Updated: Aug 1, 2022
We know the Bible is called the GOOD NEWS, but sometimes what we read doesn’t seem like good news at all! If you are anything like me, the temptation is just to skip over that section and get to the parts that sound good and are easier to apply to our lives. Matthew 5:17-20 is one of those that we can be tempted to skip over.
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20 (NIV)
Reading this verse reminds me of trying to do high Jump at school. The bar keeps getting higher until it’s impossible to jump over it without crash landing on top of it. “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law…” well that just feels impossible to me! But when we find something in scripture that confuses us, we need to zoom out to see how it fits into the broader story of scripture to make sure we understand it correctly.
Context is important when reading the Bible! And when we look at the bigger story, we see that Jesus Himself broke many of the “rules” set out by the Pharisees. The rules and laws that the Pharisees aimed to keep were added to the original laws God gave to Moses by religious leaders of the day. They were almost impossible to keep, but more importantly, they were largely focused on what you can see on the outside and had very little to do with heart change or willingness to do God’s will. More of a tick box approach than a lifestyle of love and relationship with God.