Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. – Matthew 5:17
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I am a part of Mockingbird or any ministry for that matter, I guess it’s been a bit of a soul-searching time, and I found myself thinking about why I am a Christian. What makes Christianity matter? What is the thing that I just can’t seem to get around? The answer surprised me actually. It was me. The truth is that I cannot get around myself.
What I mean to say is Christianity is pointless if you do not at least have some idea of your need for it. Jesus clearly knew this when he delivered his Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew 5). He started with the Law, and the Law is a mirror to you and me, just as it was to all of Jesus’ listeners that day some 2000 years ago. It shows us ourselves. It shows us our hearts. Jesus revealed that day that the Law is not about our actions or our outward appearance. No, it is about our heart, our motivations. The core of who we are.
He followed a simple formula: First, he presented the Law given by Moses, which seemed to focus on the outward action, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit murder; and whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’” Then, he took that Law and applied to the inward heart motivation, and he elevated it to the highest possible degree, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Jesus left no wiggle room. He showed that the Law is a mirror that penetrates deep into our souls and exposes us for who we really are. We are haters of our neighbors not because of our actions, but because of our feelings and hearts toward them. Our actions are simply the end result of an already corrupt motivation. After going through many of the commonly known Laws with this formula he finally took the whole thing to an even higher place, if you can even imagine. He summed up saying, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Jesus did this so that there would be no question about our situation as humans, no ground to stand on in the face of perfection, which is what the Law describes. He did not compromise. He showed that the Law is demanding us to be like God. After all that’s what we all want don’t we? That’s what the serpent tempted Adam and Eve with in Eden…to be like God. That’s what we all try and fail to be everyday. We want control, power, knowledge, etc.
When faced with who I really am, I cannot get around it. I cannot pretend to ignore it and act like Jesus meant something else. I cannot depend on my relatively good behavior today. I cannot get out from under the knowledge of who I really am. I am not God. I am not perfect. I do not keep the Law in my heart. We all know this on some level, whether we want to connect with it or not (“the requirements of the law are written on their hearts” Romans 2:15).
So, where does this leave us? It leaves us in our true place before God, in need of salvation. We are helpless. We are guilty. We are sinners. Jesus holds up the mirror, so that we would stop looking into ourselves for some sort of answer. We have no answer for the demands of the Law other than complete and total failure. That is true everyday for every person Christian and non-Christian alike.
This is crushing.
BUT Jesus does this to point to himself. He tells us at the beginning of this elevation of the Law that he has come to fulfill it. He does not relax the Law, rather he does them and teaches them to their highest degree. His righteousness “exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees”, and he goes to the cross to pay for our failure to be perfect. He is perfect for us. We are forgiven because of him, and we are loved because of him.