“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” –Matthew 5: 20
I marvel at this cutting remark that Jesus hurled at the religious leaders of His day. How can he, a mere son of a carpenter in the eyes of the locals, lash biting words at the entire religious system of the Jews?
Once again, I am amazed at the way Jesus preached. He doesn’t mince words when it comes to the truth. He was not preaching to please a crowd. He was declaring the full counsel of God and He did it fearlessly, as if the sensibilities of His hearers were just secondary to the urgency and truth of His message.
At its core, Jesus was dismissing the façade of piety among the religious. He was cutting to the chase. He didn’t have time to play the religious games people usually play. Salvation is more than a show of good manners, He says in effect. It is heart regeneration, it is real down to the very core of your being. It’s not something you can fake by acting a certain way.
I wonder how many scribes and Pharisees in the audience cringed at the sharp truth Jesus blasted that day. At the same time, I also wonder how pleasant it must have sounded to the ears of the common people who were fed up with the hypocrisy of their religious leaders.
More importantly, I could imagine how Jesus’ message felt like a balm to the sick, the weary, the broken, the confused and those who needed a more authentic way to live out their godly convictions.