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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                           Sermon # 1211

May 10, 2015                                                                                                  Matthew 5:1-20

Dr. Ed Pettus

 

“Jesus: The Fulfillment of Scripture”

 

1.Jesus the preacher

a.His brilliance

 

Jesus was a brilliant teacher and preacher.  That is an understatement of course!  But we don’t often think of Jesus as a brilliant person.  Maybe it is because we see him as God and we never really entertain the question.  But Jesus was brilliant as a man.  He knew the most intimate knowledge about what defines our life.  He knew what gives us life and how to conduct our lives to love God and love other people to the fullest.  One of the ways we see his brilliance is in the sermon on the mount.

 

 

b.The Sermon on the Mount

 

Seeing the crowds, [Jesus] went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.  And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

 

Jesus begins with what we know as the Beatitudes.  I was taught long ago that these statements should be understood as goals for how we might live, but what I have come to believe is that Jesus is not calling us to make these statements into commands.  Jesus is speaking to a people who already fit every one of these conditions.  He was speaking to the poor in spirit and the meek and the mournful.  What he was revealing to them was that the kingdom of God is available to them.  The kingdom was not for the religious elite, not for those who prayed in public for a show or wore fancy robes.  The kingdom is for the people, those humbled and helpless.  That’s who he is talking about when he describes them as salt and light.  They are the “down to earth” folks who are part of the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus is saying, the kingdom is for people such as you!  He was not bringing more laws to follow; the beatitudes are not laws or goals for us to attain, but they show us that it is often the least of these that are a part of the kingdom.        

 

2.Who are the blessed?

a.The nobodies are in! 

 

Jesus is speaking to a large crowd who have no position or power, no influence or status.  They are the nobodies of the world.  But Jesus says they are the blessed. 

 

b.Salt and Light

 

These people are the salt and the light.  Jesus preaches that those who think little of themselves are all included in the kingdom of God.  It is really a comforting message.  I think the central point of the message is the message about Jesus himself.  Jesus fulfills the scripture.

 

3.Jesus fulfills scripture

a.Not here to dismantle the Law or the Prophets

When Jesus gave the blessings in the first part of the sermon, some must have thought that he was tossing out the Law and bringing a new form of Law.  But he clarifies for them that the Law is still valid; it is still life for people. 

 

b.I have come to fulfill the Scripture

It is life because Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law.  He completes the testimony of the Scriptures – the Law and the Prophets, that is, all of the Old Testament. 

 

c.All that is in the Old Testament will be fulfilled

 

Nothing will pass until all is accomplished.  Interesting that Jesus has a moment on the cross when he says, “It is finished.”  Some versions say, “It is accomplished.”  On the cross, at that moment, Jesus fulfills the law and the prophets.  Jesus fulfills the prophetic word, the law, the wisdom, the entire of the Old Testament comes to completion in Jesus Christ. 

 

d.The warning – 5:19

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

 

Jesus is not giving a new law in the sermon, neither is he dismissing the old commandments.  He elevates the law and the prophets to the degree that if we treat the word with contempt or say that it is no longer useful in today’s word, we run the risk of being the least in the kingdom.  That is what so many do with the Old Testament – they treat it as something less, antiquated, even worthless.  One the other side, look at what Jesus says about those who will be great in the kingdom.  Those who do them and teach them are the ones who are the greatest in the kingdom.  James said it this way, “be doers of the word” (1:22). 

 

 

e.The challenge – 5:20

Jesus gives what may seem like an unreachable challenge.  “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Our first thought might be that we could never even attain such righteousness.  These are the people devoted to righteousness.  But what Jesus is saying is this:  You must get beyond the righteousness of the Pharisee who thinks that righteousness is only about keeping the Law.  Getting beyond this view is getting to the understanding and to the place where we know that our righteousness is not about our ability to keep the Law or Commandments, but our righteousness is only in Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  As far as we are “in Christ” – this is the depth of our righteousness.  Then, when we come to see that righteousness is not in something we do, but in Jesus Christ alone, then we are able to keep the Law because the Law is no longer an outward standard that we seek to adhere to, but an inner disposition of discipleship character.  Our righteousness is Christ in us and us in Christ.  Our righteousness is the kingdom of God in us and our dwelling in the kingdom. 

 

4.No Trifling Matter

a.Deuteronomy 32:46-47  “[Moses] said to them: ‘Take to heart all the words that I am giving in witness against you today; give them as a command to your children, so that they may diligently observe all the words of this law. 47 This is no trifling matter for you, but rather your very life; through it you may live long in the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess.’” (NRSV)

Various translations teach this as no empty matter, no idle matter, and in the NRSV – no trifling matter.  The word of God is not to be reduced to a game of trivial pursuit!  Moses tells us that it is our life.  I invite you to take a few days to read Psalm 119 and just note the times it speaks about the word giving life.  Moses says it is life.  God’s word is the source of our life.  In the word we find God revealed, the God who gives us life – the life that goes beyond our physical existence.  This is the life of joy and love, the life of spiritual depth and life that never ends.  Let’s look at a few passages that share this view. 

 

b.John 1:1-5, 14  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” 

 

Jesus is life!

 

c.This is your life!  Colossians 3:1-4  “then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

 

Our life is not our work, not our hobbies, not our friends, not even our families; our life is Jesus Christ.  This might really sound strange to us, because we live so often as if our life was anything but Jesus.  In Colossians 3 Paul reminds us that Christ is our life.  That is a thought we should keep handy in our hearts and minds.  Jesus Christ is our life.  To Him be all glory and honor.  Amen.