Matthew 5.17-20 – A Heart For The Law

Many of our friends believe that the Bible is just full of rules, and to be fair you can hardly blame them. They may know nothing else in the Bible, but they will know of the existence of the ten commandments. They may not know what they are, but they don’t sound like fun do they? So is being a follower of Jesus all about following the rules? Turning up once a week, not murdering anyone in between one Sunday and the next, and not coveting your neighbours’ donkey? This weekend we discover what Jesus really thought of the 613 laws.

Oh, you thought there were only ten!

Matthew 5.17-20

Speaking Notes – Caveat

These notes are my speaking notes and are provided as an accompaniment to the recording. Please accept that they are not intended to be a published grammatically correct essay. I do hope and pray however they help you move towards Jesus.

Now onto the content…

The Law.

Has anyone coveted your neighbour’s donkey this week?

Has anyone murdered someone this week?

No then we are good let’s moved on.

But before we do let’s remind ourselves why we are studying this biography of Jesus we call the Gospel of Matthew.

If you remember Matthew is a sandwich. We get the first slice of bread Chapters 1-3 where Matthew introduces Jesus as the new Moses, as God.

The second slice of bread are chapters 26-28 where we see Jeuss going to the Cross and dying for you and me.

But right now we are in the filling of the sandwich. The beef, the salad the tomatoes. Chapters 4-25 where Matthew shows that Jesus is here to announce the coming of God’s Kingdom, and the fact that God’s kingdom is in the here and now as well as the future. He teaches that being an apprentice of Jesus will turn your world upside down.

And more specifically right now, we are now in chapters 4-7 which is where Jesus, God himself teaches us how to walk in life in such a way as to walk like Jesus. He is just about to give his greatest teaching on what it means to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God, and he is going to that in the sermon on the mount.


But before he deliver His moral code, He says this.

‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.’

What does he mean by the Law and the Prophets?


He means the vast majority of our Bible the Old Testament. More specifically he means what the Jewish people would call the Torah. Don’t forget Jesus was Jewish and would mostly be speaking of the first five books of the Old Testament, 

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Torah. The Law.

There we have the Prophets.

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and then the minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habukkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. 

Words spoken by God through his people, and Jesus says these are words to have embedded in our hearts.

The Law

The problem we have as apprentices to Jesus is that we tend to ignore the Old Testament . It’s a nice story, it’s a nice introduction to the main event, Jesus. But it’s Old. The clue is in the name. We have the New testament. We have Jesus.

But that is our error, that is a happenstance of history. This is old and this is new. Says to us in our culture. The new is better so we can forget the old. But the problem you and I have is jesus said.

‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.’

So what did Jesus mean by Fulfill. What was the purpose of the law?

Well there are many theologians who would separate the writings of the Old Law into two areas. The Law itself mostly found in Genesis through to parts of Deuteronomy, and then the Mosaic Code, God’s guidance for a time brought through Moses for a context to the people of Israel. The law such as: 

Exodus 20.13 ‘You shall not murder. 

Law, All time truth, all time action. It’s difficult to walk as Jesus walks if you are busy murdering people.

But then we get.

Deuteronomy 14:21b Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.

Why? I might enjoy goats meat cooked in milk, why should I not eat it? Well that is because the Canaanites did that to worship their gods. it’s not about the goat, it’s about dragging pagan practices into the worship of Yahweh, our God.

Mosaic Code, All time truth, the action less relevant today.


And I guess that’s the point . The laws were never supposed to be do this and you will enter the kingdom of God. Even for the Jewish people although they were interpreted that way, that was not the heart behind them. When Jesus says.

I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.’

He is saying I have come to complete them, I have come to bring God’s kingdom to the here and now. I have come so that you will know the heart of God behind the law and the prophets. Jesus has not come to abolish the law so we can ignore the Old Testament. We will find out as he preaches over the next few weeks in the sermon on the mount that he has come to ratchet it up a notch. He has come to show us how to love God and love people, the Jesus way.

Jesus as ever points the way to God’s Kingdom coming.


Well, that’s OK for Jesus, isn’t it. After all He is God. He knows what is law and eternal and what is contextual and a guide for the heart.

But of course our question might be

How do we as apprentices to Jesus know what laws we must keep, if we are to not ignore the Old Testament?

I mean I could point out to my son jack, and many young and older people that the Bible says

Leviticus 19:28 ‘“Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves.

So Mr Cross, I could say not tattoo for you. That is OK if I am willing for him to point out to me that the very verse before says:

Leviticus 19:27 Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.

And to be fair I did shave this morning.

The problem is that if you are anything like me you like rules. I like boundaries. Do this, and this will happen. Work hard and you will succeed. Do that and the consequence will be this. Which is why I keep getting dragged back to the Bible that I love to look for the rules of being an apprentice of Jesus,

But to ask the question

How do we as apprentices to Jesus know what laws we must keep.

Is once again to ask the wrong question. It is to use the Bible as a hammer to beat people over the head with and that is not the way Jesus taught to use scripture.

Do not mis-hear what I am saying. There is a right and a wrong way to walk through this life as a follower of Jesus. There are things that God would rather you did not do, and there are things he would rather you did do. But asking what laws to keep is the wrong question.


Jesus said:

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.

Anyone here feel that they are so righteous that they will have now problem living out the Kingdom of God? Is jesus in the room?

A better question to ask is what are these words telling me about the heart God has for His kingdom to come to Bedhampton in the here and now. What would God have me do right now, right here for my righteousness to surpasses that of the Pharisees?.

The Pharisees were known for keeping the law and yet Jesus says to people like that.

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Matthew 12:34.

You see:

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ 1 Samuel 16:7.

The Big Idea

The big idea is that rules are second best. Keep them do, but it is the heart of God’s kingdom that is how God wants us as a community to live our lives.

I have told you this story before but it bears hearing again.

When our children were young I had this recurring problem. When you raise children who are intelligent, to think for themselves you can end up with problems sometimes. For example I would say something along the lines of Don’t drink the coke from the fridge unless Mum or I are here. Then I would discover that the coke from the fridge was gone, and confront the culprit. I’m not going to tell you who that usually was, but He would say something like. You and Mum were in you were in the other room.

Or I might say to my girls. Don’t pinch your brother, I can’t stop him retaliating if you pinch him. Then I would hear cries from across the house and discover one of the girls in tears pointing the finger at Jack They would be crying I didn’t pinch him. Jack’s response would of course be no you punched me.

You will be glad to hear that these things did eventually stop happening, as they got older. But the point was they were and are intelligent children.They knew if they did not do what I asked them to do there would be consequences to their actions. So they did what I told them to do. They lived by the letter of the rules of the house. The problem of course was that whilst they lived by the rules, they missed the point of the rules. They missed my heart, my fathers heart for our family.


Which brings me to our take home this week.

What are we as community walking towards Jesus going to do about the heart of God in the laws of this book, as we seek to reach out there in Bedhampton?

Are we going to say you can’t come because you don’t live by these rules? Or are we going to welcome them to join us on the journey as our hearts are changed together? Are we going to welcome those who have a lifestyle we don’t understand? Are we going to welcome whose heart is different to ours?

What about you as you walk towards Jesus? Are you going to bless that awkward neighbour, that  brother-in-law, work colleague even though their heart is different to yours? Even though they do things that seem to be contrary to God’s desire for them?

For that my friends is the heart of Jesus response to the laws in this book.  That is what he did and does for us. He welcomes us on the journey as we are with all the mess we have. He says come be forgiven, come walk with him and see your heart changed as you walk towards the Kingdom of God.

That is what he does for us and asks us to do for others. That’s our take home this week.


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