Jesus and the Law

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Notes & Transcripts

 Outline of the Lesson:
I.  The English expression, “Not one iota…”

II.  Scholars explain that Jesus is telling the people that they are to live harder lives than what the law entails. They explain that it is not just living according to the law, it’s having the right intention.  

a. Larry Chouinard writes:

The righteousness exceeding the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law is anchored in the revelation of God’s will as revealed in Jesus. It is both qualitatively and quantitatively different from a “righteousness” grounded in the minutia of Law keeping. Because the “greater righteousness” is patterned after God’s own character (cf. 5:45), not legal niceties, its practice can truly extend to every aspect of one’s life. The Pharisaic model of legal observance only results in a superficial righteousness oriented toward human recognition (cf. 6:1–4), thus leading to hypocritical pride (23:10). Entry into God’s eschatological reign depends upon the practice of “righteousness” as taught by Jesus. What it means to exhibit such a “righteousness” is forcefully illustrated by the examples to follow (5:21–48).

b. Craig Keener writes:

Christians Must Obey God’s Law (5:17–20) Matthew uses Jesus’ words in 5:17–20 as a thesis statement for the whole of 5:21–48 which follows. Jesus essentially says, “Look, if you thought the law was tough, wait till you see this. If you really want to be my disciples, give me your hearts without reservation” (see 5:17).

This passage seems to suggest that an uncommitted Christian is not a Christian at all (see 5:20). Like other Jewish teachers, Jesus demanded whole obedience to the Scriptures (5:18–19); unlike most of his contemporaries, however, he was not satisfied with the performance of scribes and Pharisees, observing that this law observance fell short even of the demands of salvation (5:20). After grabbing his hearers’ attention with such a statement, Jesus goes on to define God’s law not simply in terms of how people behave but in terms of who they really are (5:21–48).

III.  This text is the springboard to the rest of the sermon, or at least for chapter 5, and can be very offensive to people.

a.  Yancy in, The Jesus I Never Knew he writes about Virginia Stem Owens assigning the Sermon on the Mount and short essay for her composition class at Texas A & M. She had expected that the students wouldn’t have a problem because she was in the Bible Belt of America. She was wrong. They were offended, because social expectations motivated them to do good rather than their hearts. Here are some of the responses she received:

  i. “The stuff the churches preach is extremely strict and allows for almost no fun without thinking it is a sin or not.”

ii. “I did not like the essay ‘Sermon on the Mount.’ It was hard to read and mad me feel like I had to be perfect and no one is.”

iii.    The things asked in this sermon are absurd. To look at a woman is adultery. That is the most extreme, stupid, unhuman statement that I have ever heard.


Mattew’s Text “You have heard…” Jesus Aaron My thoughts
5.21-26 Do not murder.     Do not say “you fool” I will not kill a person's heart, but be only of encouraging words.  
5.27-32 Do not commit adultery or divorce. Do not lust. Be faithful to my spouse.      
5.33-37 Keep you oath. Let your Yes be Yes, and No be No. Stay disciplined and have self-control.      
5.33-48 Eye for an Eye, and love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Be nice to your enemies. Be generous to everyone.       

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