Continuing in our series in The Sermon on the Mount, this week we look at Matt 5:17-48. Today is a bit of an aerial overview of this section as we try to figure out what it’s all about. Let’s look at the “bookends” of this passage now. It starts with this rather confronting statement:5:17 “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. (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.”
Surpasses that of the Pharisees? They were pretty scrupulous about obeying the law, and here, Jesus is saying that our righteousness needs to exceed theirs! More than that: even the tiniest part of the law remains for those who wish to belong to the kingdom.
But it gets worse.