Exceeding the Righteousness of the Pharisees

February 5, 2017

Introduction: Jesus begins by praising his disciples and then admonishing them; comparing a good disciples to that of salt. He points out that if salt has lost its flavor it is worth nothing but to be thrown out. His point is that the salt in the region was mixed with other elements and so was not pure. If the salt leached out from these elements it obviously no longer contained salt and thus had lost its taste and ability to preserve the food it was mixed within.

I) After the Beatitudes Jesus compares the disciple to salt and light. Through these comparisons he implies that the disciple brings both zest and life to the world. This happens by how they live out their discipleship. He also urges them to do this in such a manner that those around them may witness their goodness and so help impact society in such a way that it brings out the goodness of those around them.

II) Jesus goes on to warn his disciples that he has not come to destroy the law, even the smallest part of it. At first blush this may not seem to mirror Jesus’ relationship to the law because he seems to go against the law such as healing on the Sabbath. Nonetheless, he doubles down on this by saying that those who go against the teachings of the law and teach others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. It is important to note that they shall still gain entrance into the kingdom. To illustrate just how hard it is to follow this new kind of righteousness he points out that unless their righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and scribes they will never enter the kingdom.

III) What is Jesus talking about when he tells the disciples that their righteousness must exceed that of those who were considered the most righteous! A disciple may well feel overwhelmed by the prospect of having to live such a holy life. Here it is important to go back to the context of what Jesus is sharing with his disciples. The beatitudes illustrate that it is out of our being broken and thus incomplete comes our very ability to be his disciples. The righteousness he is challenging his disciples to live up to is one that is formed from their incompleteness and having recognized that they are then able to share this incite with those around them helping others realize that their lives do contain zest and life not by what they already have received from God but recognizing what they lack and letting God then fill this need with his grace. As we are able to do this, we are then able to put in perspective the law. Seeing the law as not an end in and of itself, but seeing the law as a means of how we love our neighbor. The temptation maybe in using the law to negate this basic premise and so undo God’s will.