Jesus Says: Your Ethics Stink

In the Sermon on the Mount, there are few verses more controversial than the bomb Jesus drops in Matthew 5:17-20:
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill... For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" (NASB)
So much could be said about this passage of Scripture, and a lot of commentary has been written on it.  Unfortunately, I have not neither the time, space, nor intention to give you a fully digested breakdown of this passage.  So, I'll cut to the short of it and give you the "King Jimmy" version of what Jesus is saying:
"Your ethics stink." ~ Jesus (King Jimmy Version)
The religious leaders of Jesus's day were amazing Bible scholars and students of the Word.  If you wanted to study theology, you studied it under these guys.  They had everything nice and neatly organized and categorized.  If you had the time and mental energy, you could memorize everything they said and know almost exactly how a good Torah observant Jew should behave in just about every situation.

But in spite their exegetical exactitude in their handling of the Scriptures and attempting to apply it faithfully to their real life context, Jesus found this sort of precision to be out of step with the heart and mind of God.  Jesus felt that for all their rigors in attempting to genuinely obey the Law of Moses, they still hadn't gone far enough in their quest, and were falling woefully short.

Such a thought would've come across almost as insane to Jesus's hearers.  How in the world do you get more exacting than the scholars and religious leaders of their day?  They so prided themselves as their exactness that they called themselves the Pharisees--- or "the Holy One's." 

How in God's name would you exceed and surpass the standard of righteousness which they had so carefully measured and upheld for all to follow?

In the mind of Christ, there was only one way to satisfy and fulfill the righteous demands of the Law and the Prophets.  Such would never come through attempting to obey the Law and the Prophets down to the slightest jot and tittle. Such would require an inward transformation and reprogramming of the heart of a person at their very core.

Jesus did not discard the Law or the Prophets in His ministry.  Rather than simply discarding them as many think He did, Jesus actually became in His very person the embodiment of everything taught in the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus didn't handle the Law with Pharisaical exactitude and a measuring tape.  He didn't need to figure out (unlike the Pharisees) how far one could venture from home on a Sabbath day without violating the commandment to keep the Sabbath day as a day of rest.  Rather, because He lived as one with a heart that no law could condemn, every single action Jesus undertook was always in keeping with the Law of God.  So much so that He deeply upset the Pharisees by doing things they were convinced violated the Sabbath observation laws, such as healing the lame and blind, or even plucking the head of grain in a field.  To such a thing Jesus could declare that He was "Lord of the Sabbath," and continue on His way without so much as having a crisis of conscience over what He was doing on the Sabbath.

Jesus could do these things, because in His very person-hood, He was and is the very righteousness of God, and is exactly what a person ought to be in relation to the Lord.  As such, He didn't need a law telling Him to observe the Sabbath.  For in His heart, the Lord was always observing the Sabbath, even if He was healing the sick or plucking grain in a field.  Likewise, Jesus didn't need a law telling Him not to murder, for He was not a murderer in His heart.

And the Lord taught us in the Sermon on the Mount, such is how we ought to be.  As followers of Jesus, we shouldn't need laws telling us not to steal, not to kill, and not to commit adultery.  We need to become the very embodiment of the Law of Moses and the Prophets, even as the Lord was.  And such requires a spiritual renewal and inward disposition of the heart that can never be gained through the strictest of Jewish observations.  Such can only come by means of receiving and living your life in the Holy Spirit.

Such can only ultimately only come as a gift from above.  Such can only come from our perfect Heavenly Father, in whose image we have been made.  Such can never come from adhering to the toughest of ethical systems and standards.  For those systems are ultimately broken, and never quite get to the heart of anybody.

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