Sunday, February 2, 2020

Epiphany 5 Series A

Epiphany 5 - Series A 
9 February 2020
Isaiah 58:3–9a
1 Corinthians 2:1–12 (13–16)
Matthew 5:13–20

The Righteousness of Christ

O God, our Loving Father, through the grace of Your Holy Spirit You plant the gift of Your love into the hearts of Your faithful people. Grant to Your servants soundness of mind and body, so that they may love You with their whole strength and with the whole heart do these things that are pleasing in Your sight. Amen.

Jesus warns that “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20), but He also calls His imperfect people “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14). That’s because the Lord Jesus came not to abolish the Law or the Prophets “but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17) in perfect faith and love. Since He does and teaches all of God’s commandments, He is “called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). God manifests His “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” in “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2–4) and through the preaching of the Gospel gives His “secret and hidden wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:7). Christ gives this perfect righteousness to His people, and it leads them to true fasting, which is “to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free” (Isaiah 58:6) and “to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house” (Isaiah 58:7)

More Righteous Than the Most Righteous
Rev. Dr. Daniel J. Brege
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 9, 2020
(Matthew 5:13-20)

In the last verse of Sunday’s Gospel Jesus declares, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

When most people consider righteousness they think of being a very good person, a person who obeys the Ten Commandments.  This is not wrong thinking.  Certainly God desires that we be good people and that we obey His Commandments. In Jesus’ day the Pharisees were viewed as the most righteous people on earth.  They had dissected God’s law (Ten Commandments and special Jewish laws) into over 630 laws, and they maintained that they kept such laws; they were indeed outwardly righteous, and people considered them to possess the ultimate righteousness.

Jesus said that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. How can we be more righteous than the most righteous people on earth?  It can happen—as revealed in both the Old and New Testaments—because we can have a righteousness that does not come from our obedience to God’s laws.

An Old Testament example of this righteousness is found in the classic verse about Abram’s faith: And he believed the Lord, and he [God] counted it to him as righteousness Genesis 15:6.  Abram was given righteousness; it was a righteousness that was from outside of Abram, for it was a righteousness that came by God’s declaration based upon Abram’s faith.  This declared righteousness is called justification.

Why would God do this?  Why would God declare someone righteous?  Is their faith considered the greatest act of righteousness?  No, God declares someone righteous—including Old Testament believers—because their faith is in Christ.  Jesus, the object of faith, gives righteousness. Abram’s faith was in the Christ who was at the center of God’s promises given in Genesis 15.

In his letter to the Romans (3:20-24) the Apostle Paul clearly presents the differences between righteousness that is derived from keeping God’s law and righteousness that is given as a gift to a believer in Jesus.  Of the righteousness from keeping God’s law he wrote: For by works of the law no human being will be justified [declared righteous] in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.  For us there is no righteousness before God in keeping God’s law; instead, sin is thus exposed.  But of the real righteousness before God Paul then wrote:  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law [writings of Moses] and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified [declared righteous] by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Indeed here is the righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of Pharisees—a righteousness that does not come from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ. This righteousness is literally a gift from God, a gift that is given because of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, a redemption that was purchased with the blood of Jesus.

Matthew 5:13-20
Salt and light -

Matthew 5:13
Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ ἅλας τῆς γῆς• ἐὰν δὲ τὸ ἅλας μωρανθῇ, ἐν τίνι ἁλισθήσεται; εἰς οὐδὲν ἰσχύει ἔτι εἰ μὴ βληθὲν ἔξω καταπατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων
You (are these the disciples or all Christians?) are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness (tasteless, a moron) be restored? (be again salted) It is no longer good (has the strength) for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

Salt cannot loose itself. Christianity is the preservative of the world. When it is lost it is good for nothing. Salt and light must be seen Christologically. Christ was trampled underfoot. They killed the shepherd. Are these words prescriptive or descriptive? 

Matthew 5:14
Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου. οὐ δύναται πόλις κρυβῆναι ἐπάνω ὄρους κειμένη• 
You are the light of the world. (Cosmos) A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 

This light can NOT be hidden. What does light do? 

A candle in total darkness can be seen for thirty miles...

He is the light coming into the world. The city cannot be hidden. It is set on the mountain. This is a promise rather than a demand. It is impossible for the Church to bear witness of Christ. 

Matthew 5:15 
οὐδὲ καίουσιν λύχνον καὶ τιθέασιν αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τὸν μόδιον ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν, καὶ λάμπει πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ.
Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, (grain measuring) but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

What is the house? It is the Church. Christ gives light to those in the church. 

Matthew 5:16 
οὕτως λαμψάτω τὸ φῶς ὑμῶν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὅπως ἴδωσιν ὑμῶν τὰ καλὰ ἔργα καὶ δοξάσωσιν τὸν πατέρα ὑμῶν τὸν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. 

We are not left to ourselves to do anything. This is gospel not law. We have the power to hinder the light but not produce it. Vocation - the place where Christ places you - to present Christ. What is the context into which you have been placed?  

Christ came to fulfill the law

Matthew 5:17 
Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον καταλῦσαι τὸν νόμον ἢ τοὺς προφήτας• οὐκ ἦλθον καταλῦσαι ἀλλὰ πληρῶσαι
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.

Law = the entire OT not as the Pharisees interpret the Law, but as Christ presents it. 

Matthew 5:18
ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἕως ἂν παρέλθῃ ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ, ἰῶτα ἓν ἢ μία κεραία οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου, ἕως ἂν πάντα γένηται
For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Until all comes down)

The Law still stands. When all comes down will the Law come to an end? Not a marker of time.  

"Until whenever..."

The Law is - Indicative "you shall in this life" and imperative "you are in the world to come." 

Matthew 5:19
ὃς ἐὰν οὖν λύσῃ μίαν τῶν ἐντολῶν τούτων τῶν ἐλαχίστων καὶ διδάξῃ οὕτως τοὺς ἀνθρώπους, ἐλάχιστος κληθήσεται ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν• ὃς δ’ ἂν ποιήσῃ καὶ διδάξῃ, οὗτος μέγας κληθήσεται ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν
Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least (last) in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

But you're still in the kingdom is the comfort.  

You're not great in the kingdom because you're great but because your covered in Jesus. 

See Psalm 119:171ff.

Matthew 5:20
λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι ἐὰν μὴ περισσεύσῃ [b]ὑμῶν ἡ δικαιοσύνη πλεῖον τῶν γραμματέων καὶ Φαρισαίων, οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν. 
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds (is greater than) that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter (you can't work your way in) the kingdom of heaven.

Pharisees used the law not to serve the neighbor but to live above the neighbor. 

You are salt you are light and when you are not salt or light Jesus is salt and light. 
The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition. Copyright © 2010 by Society of Biblical Literature and Logos Bible Software
LCMS Lectionary Summary © 2016
Schnorr Von Carolsfeld woodcuts, ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use
Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis

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