“EXCEPT YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS EXCEED”
Text: Matt. 5:20
True righteousness is Godlikeness. It includes the qualities of a character which is acceptable to the absolute moral perfectness of God. The righteousness which Jesus required was in some essential respects higher than that which was current in the life of the Jewish people.
Like every great leader, Jesus was criticized because His philosophy of life. His exalted conception of righteousness made inroads and caused disturbances in the otherwise accepted customs and routine of the group. The most antagonistic group was the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Their accusations were many and varied: they accused Jesus of eating with publicans and sinners; they said He didn’t keep the Sabbath in an orthodox fashion; they denounced Jesus’ authority to forgive sins; in one instance, they accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub. They had reached the unfortunate place where they could see nothing but the base in Jesus.
Jesus denounced them by the use of some very distasteful terms–hypocrites, whited sepulchres, adulterous generation, offspring of vipers and snakes. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaimed to the multitude that unless their righteousness exceeded the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, they couldn’t see the Kingdom of Heaven.
If so faulty and inadequate righteousness characterized the Pharisees, and if the righteousness which Jesus demanded is so much higher, then a close examination is justifiable. What was the basis of their righteousness?
Body of Sermon:
1. Their righteousness was measured in terms of external, ritual forms…
2. The Pharisees sought justification in the overt act, not the motive prompting the act…