Meditations On Jesus’s Sermon On The Mount
Matthew chapters Five through Seven
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy
but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle
will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least
of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven;
but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes
and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20)
Both in and outside of Christian denominations today, Jesus has beenmischaracterized in a number of ways.
Some depict Jesus as the greatest human role model of moral virtue who has shown us how to live in order to win the favor of God and finally gain access into heaven. Others portray Him as a new lawgiver—with Reformed denominations viewing the sacrament of Holy Baptism as a new commandment of God, rather than a means of grace through which God offers and gives forgiveness, life, and salvation. Still others consider Jesus to be just a reformer who came to shake things up by righting the wrongs of social injustices.
If these characterizations were true, the Pharisees would have accepted Jesus with open arms as the promised One. How can we say that? Because they believed it was possible for a man to live a life acceptable to God and thus go to heaven. They were approving of adding new religious laws to Holy Scripture. They were looking for a messiah to deliver them from the injustices of the Roman government.
But Jesus was not that kind of messiah. And so they turned against Him, accusing Him of being guilty of trying to destroy the teachings and commandments of the Law and the Prophets, yes, to abolish the very Word of God set forth in the Old Testament.
In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus wanted to set the record straight about His mission and purpose. He desires all to know that He did not come as the great destroyer of Holy Scripture, but rather as the Great Fulfiller of it. He came to perfectly fulfill all the commandments of God which had been delivered to Moses at Mt. Sinai. He also came to fulfill all the messianic prophecies in the Old Testament.
In order to debunk the faulty notion of sinful man meriting eternal life, Jesus declared, “I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 20). The Pharisees prided themselves in being able to keep all the commandments of God down to the finest detail. However, Jesus busted their bubble of work righteousness when He said that a person would have to be more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. In other words, the Law of God demands absolute perfection. And there simply is no one—with the exception of Jesus—who can achieve this, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Because we cannot live a perfect life as the Law of God demands, it was necessary for Jesus to perfectly fulfill that law in our stead. Through faith in Him, Jesus’s life of holiness, His righteousness, is credited to our account (Romans 4:20-24). Also, because we could not pay the hellish penalty for our sins (Romans 6:23a), it was necessary for Jesus to fulfill all the messianic prophecies, including bearing our sins, suffering our punishment, and rising victoriously from the dead. Through faith in Jesus’s vicarious atonement we are forgiven all
sins and are eternally saved
To drive home the truth that He is the Great Fulfiller, Jesus said, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” This word of promise assures us that Jesus would perfectly fulfill all the commandments and messianic prophecies as our Savior; it also assures us that in the future all God’s promises will be fulfilled until we believers are ushered into eternal glory in heaven.
When it comes to testifying of Christ and following His Word, the Lord Jesus sounds a word of caution as well as a promise, saying, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Every teacher of God’s Word needs to be mindful that any departure from God’s Word not only can lessen his standing in God’s kingdom, but also can eventually cause him and his listeners to lose the precious truths that save.
We cringe whenever anyone mischaracterizes Jesus or in the name of Christianity teaches and lives contrary to the Word of God, because this undermines the gospel of Christ and could ultimately rob us of the blessed hope of eternal life through Him.
Let us then rejoice in the wondrous truth that Jesus is indeed the Great Fulfiller! Trust alone in His righteousness and redemptive work! Faithfully proclaim the Word of salvation so that others too might come to rejoice in their salvation through Him alone. ?