In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus begins his commentary on the traditions of the Law by defining his relationship to the Law. His definition is staggering. Not only does he claim that he did not come to abolish the Law, nor that he has perfectly kept the Law, but that he is the fulfillment of the Law.
What does this phrase mean? It means that the Law points to and culminates in Jesus. It means that he is the righteousness that the Law points to. It means that his life and his work are the epitome and the completion of the Law. He himself, who he is and what he does, is the fulfillment of the Law.
As the Law’s fulfillment, Jesus can free his people from the demands of the law (Galatians 3:24) and enable them to live in accordance with the true intention of the Law. What is that true intention? To possess a genuine righteousness that is a light to the world and brings glory to God (Matt 5:6, 14). This righteousness, Jesus says, must far surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt 5:20). How can it do that? Because it is a different kind of righteousness altogether.
In Matthew 5:21-47, Jesus begins to unpack the meaning of the true righteousness of the Law in the context of relationships. This should not surprise us, because Jesus himself describes the law as loving God and loving our neighbor. The two go hand in hand! Consider 1 John 4:20, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar.”
Jesus begins by quoting the law and confronting the religious leaders’ surface-level adherence to them. I believe He does this for three reasons. First, to expose the false righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. Second, to help us be poor in spirit by revealing our lack of true righteousness. And third, to motivate his people to pursue true righteousness (i.e. to be those who ‘hunger and thirst’ for it; Matt 5:6). Let’s consider these reasons in light of murder and anger in 5:21-26.Continue reading “Murder in the Heart: Jesus’ Teaching on Anger (Matthew 5:21-26)”