus who had a high view of the scriptures and the Pharisees who abolished the law.
The Pharisees would come up with secret hidden meanings in Scripture and use it to support their own traditions. They developed a system of 612 rules and regulations. Jesus violated their rules and their regulations. But that is something very different than violating Scripture.
In Matthew 15:2 they confront Jesus about breaking one of their own man made rules:
"Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!"
Notice how Jesus replied:
Vs 3 "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?
Jesus again demonstrated his high view of Scriptures in an account recorded in Matthew 22:23-33. This time it was Sadducees, a group who does not believe in the resurrection. They tried to trap Jesus asking what if a woman was widowed seven times, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? Jesus replied don’t you know the Scripture or the power of God? Jesus pointed out that that God said, I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
He said, I am not, I was. He is the God of the living. Jesus believed the Scripture. He said he did not come to destroy the law. Jesus said, I came to fulfill the law. Not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
Jesus upheld the law and the Prophets. That was representative for the entire Old Testament as we know it on our Bible. Jesus did not devalue the Scripture in the least. He held the highest view of Scripture.
Today we do not sacrifice animals as in the Old Testament because these sacrifices pointed toward the coming messiah. He came. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. Jesus fulfilled the Scripture. The scriptures were pointing to the day that Jesus would come.
Keeping God’s Law
Followers of Jesus are under obligation to keep the teachings of the Old Testament. There are ceremonial and ritual laws that Jesus fulfilled, but there are timeless moral laws that all believers of Jesus must follow.
What happens when a follower of Jesus breaks these laws? Do you lose your salvation? Do you forfeit your opportunity to go to heaven? No, but you lose your position in God’s kingdom. Instead of being called great he will be called least.
19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same 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.
It is of great importance to the follower of Jesus to obey God’s Word.