Every speech has a central thesis, a big idea around which everything else is organized. In this passage, we come to the central thesis of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This is the blazing center, the beating heart of the upside-down Way of Jesus. In these 111 words (in Greek) we find the big idea that turned the world on its head.
This sermon address three organizing questions:
- Why is Jesus explaining Himself? Jesus came not to “abolish” or “relax” the righteous requirements of God, but that they might be “fulfilled” and “accomplished.” And to drive His point home, Jesus affirms the enduring importance of the Law of God with two definitive statements: the Word of God stands forever and all of it will be accomplished; and, because the Kingdom of Heaven is “at hand” in Jesus’ coming, the righteous requirements of the Law and Prophets are upheld. So what must we do to become righteous?
- What is the righteousness God requires? If our righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, what kind of righteousness is required? To be truly right before God, we need real goodness on the inside, flowing outwardly into all our relationships so that the people around us are drawn into a life of devotion toward God and justice toward one another. This kind of true righteousness springs from our hearts and permeates all of life. The problem is that this in unattainable on our own. We can try our hardest to be righteous, but unless our hearts are made right, all our efforts are just sin management. Our behavior is the symptom, but our hearts are the problem. Is there any hope?
- How do we become truly righteous? Jesus says: change your thinking and whole way of living, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, on offer, in Me. You see, Jesus came, not to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them in Himself. The righteous requirements of God were fully met in Jesus. He is the righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, and His righteousness is freely offered to all who will trust in Him. All we need to do is come to Jesus. The salvation Jesus offers us provides justification, sanctification, and glorification. By grace through faith in Christ, we are the righteousness of God in Him, we are becoming the righteousness of God by the Spirit, and we will truly be like God in glory.
Takeaway: God intends to make us like Himself.
God is in the business of taking ordinary, sinful, hopeless people and turning us into glorious sons and daughters of God. The righteousness of God is our past, present, and future by grace, through faith, in Christ.