When You Think About Jesus, Think About Perfection
Sermon on Matthew 5:21-37
6th Sunday after Epiphany
When You Think About Jesus, Think About Perfection
Text: Matthew 5:21-37
What do you think of when you think of Jesus? Maybe you think of the Good Shepherd who gently leads and cares for his sheep. You might think of the compassionate and loving Teacher who healed the sick, fed the hungry, and took time to teach even the social outcasts. Jesus welcoming the little children into his arms often comes to mind. Around here we like to think about Christ the King who sits on his throne in heaven and rules over all things with all power and all might. Many have in their minds the gruesome imagery of the movie The Passion of the Christ and often think of that when they think of Jesus.
We all have different thoughts about Jesus that stick in our brains. We think about his love, his compassion, his mercy, his care, his help, his protection, his suffering and death. But this morning your paradigm might shift. This morning our thoughts might change. Listen to more of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount today and when you Think About Jesus You Will Think About Perfection.
As I have been preaching through this Sermon on the Mount the last few weeks, you have heard Jesus encourage you to rejoice and be glad because you are truly blessed. You have heard Jesus tell you that you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Then you heard Jesus say in the last verse from last Sunday, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
What is Jesus talking about there? Perfection. Again, the Pharisees were supposedly the best of the best. They lived stringent lives that outwardly seemed to be very pious and righteous. So Jesus is saying that unless your righteousness can surpass theirs, you will not be in heaven. In the verses today, Jesus continues by explaining to his listeners and to us just how hard that would be.
All of Jesus’s listeners knew the fifth commandment. Everyone here knows the fifth commandment. Most people in the world probably know the fifth commandment. “You shall not murder,” is one of the most commonly known commandments. Everyone knows that you shouldn’t murder. Even today governments around the world uphold at least that commandment.
This commandment might lead us to think like many at the time of Jesus, “Well I have never murdered. I’m not that bad of a person. That’s for the criminally insane and people they depict on Law & Order.” But then Jesus says in verse 22, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
These words remind us 1 John 3:15, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.” Even anger and hatred count as murder in God’s book. Jesus said that anyone who said, “Raca” would be judged by their highest court, the Sanhedrin. It’s difficult for us to know what that word means. It seems to have been some word of contempt. Some think it was just a noise of contempt—raca. Some even think it was a noise that went a long with some sort of angry gesture. If the Jews said that or even called someone a fool, they would be in danger of hell. Then in verses 23-26 he goes on to teach how much effort should be put into reconciling with someone. If there is anger, it should always be worked out. If there is even a lawsuit, it should be settled quickly.
How hard it is for us to keep the fifth commandment! Knowing most of you, I don’t think anyone has committed murder here. But how often don’t we get upset and burn with anger? Sometimes that’s a daily occurrence. How often might we use words of contempt, or use sign language to tell the driver who passed us what we think? How many times have we called someone a fool, a dummy, stupid, ignorant, or something similar? How few times do we want to reconcile our anger with others? We often prefer to hold on to our anger, to get revenge, to get the last word in rather than seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus is demanding perfection here and we have fallen far short!
Jesus then moves from the fifth commandment to the sixth commandment which is, “Do not commit adultery.” This commandment is also well known today, but few in our world listen to it or abide by it. The government certainly does not uphold it like it does the fifth commandment. Yet we all know what it means. We all know how that commandment of God can be broken. But Jesus once more teaches us that this commandment is also not just about the action. “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
How hard it is for us to keep the sixth commandment. Sometimes it seems like the only way we could keep this commandment is to live our life with our eyes closed. Magazines, books, music, television, movies, computers, clothing—almost everything we look at or listen to tempts us. And here Jesus tells us that if you even look with lust at another then you have most definitely broken the sixth commandment and have sinned.
So what are we supposed to do? Not read magazines? Not watch TV or movies? Dress modestly? Jesus tells us to what lengths we should go. He says if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. The point he is making is that which would you rather do—lose a body part and not watch certain TV shows and read magazines, or would you rather go to hell because you are led into sin so often? Jesus is demanding perfection here and we have fallen far short!
Next Jesus addresses the topic of divorce. In those days Jewish laws were almost as lax as American laws when it comes to marriage and divorce. But Jesus reminds us that God never intended for marriage vows to be broken. Even in cases where there is adultery or malicious desertion—cases which could be called grounds for a non-sinful divorce by the innocent party—the perfect resolution still would be forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus is demanding perfection here and we in this world have fallen far short!
Finally today we hear Jesus talk about our words. Apparently back then they were also very loose with their words and with oaths they made. People often lied and cheated. They swore by this thing or that. Yet Jesus tells us to always keep our word. He tells us not to swear by anything, not by heaven or earth or any physical place or thing.
How hard it is for us to obey the Lord! We say things like, “I swear to you,” “I swear to God,” “I swear on my momma’s grave.” We say these things as if our regular words aren’t good enough, like they need more force. We say these things or even want to hear these things because we don’t expect the truth any more. We expect lies. But Jesus says, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Jesus is demanding perfection and we have fallen far short!
When You Think About Jesus, Think About Perfection. It is absolutely, completely, totally what he demands and expects of us. No excuse, no reasoning, no defense is good enough or acceptable. All sins of every kind are reprehensible to him and punishable with death and hell. Jesus demands perfection.
Do you see what Jesus is doing here? He is preaching to self-righteous people who thought they were so good. He is preaching to people who don’t recognize how often they sin. He is preaching to people who don’t understand how dangerous sin is. He is preaching to the Jews and he is preaching to us.
Yet while he blasts us with the full force of God’s law, Jesus is also preaching about himself. In pointing out our imperfection, Jesus is simultaneously pointing to his own perfection. In preaching about our sinfulness, Jesus is also preaching about our need for him.
Jesus never once did any of those things he preached about. He never was angry or volatile. He never took revenge or cursed someone out. He always showed compassion, love, and forgiveness. All of those articles, books, and movies about an illicit relationship with Mary Magdalene are not only lies, they are shameful and reprehensible. Jesus never once committed adultery—in action, in words, or in thoughts. He resisted all the many sexual temptations of our world. Jesus never swore by his Father. He never used foul or unclean language. His ‘Yes’ was always ‘Yes’ and his ‘No’ was always ‘No.’
Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” Jesus never sinned once in his life. He can understand what we are going through because he was tempted in every way just like we are. Yet he never sinned once. When You Think about Jesus, Think About Perfection. He did what we could not. He did what his Father demands. He fulfilled all of God’s laws. He lived a perfect life for us. Jesus achieved perfection.
Yet his divine love is far greater than that. Living a perfect life was only half of the solution. By his perfect life he fulfilled all of God’s demands for us. But that still leaves a huge problem—all of the sins that we commit. You heard Jesus say it several times today. God says it countless times elsewhere in Scripture. “The wages of sin is death.” If you sin at all, even once, the cost or price for disobeying God is death and hell.
This again is why Jesus took the time to preach this wonderful Sermon on the Mount. As he was teaching people to understand just how sinful they were, he was teaching people to understand just how much they need him. Pointing out our sin points out how much we need a Savior. And that’s just what Jesus came to be.
Jesus carried the perfection of his life all the way to Calvary. There he carried imperfection. There our hate, our anger, our revenge, our lust, our adultery, our cursing, our swearing, our lying, our cheating—all of our sins were placed onto him. There he suffered hell. There he died. There he paid for what we have done.
When You Think About Jesus, Think About Perfection. He won it for you at the cross. All of your sins have been erased. You are freely and fully forgiven. He rose to life to prove that you will rise to life. And there in heaven you will be in and you will enjoy endless perfection. Jesus gives perfection.
There are many things we think of when we think of Jesus. All of them are good things to think about—his love, his compassion, his care, his protection, his suffering and death. But after hearing another part of his sermon today, maybe we can add something. When You Think About Jesus, Think About Perfection. He demands it. He achieved it. He gives it. That makes him our perfect Lord and Savior.
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Posted on February 20, 2011, in Church, Sermons and tagged Adultery, Divorce, Hate, Hatred, Jesus' Active Obedience, Jesus' Obedience, Matthew, Matthew 5, Oaths, Perfection, Sermon on the Mount, Swearing. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.