Matthew 5:27-30, Exodus 20:14,17, Psalm 19:12-14, Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 9:43-48
“You have heard it said, but I say unto you…”
Jesus frequently repeats this phrase in the Sermon on the Mount as well as elsewhere in the Gospels. It signals a change in the way the old traditions were to be interpreted and applied. Though we are not a people dependent upon the law or old traditions for salvation—Praise God!—we are still called to place our lives under God’s holy guidelines for righteous living.
Remember, Jesus “did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it” (Matthew 5:17). And in fulfilling it, He also speaks into our individual experiences, helping us to grapple with some of the more challenging aspects of daily life. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus seems to either release His audience from undue bondage to legalism, or, as we see in today’s reading, He intensifies and clarifies the heart of the Father, bringing the revelation of God deeper into our realities.
While we hold dearly to the hope of our salvation by grace through faith, we can also remember the words of Jesus when He proclaimed: “If you love me, you will keep my commands” (John 14:15).
Even when we bring all of this context to Matthew 5:27-30, we are still left with some difficult truths. As we read this passage in light of the rest of the witness of Scripture, we know that we have “a great high priest” who is able to empathize with our every struggle, and we also know there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39).
I actually believe it’s love—not condemnation, but the deep, holy love of God—that can be found in this teaching. God’s heart for us is that we walk in the way worthy of our calling and identity. It’s a calling that drills down to the core of our being. Jesus intensifies this teaching not to drive us to despair, but to drive us to Him.
God’s desire for us is a life intimately connected to Him through His Son. As we grow closer to Him, not only do our outward actions change, but we are radically recreated and changed within. God wants not only our actions and words, but also our hearts. While today’s teaching can often feel like a source of shame or defeat, may it also be an encouragement that God is working within us to transform our hearts, that we might overcome even the deepest entanglements with sin.
True freedom comes when we lay everything we have, even our brokenness, sinfulness, and shame, at the foot of the cross. That sort of Jesus-freedom runs deeper than any heart-sin ever can. And in that, we have cause to rejoice, and to continually challenge and encourage one another.
Written by Andrew Stoddard