Like Moses stood on Mt. Sinai to give the first law in Exodus, Jesus now stands on a mountain to talk about how we fulfill the law in Matthew.
He begins with a list of blessings to the poor in spirit, the mourning, the persecuted (Matthew 5:3). Jesus is telling the Israelites in exile that though they are impoverished, mournful, and persecuted, they are now blessed because Jesus is there to bring them out of exile and the wilderness and into his kingdom.
Jesus continues by explaining that citizens of the Kingdom live by God’s Law. As they do this, others notice and glorify God, the way a light shines from a lampstand (Matthew 5:16). This was the point of the original Law given through Moses in Exodus - that Israel would be a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6).
But so many have obeyed his law for their own glory. They pray, fast, and give in order to be seen by men, rather than serving among men that God might be praised (Matthew 6:2). Rather than seeking the earthly reward of human approval, Jesus encourages his listeners to trust there is a reward in heaven stored up for them (Matthew 6:20).
The way Jesus teaches the law shows us that God is after our hearts, not just our actions. Jesus says anger is like murder and lust is like adultery (Matthew 5:28). Jesus is aiming at our hearts, a place within us that the Law, by itself, was unable to reach (Romans 8:3).
Nevertheless, the laws are for living, not just for listening. To hear and do nothing is build upon sand. To hear and to trust the teaching and the Teacher is to find a sure foundation (Matthew 7:24).
Why is this good news?
Jesus said he came to fulfill the law. This is good news because no one had yet taught, understood, or obeyed it perfectly.
He loved his enemies by dying for them (Romans 5:8). He prayed, “Father, forgive them,” when persecuted on the cross (Luke 23:34). He turned his cheek when struck by Roman guards (Matthew 27:30). Jesus doesn’t just give this teaching; he lives it on our behalf and leads us into this new Kingdom life.
As with the Law, Jesus points out two paths - the broad way and the narrow way (Matthew 7:13). There are many ways to destroy our lives, but only one way to restore them. And the good news is that through Jesus, we can be saved. Jesus is our narrow way.
Jesus is also our solid rock. To put faith in Jesus is to find the surest footing for today and for eternity - it is true wisdom and obedience.
After all, Jesus’ sermon doesn’t end with those who list their accomplishments being welcomed into his presence (Matthew 7:23). Instead, it ends with those whom he “knew” being welcomed in. Knowing Jesus is our firm foundation.
See for yourself.
May the Holy Spirit open your eyes to see the God who is a perfect Father in Heaven. And Jesus as the one who fulfills the Law and lets us build our lives on His obedience.