Fulfilling the Law

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Sixth Sunday after Epiphany | February 16, 2020

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 • Psalm 119:1-8 • 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 • Matthew 5:21-37

21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

25 “When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.

27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

31 “You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’ 32 But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.

33 “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ 34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. 35 And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. 37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

Matthew 5:21-37 | New Living Translation


This morning’s gospel passage continues to have us in Matthew 5. Jesus is preaching the Sermon on the Mount. If you recall, last week we heard these words from Jesus, “I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.

Jesus continues his teaching – reminding them that our righteousness must be better than that of the Pharisees…That is a high standard. The Pharisees knew the letter of the law, but really missed it on the Spirit of the Law and Jesus goes on and gives us several examples.

Jesus reminds his followers that the Law tells us not to murder, but if we have anger toward someone, that is worse than murder. Jesus law is higher than the law. When it comes to “practicing” our religion…Jesus reminds us that when we come to worship – we need to come with a clean heart. We should not be holding grudges against another, but more importantly, if someone has something against us – before we worship – we should work on reconciliation.

Each one of these examples holds the believer to a higher law – God’s Law. For too many, we mistakenly believe that we are under grace and not under the law and that gives us license to do what ever we want.

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul writes:

Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. 

Jesus is telling us to embrace the fullness of Him, much as Paul is encouraging the church to grow up. This morning let’s not just follow the letter of the Law, but the Spirit in which it was given.

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