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Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

But on the other hand, do not think that I have come to completely affirm everything in the Law or Prophets either. There are stories in the Old Testament that did not happen as they are recorded. Sometimes, God’s people thought they heard the voice of God, but were mistaken. Other times, ancient people used God to justify their violence and exclusion. We can still read those parts of the Hebrew Bible and learn how unenlightened people used to think, but those sections are best corrected or set aside.

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Obviously, this is a bit of an overstatement–Jewish hyperbole, poetic license, that sort of thing. By “jots and tittles” I don’t mean every bit of chronology, cosmology, or history. I’m just trying to say that the Old Testament is still really important and that it points to me. But whether, say, the exodus happened like it says in Exodus, or if Isaiah made any predictive prophesies, or whether the whole storyline of the Old Testament is out of whack–that kind of thing is not terribly important.

Therefore whoever relaxes 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.

Again, let me clarify: I’m not actually against relaxing some of the more outdated commandments. After all, who doesn’t like relaxing! I don’t want my disciples getting hung up on minutia. As long as you are concerned about love–whatever you understand that to be–I wouldn’t worry about the particulars. People need relationships not rules, you know.

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

In hindsight, this is probably not the best way to express myself. I’m sorry for anyone who was hurt by the whole “never enter the kingdom of heaven” bit. That’s just an figure of speech for “the best way to live!” And I apologize if the righteousness piece felt legalistic. When I talk about hungering after righteousness or pursuing righteousness I’m thinking more on a cosmic level, not so much about your personal holiness. The only righteousness I expect to see from you is being right enough to know you are wrong. Look, the last thing I want is for people to get uptight with the Bible and start freaking out about doing everything by the book.

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were super cool with his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had a realistic understanding of the Bible and helped the disciples feel better about themselves.


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60 thoughts on “What Jesus Didn’t Say”

  1. Curt Day says:

    Mark,
    Your note is confusing. For part of it indicates that you agree with my 2nd comment while another part indicates that you don’t.

  2. Jeff Atnip says:

    After reading some of this comment string and many others like it, I have come to realize that there are a good percentage of our population who were born without the ability to understand and appreciate satire. It would make for some interesting psychological studies. Maybe someone could post two stories that make the same point, but one uses satire and the other just lays it all out there with full explanations. Then record the reactions of a population of readers.

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  4. P Duggan says:

    You can kinda fit Jesus statement into a “moral/civil/ceremonial framework” if you squint at it and don’t think too hard about it.

    The bible can have the distinction in in in places. The question, is Jesus making any such distinction HERE? Since he includes *every* stroke of the pen of Torah and the LEAST commandment, I think its pretty hard to read him as ONLY including the moral law. He has to include the civil and ceremonial laws too.

    (which is what he did: its not like he and his followers went around eating pork right away)

    Which makes the kind of parody DeYoung engages in here a bit less biting. In deYoung’s view, you have to see this as hyperbole. But I don’t think that can work in this case.

  5. George D says:

    KEVIN,

    The Lord did of course say, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.: And of course He really meant it, as this post reminds us.

    BUT — for all who may not know, tell us how our righteousness can exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. I’m still only getting about a C+ on my best days, and an F on others (graded of course with no curve, where 100 is the only passing score.

  6. P duggan says:

    George D:

    Do you devour widows houses? Do you make long prayers in public as a pretense? Do you consider yourself superior to everyone else and look down on other sinners as unworthy of God, not like you? Are you a whitewashed sepulcher?

    if not, you’re doing better than the pharisees.

  7. George D says:

    Hello P. Duggan,

    Well no, I don’t do any of the things you mentioned but my problem (and may I suggest as kindly as possible, your problem as well as Kevin’s and everyone else’s) is that none of us (I-you-we-them) can get anywhere near the required grade of 100 even on our best days — but even if we had a few days that were 100s, the problem is the others that are 78s, 42s, and so on. As one old drunk said to another at a tent revival after a sermon on keeping the Ten Commandments, “Well at least I ain’t made no graven images.”

    My point was that when we tell folks that Jesus really did mean what He said about exceeding the legalists’ righteousness, He had to be referring to putting on the robe of perfect righteousness with which all true believers are dressed and fit for entry to Heaven. Otherwise He was saying that Heaven could be gained by our own good deeds, which of course is flatly contradicted by Scripture over and over. This does not in any way diminish the Lord’s call to pursue holiness as one of His followers, but rather acknowledges that we will be declared righteous because we are “dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the Throne.”

    In contemporary terms, I need a Savior, not a life-coach. What about you?

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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