We hear a lot of talk in the church today about the differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, the Old Testament and New Testament. Now, that distinction is warranted, but we have to be careful that we don’t imply that the God of the Old Testament is not the God the of New Testament. A lot of skeptics make that claim. In the Scripture we are studying this week, Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus clears the fog for us.
According to Matthew 5:17, Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Old Testament, but to fulfill it. In other words, not to divide the two testaments but to unite them. Any Bible scholar worth his salt will tell you that the whole Bible is about Jesus. The Law points forward to Christ. The sacrificial system was only meant to be temporary until Jesus comes to be our atoning sacrifice once and for all. (Heb. 10:12) He fulfilled the need for a sacrifice. The Church of the New Testament points back to the work of Christ by regularly participating in communion and baptism. We as the church currently await his glorious return. It’s all about Jesus! The coming of Jesus our Messiah is the hinge on which all of history swings.
Now, who is this Jesus described in the Scriptures? If you go out on the streets of Lake Geneva and ask ten people who Jesus is, you just might get ten different responses. The most common response that you will likely get is that Jesus was a good person, very kind and loving to everyone. Certainly true! But what many people fail to realize is that Jesus made keeping the Law even more difficult! If you continue reading in Matthew 5 you’ll see what I mean. It’s no longer just don’t murder; it’s don’t hate. It’s no longer just don’t commit adultery; it’s don’t even think about it.
He ends our passage for this Sunday, v. 20, by saying, “ For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” This would have been an “AH!” moment to his first century listeners. The Pharisees held to the letter of the Law. They were the righteous of the righteous. These were hard words! Who then can be saved? “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26)
How about you? Are you counting on your own righteousness to get you into heaven? Are you more righteous than the Pharisees? Let me be brutally honest with you – You’re not! No one is righteous enough on our own. Our only hope is to be identified in Christ Jesus. He lived a sinless life; we can’t. He died a ruthless death on a cross; we deserved that. Jesus is our only path to God. I recommend taking it! See you in church.