Righteousness that Surpasses

The Sermon on the Mount (Part 10)

“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).  Jesus has come to the end of His introduction to the Sermon on the Mount.  The first 19 verses of Matthew 5 introduce us to who you will become when you enter the kingdom of heaven by faith in Jesus.  Jesus is looking forward to who you will become under the new covenant arrangement when you believe in Jesus.  The promise of the new covenant is that you will become … gentle, peaceful, merciful, pure in heart, have your hunger and thirst satisfied, be persecuted for righteousness, be the salt of the earth, be the light of the world, see the Law requirements fulfilled by Jesus, and be set free from the Law.

Verse 20, quoted above, starts us into the next section of Jesus’ sermon.  Remember, Jesus began His public ministry with this message, “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  For those of you who repent and believe, the promise of Matthew 5:3-19 is yours.

For those who do not repent – change their mind about how one is made right with God – Jesus goes on to what’s next.  And Jesus is basically saying, “If you choose to stick with the Law system, here is what you are up against.  Your expression of righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees.”  What in the world does that look like?

Moving ahead in Matthew chapter 5, it looks like this.  “You think you are keeping the ‘do not kill’?  What if you are angry with your brother?  Guilty (Matthew 5:21-22).  You think you can call someone any derogatory name you wish?  Call your brother a fool and you are guilty enough for hell (Matthew 5:22).  You think that you are passing the test on not committing adultery?  Do you desire a woman who is not your wife with lustful intentions?  Guilty (Matthew 5:27-28).

Your eye causes you to sin.  Poke it out (Matthew 5:29).  Your hand makes you stumble.  Cut it off (Matthew 5:30).  We don’t even know what to do with that.  Are you putting away your wife for your own selfish desires?  Guilty (Matthew 5:31-32).  Think you have found a loophole in breaking an oath, breaking a vow with some creative language?  If your yes does not clearly mean yes and your no mean no, you are guilty (Matthew 5:33-37).

Are you comfortable with an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth?  Is revenge your thing?  You are guilty if you are not turning the other cheek, loving your enemy (Matthew 5:38-47).

This entire large section of Matthew 5 verses 21 through 47 is Jesus exceeding the Law in His requirements.  And it fits the introduction to this passage, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).  “If you are going to go with the Law as your entrance to God, you must do better than even those who appear to be the best law keepers, the scribes and Pharisees.”  How is that even possible?

Of course, we know looking back that it is not possible.  This is why we need Jesus.  Jesus became perfection for us.  Did you notice the word “perfection”?  Where did that come in?  Jesus finally comes to the conclusion of what exceeding the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees looks like, perfection.  “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  How is that even possible?  We will talk about it next time.