Mathew 5:18-20-Surpassing Righteousness
April 18th, 2021

18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter shall pass from the Law, until all is accomplished! 

God’s word is forever, immutable, unchanging, and God watches over His word to make sure that this is the case. Truly God has preserved His word.  So, we can bear witness of Jesus’ words in Mathew 5:18.

And then, after we have been reminded of the importance of transmitting the Word of God accurately,

19 Therefore, whoever nullifies one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

We don’t keep the law of circumcision, but Paul reminds us in Romans 2:29b tells us 29 … and circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from people, but from God.   Which means that we that we cut off our desires of the flesh that we may be sanctified in heart, set apart for service.  So it is a deeper requirement. 

19 Therefore, whoever nullifies one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

So, Jesus is saying that the Law in the Old Testament has not become obsolete with the New Covenant, but revealed more fully by Jesus.  For example, we don’t keep the law of circumcision, but Paul reminds us in Romans 2:29b saying 29 … and circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from people, but from God.   Which means that when we that we cut off our desires of the flesh that we may be sanctified in heart, allowing ourselves to be set apart for service, this pleases God in a way that physical circumcision never could. 

1st Corinthians 10:6-11 lets us know that God has given us the Old Testament to provide examples for us of what to do, and what not to do.  God has given us the Old Testament to show us who He is and what He expectsso that we do not make the same mistakes of those who fell away.

And we also look at the Old Testament and see how it illuminates our understanding of Jesus. 

20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness far surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

And so Jesus has to explain the Old Testament from God’s perspective.  But first, Jesus is going to have to adjust people’s thinking about the Pharisees a little.  See, if people already think that they have the truth, then they stop looking for the truth.  Jesus begins to draw this contrast between a works-based righteousness that ends up being self-righteousness, and true righteousness based on obedience to God and trust in Him.

One of the purposes of the Jesus’ sermon is to show us that we cannot hope to succeed in what Jesus is calling us to do without the help of the Holy Spirit.  The Pharisees, in their rule-making and traditional interpretations of the law had built for themselves a little play world in which they could pretend that they were being righteous, and in which they could be successful in attaining a kind of righteousness based on their own terms and their own definition of righteousness.  Refusing to be righteous according to God standards, they simply re-defined what it meant to be righteousness in such a way that they could meet the standard. 

Because everyone thought that the Pharisees were the most righteous people, these Pharisees then had a reputation for being these righteous people to uphold.  And for some, this got in the way of their salvation—they began to believe what everyone else though of them, and forgot that God can see beyond outward appearance.  (See Mat 23:27-28)

One of the best examples of Jesus confronting the Pharisees on their elevation of their traditions above the Laws of God is found in Mark 7:5-13, when the Pharisees accuse His disciples of breaking one of their traditional teachings regarding ceremonial washing of hands before eating.

Man’s interpretation of the Law vs. God’s interpretation (Mark 7:5-13)

Jesus doesn’t even bother to address their tradition regarding washing hands, knowing that while it’s a good practice, the Pharisees were wrong in ascribing holiness to it.  They were adding to the law that God had given them, and Jesus is denying their authority to add on to what God has given them.  In thinking that by obeying their traditions, they were somehow pleasing God, they were only showing that they loved the traditions that they’d set up more than they loved God and His words. 

Jesus gives them just one example among many of their putting their traditions above what God had commanded, continuing in verse in Mark 7:9-139 He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘The one who speaks evil of father or mother, is certainly to be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a person says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is, given to God),’ 12 you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thereby invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

Jesus confronts their elevation of tradition above the Word of God.  The Pharisees were practicing self-righteousness, not righteousness.  Paul explains the outcome of this in Romans 10:3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.  In seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to God’s righteousness, which is Christ Himself.

God is concerned about Justice, about liberating the oppressed, about integrity in our dealings with others, and conducting ourselves honorably in everything that we do.  God, indeed cares about social justice, but it must be a social justice rooted and coming forth from what He has said.  We don’t practice good works for their own sake.  The good works that we do must flow from our loving relationship with Jesus, and be motivated by the Holy Spirit.  We must always put our relationship with Jesus first.  Otherwise, we end up turning the good works into an idol, worshiping the good works, and leaving Jesus out of the picture.  Jesus reminded us just a few verses ago, the true reason for our works in Mathew 5:16 16 Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  Giving glory to God is what it’s all about. 





Jesus fulfills the Law Mathew 5:17-19
April 11th, 2021

17 “Do not presume that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets;

Jesus’ audience were Jewish disciples who had been taught by the Pharisees about the law.  In their mind, keeping the requirements of the law, as interpreted by the Pharisees was what being righteous was all about. 

Jesus, needed to teach them about how God’s view of keeping the law differed from what they’d been taught by the Pharisees.   Jesus has to correct them, but in such a way that people understand that He was not teaching against the Law of Moses, and what God had revealed to the prophets.

Jesus tells us that the entire Old Testament is relevant to us as Citizens of Heaven to help us understand our life in Christ.  (Gal 3:23-4)

I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. 

So, in pointing us back both to the Law and the Prophets, Jesus emphasizes their importance, and points to Himself as the fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophecies concerning the Messiah.

Jesus fulfills the law

Jesus fulfilled the Law in at least two ways: as a teacher and by living it out. He taught people to obey the Law.  In Mathew 22:35-40 the Pharisees gather themselves against Jesus, testing Him, 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him: 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 Upon these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets.” 

And of course, Jesus gave a perfect example of obeying the law.  In John 8:45, Jesus described the slavery to sin that people are living under, and their unwillingness to believe the truth that God had sent Him to set men free saying, 45 But because I say the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?  In living a perfect life, Jesus fulfilled the moral requirements of the law.  1 Peter 2:21-22 says 21 For you have been called for this purpose, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you would follow in His steps, 22 He who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;

And, of course, in His sacrificial death, Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial laws.  In fact, Hebrews 10:1 tells us that the sacrifices ceremonies, feasts and other elements of the Old Covenant were only a shadow of the good things to come and not the form of those things itself—not the realities themselves

The New Covenant completes the Law

And it’s a Covenant established by faith in Jesus.  We are justified apart from the works of the law, but not in nullification of the law.  When Paul describes this in Romans 3:21-22a saying 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 but it is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe .  We are justified by the grace of God through faith in Jesus, but as Paul reminds us in Romans 3:31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.  The law is established the law could only convict us of sin, but the law of grace sets us free. (Rom 6:14-15).

And it’s not a freedom to sin, or to walk according to the flesh, and do our own thing.  It’s a freedom NOT to sin, and to walk the path that God has for us INSTEAD of our own path.  It’s requirements EXCEED the law, but along with those requirements come the power of the Holy Spirit to help us overcome sin in our walk with Christ. 

Jesus fulfills the Prophecies concerning the Messiah

And because Jesus is pointing the way toward the New Covenant that He is going to establish in His blood, here at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, we see Him already telling everyone that He had come to fulfill what the prophets had spoken about Him. And so, when Jesus, after His resurrection meets His disciples in Galilee and explains to them what God had done saying in Luke 24:44  44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things that are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “So it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,.  Jesus explained that they had witnessed God directing everything that they had seen in Jesus’ life, and how God had caused, through what seemed mostly like ordinary, everyday life, situations, long walks through Galilee, teaching and preaching ministry, actions taken in obedience, reactions from others, words spoken in truth, and weaved all of these things into the fulfillment of His prophets words through the obedience of His son.  They finally began to understand what they’d been seeing for the last 3 years as Jesus’ disciples.

18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter shall pass from the Law, until all is accomplished! 

Truly God has preserved His word.  And so, we can bear witness of Jesus’ words in Mathew 5:18

And then, after we have been reminded of the importance of transmitting the Word of God accurately,

19 Therefore, whoever nullifies one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

We don’t keep the law of circumcision, but Paul reminds us in Romans 2:29b tells us 29 … and circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from people, but from God.   Which means that we that we cut off our desires of the flesh that we may be sanctified in heart, set apart for service.  So it is a deeper requirement.  We no longer sacrifice animals at the temple seeing their blood spill for our sins, but realize that the Old Testament law, as Hebrews 10:1 tells us  [For] the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the form of those things itself, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually every year, make those who approach perfect. And so, we as Christians don’t look to the blood of bulls and goats to take away our sins, but we look to Jesus’ precious shed blood on the cross that takes away our sins.  And, just as the Old Testament believers were reminded of the blood that was required every time that they took an animal to be sacrificed, we are reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice every time that we take communion.  And so, when we read the Old Testament, we think about what God is trying to tell us from what He recorded in His word.  And then we also look at the Old Testament and see how it illuminates our understanding of Jesus.  As we let His word show us how God intended for us to live, and  affect how we act, think and speak, we, as James says in 1:22-23 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves. We apply it to our lives.





Easter: He is Risen. Mark 16:1-7
April 4th, 2021

16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might come and anoint Him.

Mark 15:42 lets us know that the crucifixion had occurred on the day, before the Sabbath that evening, and that there had not been enough time to properly prepare Jesus’ body—Joseph of Arimathea had wrapped Jesus’ body in a linen cloth, putting about with 100 roman pounds (about 72 modern pounds) of myrrh and aloes, spices, between the cloth layers, before putting Jesus in his own tomb (John 19:39).

Both Mark and Luke testify to the fact that the women kept the Sabbath, which kept them away from the tomb until it was over.

Why are there all of these details regarding spices?  Why did the Marys and Solome bring still more in addition to what Joseph had already brought?  Because the anointing with spices was a mark of respect for the dead (See Mathew 26:12-13). 

Now the spices and oils had another effect—they would stop decomposition for a few days. God had said of the Messiah in Psalm 16:10 For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.  And just so that we don’t miss it, there’s all this detail about spices and oils mentioned in the gospels (see Acts 2:27, 30-32). 

The spices He was given at His death included Myrrh, signifying death, which was one of the gifts He was given by the wise men to commemorate His birth.  He was born to die for us.

God used these women and Joseph of Arimathea as His instruments and His witnesses.  Joseph thought that he was only giving Jesus the tomb he had intended for his own burial out of respect, but was instead used by God to fulfill His word in preventing Jesus from seeing decay.  The women thought that they were going to pay respects and anoint Jesus’ body, but found out that their role was instead as the primary, first-hand witnesses to both the burial and the resurrection.  So these women could verify both the location of Jesus’ burial, and that by the morning of the 3rd day, the tomb was empty.

And very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 

The fact that this verse mentions that the sun had already risen lets us know that Mark picks up his account when there was enough light to see, unlike John, who lets us know that when they first got there, it was still dark, just before sunrise. 

They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb for us?” 

Would a stone stand in the way of God’s plan?  No way.  All the power of hell tried to keep Jesus in the grave.  Acts 2:24 tells us that death was insufficient to hold Jesus: But God raised Him from the dead, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.  Why?  Because He is God.  From a legal perspective, death had no claim on Jesus.  As 1st Corinthians 15:56 reminds us 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law;  Since Jesus never sinned and kept the Law fully, He was not under the power of sin and death.  God had laid all the sins of humanity on Him, so that He could die in the first place, but He did not commit those sins, and so had to be released by death.  God had already taken care of their “Big Problem” of the stone. Mathew 28:2-4  2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone, and sat upon it.   And as the sun rose, they were then able to see that.  Verse 4 tells us

And looking up, they *noticed that the stone had been rolled away; for it was extremely large.

Depending on which type of stone was used, the stone covering the doorway of Jesus’ tomb was likely between 1 and 2 tons. 

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. 

From this verse, we don’t understand why a young man wearing a white robe in the tomb would amaze them, but the more specific description of the angel in Mathew 28:3 brings this out a little more clearly: And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 

But he *said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. 

The angel knows exactly why they are there.  The angel acknowledges that they have come to the right place, the tomb of Jesus.  And that it’s the same Jesus—Jesus of Nazareth, just like Mark introduced Him to us back in Mark 1:9.  And the angel acknowledges that this is the same Jesus who was killed by crucifixion three days ago. 

He has risen; He is not here; see, here is the place where they laid Him. 

The angel tells them, He is risen; He is not here.  Talk about exceeded expectations.  This is exactly the opposite of what they expected to find in the tomb.  With this one word, risen, the whole scenario changes.  The tragedy of His crucifixion is revealed as a triumph over death and sin.  The women who had probably spent the past 3 days crying were suddenly filled with joy!  They get to hear, for the first time, the central belief, the most important belief in Christianity.  Paul later makes this point in 1 Corintians 15:3-4  3 For I handed down to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

This is the means by which God saves us.  It is because Christ died, paying for all of our sins, was buried and was raised from the dead that we can be saved.  The wages of sin is death—it should have been us sinners hanging on that tree, but (John 3:16 ) 6 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. God gave Jesus, so we wouldn’t have to die for our sins.  And God raised Jesus to show that the price had been paid. 

God has given you all the evidence you need, if you will choose to believe.  And in our verses today, we see the angel providing Solome and the Marys the evidence that they needed saying:

 see, here is the place where they laid Him.

These words let us know that they saw the place where Jesus had been laid empty, and that they could verify, as eye witnesses, that Jesus was no longer in his tomb on the morning of the third day.  And these words are recorded for us so that we know that God did exactly what He said He would do—raise Jesus from the dead. 

But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’”

And then the angel gives them a mission.  They are to go tell Jesus’ disciples that He is no longer dead, that He has risen from the dead, and He has done exactly what He has told them He would do.