In Jesus’ Words: The Law and the Heart (Matthew 5:17-26)

lawandheartJesus did not come to replace or change the law, but to show us its true intent.  Most of us would agree today that our world, our own country, or even some of our laws have lost their original purpose and intent.  Yet at the same time, we can also be so concerned about laws and rules and appearances that we forget the main purpose of what is most important.  Jesus speaks about a lot of these things in his famous Sermon on the Mount.  He first tells us how to be blessed and how we are to be the Salt and Light of the world, and then he begins to explain the laws to the crowds that have gathered around Him.  Here is the next passage in my journey of reading through Jesus’ words in the New Testament.

~ Matthew 5:17-26 – Christ Fulfills the Law, Murder Begins in the Heart ~

“Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment.  But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.  And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.  So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.  I assure you: You will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny!”

Jesus first tells us there is a ranking in heaven – the least and the greatest.  There is more than just believing who Jesus is.  Those who claim to follow Christ but don’t act like it and mislead others will be called the least.  Those who practice what they believe and teach God’s way to others will be called great.  Eternity is a long time to be the least.

With Jesus’ second passage, I must confess I am guilty of this almost every morning.  I step into my car to drive through rush-hour traffic, and I almost always end up calling some other driver a moron under my breath (funny how they had the same word back then too).  But I think Jesus means something even more here.  Before we confess our wrongs to God, we are first to reconcile with those we have mistreated, offended or hurt.  God already knows what we have done.  He doesn’t need us to tell Him.  God wants a change in our heart (true confession), which can only be brought about when we practice God’s love through loving others.  Only then can we have a real relationship with God.  And that is what God wants most.

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