Youth Online Bible Study week 8

Jesus Fulfills the Law

Today’s reading is Matthew 5:17-48

Most Bibles will divide chapters into sections with headings. Keep in mind that these were added afterwards, and are merely helpful tools. In this case, we have seven sections dividing up this passage. The first serves as an introduction to the other six.

Verses 17-20 begins with Jesus instructing everyone that He is not destroying what was, but is the fulfillment of all that came before Him. As Lutherans, we speak about the need for both Law and Gospel. The Law shows us our sin, tells us our need for a Savior. The Gospel is the good news that we have a Savior! Both are needed.

The six sections that follow (in my Bible, they are Anger, Lust, Divorce, Oaths, Retaliation, and Love Your Enemies) all begin with some version of “you have heard it said…” In each case, Jesus quotes the laws that His listeners would have known well. And in each case, Jesus lays out a new approach to keeping that law, one that often goes beyond the letter of the law to the spirit of it.

Have you ever experienced this in your life? Maybe it’s been with rules given by your parents, or at school. It can be easy to “technically” keep the rules while bending them, isn’t it? Reading through this section of Matthew can get pretty discouraging as you start to realize how hard it can be to follow the rules. Now, take a look back at verse 20 – what does it say? “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Yikes! Even the professional law-keepers of Jesus’ day weren’t good enough, so how can we be?

That’s the beauty of the law-gospel focus. We can’t be good enough. All six of these sections detail the ways we cannot ever reach a level of perfect that will allow us entry into heaven. That’s the law. But Jesus. Jesus is perfect, and in His death and resurrection, He took on all of our sin, all of our not-measuring-up, all of our brokenness and all of the ways we can’t be good enough. In exchange, He gives us His perfect righteousness, a righteousness that absolutely and completely exceeded that of anyone who has ever lived. His righteousness, given to us, grants us access to the kingdom of heaven. We could never earn it on our own. And we don’t have to. That’s the gospel.

Dig deeper:

  1. Look up the passages quoted by Jesus for each of the six sections. How do they help your understanding of this section of Matthew?
    1. Anger: Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17
    2. Lust: Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18
    3. Divorce: Deuteronomy 24:1-4
    4. Oaths : Exodus 20:7, Numbers 30:2, Deuteronomy 23:21
    5. Retaliation : Exodus 21 :24, Leviticus 24 :19-20, Deuteronomy 19:21
    6. Love Your Enemies: Leviticus 19 :18