Focal passage: Matthew 5:17-22, 43-45
Can Jesus transform a serial killer? Is the gospel powerful enough to redeem someone like Osama Bin Laden or Adolf Hitler? According to Jesus, you and I better hope so!
Jesus sat on the mountain delivering the greatest sermon ever preached and proclaimed that He didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). He followed those breathtaking words with what must have felt like a backbreaking standard saying, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
Exceed the Scribes and Pharisees? How is that possible?
What did Jesus mean? What kind of righteousness exceeded that of these spiritual leaders, moral purists and biblical experts? As Christ exposits the correct interpretation of the law throughout the rest of the sermon it becomes obvious that His demand was not for more of the same kind of righteousness that the Scribes and Pharisees had, but instead was a categorically different kind of righteousness. The meaning becomes clear when His exposition of the sixth commandment moves from the external act of murder to the internal emotion of anger in our hearts (Matthew 5:22).
The righteousness required to enter the kingdom of heaven was not an external righteousness, but an internal righteousness. To enter His kingdom, you must have a righteous heart; you must be more than a rule-keeper; you need a righteousness that is fundamentally different from human morality.
Enter the good news of the gospel!
Christ didn’t come to abolish the sixth commandment, but to fulfill it. For while we were enemies of God, He died for us (Romans 5:8, 10)! He valued our life so much that He gave His.
As those who have been given a new heart and new identity, we don’t just avoid murder we value all human life. Through the gospel of Christ we are those whose angry (murderous) hearts have been transformed such that now we love and pray even for our enemies (Matthew 5:44).