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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 6: Matthew 5:21-7:29, by Kevin M. Williams

“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

This is a heady statement! The scribes and Pharisees were well known for their meticulous attention to righteous living, for adhering to every minutia real and imagined. We find this true with each religious debate Yeshua has with them in the gospel accounts. They all relate to what are referred to as the “weightier points of Torah.” Elsewhere, Yeshua admonishes:

“The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe” (Matthew 23:2-3).

How can these last two quotations be reconciled? How can obeying the Pharisees and scribes on the one hand keep us from turning out like them on the other? How can we be more “spiritual” than they were and enter the kingdom of heaven?

Again, the promised Messiah has the answers:

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell” (Matthew 5:21-22).

What is Yeshua teaching? The Torah! In what may be the most concise exegesis on Exodus 20:14 ever written, He says that the flesh can keep the Law while the heart breaks it. Does Yeshua annul the Torah? Hardly. In fulfilling it He makes the Torah more challenging!

Most people can refrain from murdering someone, but we are capable of calling people “raca” (empty headed fools) on a routine basis, whether speaking of the President of the United States, the boss, a teacher, a neighbor, or a family member—and we think nothing of committing this type of “spiritual murder.” Our righteousness does not “surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees,” only our arrogant self-righteousness.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery;’ but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

Again, avoiding adultery is an achievable task. It is achieved by millions of men and women on a daily basis. But Yeshua lifts this Torah above the carnal and into the cranial. To even look on a woman with desire is to break God’s teaching—the Torah—and be found guilty.

Perhaps the first time we see this principle at play is in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:6: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate . . .” It was not eating of the fruit that got her into trouble—it was looking at it that started her on the slippery slope. To this point she had been able to avoid eating what was forbidden. It was only when she set her gaze upon it with desire that she began to rationalize her thoughts and feelings.

God proclaims “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach … The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). In other words, if used properly, the spirit of the Torah is easy to “do.” It is not so easy however, to incorporate into one’s “being.” This is where we find the friction between Law and grace. This is the difference between having the Law written on the heart or having it written on stone. This is where we find the instruction of Yeshua.

And it was said, ‘Whoever sends away his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce;’ but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Matthew 5:31-32).

Once again, Yeshua does what the Messiah was supposed to do—“fulfill the Law.” By Hebraic application, he adds to our understanding of the words on the tablets of stone and applies them to the tablets of our hearts.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Summer 2002

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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