The law was pretty much impossible for us to keep – you may think you are doing well with the Ten Commandments, but then get nailed by “Do not covet”! By the time of Jesus, the Pharisees had added a lot to the law. In the Third Century the Mishnah was brought together – 800 extra pages of commentary. The Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds run to 72 volumes. So when Jesus says “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” we are in trouble, unless…
You see grace goes beyond the law. Jesus brought grace that fulfilled the law on our behalf and with it a righteousness that comes by faith in Him, not our efforts. Grace makes us righteous and Jesus now gives us seven examples of what that greater righteousness that comes through grace and is empowered by the Spirit looks like.
The law tells us not to murder. Murder comes from anger, its root is hatred. Jesus would have us deal with the fruit, murder, and the root, which is anger. In the Bible God’s anger is surprisingly mentioned more than His love. Anger in itself is not bad. In God it is completely good and holy. James Packer wrote “God’s wrath in the Bible is never capricious, self-indulgent, irritable and morally ignoble thing that human anger is. Anger can be good against a moral evil, but often results from missing the point, having a blocked goal and frustration. Be careful with anger.
You fool! is a big insult in Aramaic. One commentary said it was the equivalent of “You blockhead!” which made me check the date it was written!
Jesus challenges us that even in the most holy moments of life, the second we realise we have caused offence we need to go back and be reconciled.
Adultery is prohibited in the law. Grace takes us further – looking lustfully is adultery of the heart. What are you watching when no-one is looking. The devil loves to trap people in shame and secrecy of sin, trying to convince us we are the only one. If you are struggling with temptation or sin, you are not the only one (1 Corinthians 10:13). Talk to a trusted friend and bring it into the light. The devil and his accusations will flee.
This was a sexist thing in Jesus’ day – a man could get rid of his wife very easily. For Jesus getting divorced and remarrying is adultery. Marriage is intended to be one wife, one life, as a picture of Jesus’ love for the church – the husband dying to self to love his wife.
Next Jesus challenges us to make our yes, yes and our no, no. It’s about being reliable. If you have said you would do it, then do it! Be trustworthy and full of integrity.
Turning the other cheek is an incredibly generous Christian lifestyle. We give and give and give just as Christ gave to us. In the Apartheid times one black Christian leader said how he responded when he had been pushed around by whites. He said “When I have been unjustly forced into some menial action, I complete it and then turn round and ask my ‘boss’ if there is anything else that he would like me to do to help him.’ That takes the wind out of their sails, they can’t believe a wronged party would respond like that.
Grace goes beyond the law, but empowers us to do so by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. More Lord!