Jesus has begun a lengthy teaching to the crowds of disciples who have followed Him up on the mountain.
Jesus continues this teaching by saying that He came to fulfill the Law. None of the Old Testament Scriptures would disappear, but would be fulfilled in Him. The writer of Hebrews said that the things in the Law...
Col. 2:17 ...are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
What does this mean? While walking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus explained, and...
Luke 24:27 ...beginning with Moses and with all the prophets He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
In other words, the entirety of the Old Testament speaks of, symbolizes, and prophesies of Jesus Christ. He appears numerous times:
As the One who met with Abraham before the destruction of Sodom; the One who ministered to Hagar in the desert; the One who wrestled with Jacob; the Voice in the burning bush before Moses; the One who confronted Joshua as the captain of the Lord's host; the One who spoke with Samson's parents; the One who walked in the fiery furnace with Shad-RAK, May-SHAK, and Ab-ADE Neg-O. The list goes on and on.
But He is also in the Old Testament symbolically:
In the offering of Isaac; in the seven feasts; in all of the offerings and sacrifices; in the ceremonies; in the cities of refuge, the high priest, the cleansing of the leper, the scapegoat, the tabernacle, and on and on and on.
Prophetically, Jesus was foretold as the seed of the woman, in the lineage of Adam through Seth; as the Messiah, the King of the Jews, the root of David, the branch of Jesse, the One born in Bethlehem to a virgin, the One who would be called out of Egypt, be called a Nazarene, who would be the light of Galilee, and so on.
Because Jesus is the embodiment of the Word, He hates it when people corrupt and rewrite the Word.
The Pharisees thought that they were so righteous. But Jesus is about to point out that they had corrupted His Word into mindless, oppressive religion that controlled people and gave them reason to be prideful.
He is about to very quickly quote six Old Testament passages and show how they had been corrupted into rules rather than righteous standards of behavior.
God had given the command not to commit murder. But Jesus says that this is more than a simple rule not to kill someone. It means that when you hate someone, or are angry and call him names, then you are being just as unrighteous as any murderer.
He also says that if someone has something against you, it is your obligation to be reconciled, making friends with your opponents.
The next Law Jesus quotes is regarding adultery. Like murder, the steps that lead up to the act are just as unrighteous. You hate your brother before you will kill him. You look at someone with lust before committing adultery with them.
The Pharisees believed that as long as you weren't committing the act itself, you weren't being unrighteous. That is religion's way of looking at righteousness, but God looks at our hearts.
In Deuteronomy 24, Moses acknowledged that some men divorced their wives. He set standards of behavior that had to be followed if that happened. By no means did he mandate divorce. But the Pharisees had turned it into a religious command.
This will become the subject of a conflict in Matthew 19, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when divorce was lawful. Jesus said that what God joined together, no man should separate. But they responded...
Matt. 19:7-8 ..."Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?" He *said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives..."
The Pharisees had corrupted the Scriptures, but Jesus said that righteousness is clear - divorce is not a simple certificate. It is a tearing apart of what God has united.
The Pharisees had turned the idea of vows into a big production with lots of rules about what was binding and what wasn't. Jesus said, "Say yes or no, and that's your vow."
The Law mandated that society return crime for crime, injury for injury. The Pharisees applied this Law frequently. But Jesus teaches that it is an individual's mercy and grace which pleases God.
The Law said to love your neighbor. The Pharisees interpreted that as being a command to hate your enemy. But again, the righteous standard is greater: love your enemies as well. Doing good to them was also a part of the Law:
Ex. 23:4-5 "If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him."
Jesus is about to use three examples of righteous practices that the Pharisees had managed to turn into self-glorifying activities: giving, praying, and fasting. He will begin each statement with the word "when" or "whenever." (Same Greek word in all three.) This means that although each of them had been abused, Jesus is telling all of His disciples that each is necessary, and must be practiced righteously.
We are to give to the poor. The Pharisees gave to the poor, but did it to be seen. They made a production out of it, making sure it was done in the public eye. But the righteous way to give to the poor is to give in secret, keeping yourself as anonymous as possible.
We are to pray. The Pharisees were hypocritical, praying in public places so that people would see them and say, "My, my! What a godly, righteous man!" There is no reward or result for praying with that motive. Instead, Jesus gives us three standards of prayer to apply, that we would be praying rightouesly.
First, he says to pray in secret. That will keep you from having ulterior motives of being seen when you pray.
Secondly, you are not to repeat words over and over until they have no meaning.
"Blessusohlordandthesethygifts-forwhichweareabouttoreceive-fromthybountythroughchristourlord-amen" was a prayer of meaningless repetition when I was a child. It meant nothing to me. Some people use the word "Lord" as meaningless repetition, praying, "Lord, I pray Lord that would would just Lord bless them Lord and that Lord you would provide Lord for their needs Lord." Your prayers must not be meaningless. God is a Person, and deserves to be spoken to as a Person.
Thirdly, Jesus gives us a prayer which we can use as a model. This prayer helps us to understand that... 1) we are speaking to the holy Creator of the universe; 2) God will someday judge this world and wants us to do His righteous will; 3) we can ask God to provide for our needs; and 4) we need to be forgiven, and if we ask God to forgive us, we'd better be forgiving of others.
Third on Jesus' list of righteous practices is fasting. We need to be fasting. But unlike the Pharisees, who tried their best to look terrible when they fasted so everyone would know, we must try terribly hard to look our best, hiding the fact that we are fasting.