January 31

Text: Matthew 5:17-19

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (NASB)

The challenge: Jesus sounded too different—not at all like other religious leaders.  True, he did numerous incredible acts.  True, he helped people commonly ignored.  True, he was an unpretentious man who expected nothing for what he did.  True, his teachings fearlessly dealt with real problems and actual situations. True, he addressed people that common people did not dare confront.  True, he discussed matters needing to be addressed.  True, he asked the unasked questions.

However, Jesus was too different.  Yes, his acts needed explanation.  Yes, what he said needed to be said.  Yet, it would be much easier to explain him away than to do what he said.  Just say he was a kind man who did good, incredible things, and leave it at that.  Take advantage of his kindness, but do not take his teachings seriously.  Go with what you always heard, not with his troublesome thoughts.

Jesus knew their thinking.  He understood how different he was.  He realized what he was said could be misunderstood and misapplied.  His concept of righteousness differed fundamentally with other concepts of righteousness.  So, he tried to focus his Jewish audience.  His was not a mindless religious obstacle course that justified evil.  He was not attempting to destroy God’s law.  He was attaching God’s meaning to God’s law—not Israel’s centuries-old emphasis.

Religious hearing and doing are sometimes based on convenience rather than correctness.

Suggestion for reflection: Do you listen to understand even when it hurts?  Is “our” convenience more important than God’s meaning?  (Read Hebrews 5:11-14.)

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