Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
Understanding the Law
In our text for today, Jesus does not discard the law. Instead, he interprets the law by teaching that the laws are not mere rules. They are actually the way to being in right relationship with God and with neighbor.
As Jesus cuts through the people’s understanding of the law and redefines the breaking of God’s law, even as he shoots down their false sense of security from the consequences of sin, he begins to teach them God’s Good News. Their wrong belief that they would be deemed innocent by God if they did not physically commit a sin named in the law came into focus, as he made it clear that God does not judge the outside appearance alone, but he also judges the heart and the intent of the heart.
In the midst of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cuts cleanly into the heart of the law. He does not oppress the people by imposing the rules. Instead he invites all to a holy life, teaching that true disciples are those who commit themselves to practicing an inner holiness. He teaches that inner holiness can come only from God, as he clearly defines the simple truth that it is not possible to be at one with God unless you are at one with your neighbor.
Being Jesus’ disciple is not about being in bondage to regulations. Being Jesus’ disciple is about living an abundant life, unburdened by grudges, bitterness, greed, lust, or dishonesties. Being Jesus’ disciple is about building others up instead of tearing them down. It is about making it right with others when we’ve done it wrong. It’s about living into the truth of God’s Good News.
Cheryl Cottingham, pastor,
Immanuel New Eden Moravian Church,
Winston-Salem, North Carolina