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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 5:17–20

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (NRSV)

These strong words from Jesus come on the heels of the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel, a small snippet from the powerful Sermon on the Mount. Though Jesus begins by upending much of what one might expect—“the meek shall inherit the earth,” “those who mourn will be comforted,” “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled”—he also takes care to assert that this does not mean that God is throwing out the Law. Instead, Jesus states that he has come to “fulfill” it—a powerful term for Matthew that declares that Jesus is the embodiment of God’s living Word.

Although this passage was once likely directed at criticism that Jesus and his followers would have received from the Sadducees and Pharisees, it’s also not hard to find resonance for our lives today. Though God’s grace extends farther than we might even imagine, that is not meant to be some sort of carte blanche for us to behave however we want. If we truly desire to follow God, then God’s commands, Jesus’ teachings, and the movement of the Holy Spirit should guide our steps each and every day. We may not will not always live up to God’s aspirations for us, but Jesus’ sharp rhetoric reminds us that we do indeed have a high calling as his followers.

God of call and challenge, although I might grumble at times about how difficult your road is, I give thanks that you expect and hope for so much from me. Help me in those times when I stumble, and empower me to stand again. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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