Did Jesus really say that? “Measure up!”
Try and answer these questions for me? In your opinion, who is the most beautiful person on the planet? According to People Magazine that would be Julia Roberts and Channing Tatum.[i] Who would you crown as the best athlete of all time? Most experts would say Michael Jordan followed closely by Jim Thorpe.[ii] Who do you think is the smartest? Well, IQ scores alone would rank Marilyn vos Savant (She’s the Marilyn in “Ask Marilyn” in Parade Magazine) as the world’s smartest. If you score 140+[iii] you are considered a genius. She scored 228.[iv] Who is the strongest? Currently that title belongs to big Z – not the Cavaliers big Z but Zydrunas Savickas.[v] Big Z is BIG. He stands 6’3” and weighs 385lbs. This Lithuanian can dead lift 898.4 lbs. Who is the world’s richest person? Forbes Magazine gives the nod to Carlos Slim Helu. Mr. Helu beat out Bill Gates by ½ a billion. His net worth is 53.5 billion.[vi] Oh, one more – who in your mind is the most spiritual person period? Mother Teresa – Billy Graham – Pope Benedict XVI? It must be Team Haiti, right. They’re leaving for Haiti tomorrow. Hmmm, the most spiritual, religious or pious person? (Awwwww-Show image) Oh the magic of Photoshop. I promise you, folks, there’s a better answer. Jesus gives us the answer in Matthew 5. First, let’s find out who needs a Bible today? You will find Matthew 5:17 on page 671. The most spiritual people in Jesus day would without a doubt be “the religious leaders.” At least they thought so and if truth be told – so did everyone else. After all, THEY appeared to be close with God. When I say “THEY” – just who exactly are we talking about? Jesus gives us the answer. Find Matthew 5:20. THEY would be the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law. The Pharisees were “a group of Jews who thought they could best serve God by strictly obeying the laws of the Old Testament as well as their own rules, traditions, and teachings. They were highly respected among the people, but they hated Jesus because he challenged their proud attitudes and dishonorable motives.”[vii] A teacher of the law would often be a scribe, an expert in the Mosaic Law who often added to the Mosaic Law by suggesting a deeper meaning that wasn’t there. In Jesus day these folks were the spiritual ones. Everyone else was on the outside looking in! Realize again that Matthew chapters 5 through 7 are sermons. Jesus is preaching. Have you ever been listening to sermon and you start to wonder – did this guy read my diary? Did someone install a webcam in my home? I mean – how did he know that? He’s speaking to a GROUP, but he’s taking to ME! I promise you – that happens because the Word of God is alive and the Holy Spirit often creates a different application for some than others. Well, not here. Jesus knows the religious leaders are in the crowd. He’s speaking to them. As a matter of fact Jesus clears up some confusion for three people or three groups of people. Let’s read Matthew 5:17-20! Get out your Fresh Bread which is the back of your newsletter and write these three questions? What is Jesus saying about himself? What is Jesus saying to the religious leaders? (&) What is Jesus saying to me?
Question #1: What is Jesus saying about himself? “I am the fulfillment of the law!” What the law can’t do – that is forgive you, I can do!” What Jesus was saying was so good, people could not get enough. Since he spoke with authority and he put the “religious elite” in their place people thought he created a new teaching. NOT SO! Jesus sets things straight. Let’s read again verse 17. When Jesus uses the phrase “the Law & the prophets” he’s referring to the entire Old Testament – Genesis through Malachi. Jesus makes it clear - The Old Testament is still in vogue. The Ten Commandments are not suddenly multiple choice. But have you ever wondered? What’s the point of the Old Testament? I mean Leviticus might be good for insomnia, but now that we have Jesus is the OT even necessary? According to Jesus it is. Jesus didn’t come to the earth he created to discard the Old Testament law. His presence simply fulfills what God set in motion the moment Adam & Eve took the first juicy bite. The Apostle Paul tells us the purpose of the Old Testament. Romans 3:20 says, Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. We may not like this but the law shows us that we are law breakers. The law shows us that God is the epitome of holiness and we are not. The law provided guidelines for right behavior in this world.[viii] Don't murder - but people do. Don’t lie – it’s not a lie it’s little, white and mere fabrication. Don’t steal. I didn’t steal, I just borrowed it permanently. Would you point to yourself right now and say, “I am a sinner!” If you know the person next to you lean over and whisper, “Did you know you’re sitting next to a sinner?” I pray they won’t get up and move! Years ago I was with my Mom somewhere. As I said, it was years ago. And this girl – a young woman happened to be walking in front of us and she was swaying her hips back and forth and I will never forget what my Mom said, “Boy, that girl has a nice swing on her back porch!” Have you ever heard this phrase or something like it, “That does not matter one iota to me.” Jesus uses that word. Look at verse 18. The smallest letter in Hebrew is an iota. Jesus literally says there is not a dot on an “i” or a dash on a “t” that will disappear until he completes what the law was set out to do. I have good news for you today! God will not judge you according to the law. God will judge you on what you choose to do with his Son! Scholar Fred Zaspel said, “Jesus fulfilled the law, not by what he did, but by who he was.”[ix] Jesus is the Son of the Living God. The religious leaders just couldn’t/wouldn’t see this? What about you? Question #2: What is Jesus saying to the religious leaders? Practice what you preach! Here is Matthew 21:45: When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them. Also Matthew 23:1. The Pharisees developed a bad habit of doing what was good for the wrong reasons! Giving to the poor is right. Just don’t announce it. Praying shows dependence on God. Just pray sincerely, briefly and privately. Fasting helps you focus – just don’t make it obvious. There are some songs that need no lyrics. You know them as soon as you hear them. For instance – Barracuda–Heart /Chariots of Fire/Eye of the Tiger by Survivor and - “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell. The Pharisees were watching people all the time – especially Jesus. And if Jesus or anyone else would step out of line they would be the first to pronounce guilt. Van Morris said, “A follower of God makes you feel better. But religious people always make you feel condemned. They make you feel worse.”[x] Jesus says clearly, Practice what you preach! Now using the Pharisees as an example there’s third question to ask today. Question #3: What is Jesus saying to me? The answer is Measure Up! Look at verse 20 in Matthew 5. Jesus is saying to us – “these leaders are not the right examples. The right example is my father. And as crazy as it sounds – when you look at me – you see my Father! Do not use these teachers as the measuring stick for righteousness! Measure yourself this way – am I becoming more like them or more like God?” I find it very easy to “sock it to” the Pharisees. After all, Jesus did. But Jesus did that to warn them. I started to wonder, how much Pharisee is there in me? Remember, Pharisees focused on the outside and not the inside. For years I went to church, but rarely did I worship. I just wanted to make an appearance. Punch my time card. Get on God’s good list. Has that ever happened to you? The Pharisees knew the OT, but did not apply the OT. I’ve done that. I’ve read my Bible for only one reason. So I could say to people that I did. Look at me, I read it. I have no idea what I read or what difference it should make in my life, but I did read it! The Pharisees elevated themselves and looked down on others. Jesus told this parable in Luke 18. Tattoos, bad habits and dressing up. Do you remember my question at the beginning? Who’s the most spiritual person period? Well, spiritual doesn’t really cut it but righteous does and Jesus is the ultimate of righteousness. God’s law won’t save you. We obey God’s law because it’s the best way to live. What will save you is your choice to believe in and live for Jesus in this world. I bet you can tell me this song almost immediately. Play Awesome God. Let’s sing the chorus. Our God is an awesome God // He reigns from heaven above // With wisdom, power, and love // Our God is an awesome God Do you remember what Rich Mullins wrote: And the Lord wasn't joking When He kicked 'em out of Eden // It wasn't for no reason That He shed His blood There was a reason why Jesus shed his blood. It’s our sin. Jesus did what the law couldn’t do. Paul said, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. When you trust Jesus God sees you as righteous. The question is – have you made that decision?
[vii] Life Application Notes – Mark 3:6
[viii] Mark E. Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 173
[ix] Mark E. Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 172
[x] PreachingToday.com - Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky; source: Timothy Keller, The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Volume 19, Winter 2001)