Today’s Reading: Matthew 5:17-26
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The “Law and the Prophets” are the whole Old Testament: every rule, penalty, prophecy, and promise, and even all the weird stuff, like that rule about not boiling a young goat in its mother’ s milk (Exodus 23:19). Not an “iota or dot,” that is, not even the tiniest letter or point of punctuation, is to be removed. Far from relaxing even one commandment, Jesus intensifies them all. Take the Fifth Commandment. You might say to yourself, “I’m no murderer. If there’s one commandment I’ve surely kept, it’s the fifth!” Then Jesus teaches you that the minute you got angry with your sibling, or insulted someone on social media, you became a murderer (Matthew 5:21–22). So, “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” There’s no watering down God’s requirements to something “doable.” The Gospel is not, “We’re all sinners but God loves us anyway,” as if God were not serious about His requirements. No, you must become more righteous than the most righteous people you can imagine. In Jesus’ day those were the scribes and the Pharisees. Actually, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Thank God, that’s what JESUS came to do: not to abolish the Law or the prophets, but to fulfill them, perfectly, right down to iotas and dots, even the really weird, obscure stuff. (That’s right, Jesus showed His respect for God’s gift of life to animals by never boiling a young goat in its mother’s life-giving milk.) You might say, “So what if He kept them perfectly? I haven’t!” True, you haven’t, but He has, for you. Not only the rules and regulations but also the penalties. That’s what He was doing on the Cross—taking the penalty you deserved into Himself. In Baptism you are joined to Him. The perfect obedience He rendered and the penalty He paid count for you. Scribes and Pharisees trust their own righteousness. You trust Christ’s righteousness given to you in Baptism, and that is a far greater righteousness. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Lord of all power and might, author and giver of all good things, graft into our hearts the love of Your name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of Your great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity)
-Rev. Jeffrey Ware is pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church in Charlotte, NC.
Audio Reflections Speaker: Rev. Duane Bamsch
Christians need to aspire to being people of THE faith. Not just any will do. In Faith Misused, Dr. Alvin Schmidt shares his case for a Christian reclaiming of the word “faith” from its ambiguous modern uses. Now available from Concordia Publishing House.