Matthew 5 17 – 37
Jesus said to his disciples: Don’t suppose that I came to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to do away with them, but to give them their full meaning. Heaven and earth may disappear. But I promise you that not even a full stop or comma will ever disappear from the Law. Everything written in it must happen.
If you reject even the least important command in the Law and teach others to do the same, you will be the least important person in the kingdom of heaven. But if you obey and teach others its commands, you will have an important place in the kingdom. You must obey God’s commands better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law obey them. If you don’t, I promise you that you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
You know that our ancestors were told, “Do not murder” and “A murderer must be brought to trial.” But I promise you that if you are angry with someone you will have to stand trial. If you call someone a fool, you will be taken to court. And if you say that someone is worthless, you will be in danger of the fires of hell.
So if you are about to place your gift on the altar and remember that someone is angry with you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. Make peace with that person, then come back and offer your gift to God.
You know that our ancestors were told, “Don’t use the Lord’s name to make a promise unless you are going to keep it.” But I tell you not to swear by anything when you make a promise! Heaven is God’s throne, so don’t swear by heaven. The earth is God’s footstool, so don’t swear by the earth. Jerusalem is the city of the great king, so don’t swear by it. Don’t swear by your own head. You cannot make one hair white or black. When you make a promise, say only “Yes” or “No.” Anything else comes from the devil.
The beauty of a vague rule is that it is so much easier to work your way around. And as the police would probably make the best burglars; so those that study the Law know best how to find their way around it. Something Matthew struggles with time and time again because the Law was not made to be ‘found a way around’- particularly when much of the way around involves influence or exclusion- Jesus reminds us of this – you may have heard…. but the truth is….
Jesus understands that circumstances run away with us; that we didn’t mean this or that and yet; here we are; the more choice we get the harder it gets to make a choice; the more twists and turns the easier to get lost.
Jesus challenges us to a simpler, less intellectual but more honest understanding – ‘yes’ or ‘no’