Exceeding Righteousness

Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Kenosha, Wisconsin
Trinity 6 (June 29, 2008)
Matthew 5:20-26 and Romans 6:3-11

For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE

TITLE: “You are who Christ is”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.  Our text for today is the Gospel lesson just read concerning how Christ fulfills the Law, and what that means for you and I today.  Dearly baptized,

One of the great tactics of children everywhere is what we might call the delayed request.  If a child asks for something and the answer is no, the child waits.  Sometimes they don’t wait very long, but they wait.  Then they ask again.  And again.  And again.  The hope is that somehow the answer will be different each time.  Albert Einstein put it this way: Insanity (is) doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

This is how we by nature view God’s Law.  If we don’t like the Law, we ask again.  Or look for a different interpretation or a different book.  We hunt and peck and search and whine and dig and do anything we can to try and find a loophole or an exception, so that we can get what we want.  It is the American way.  If you don’t like the rules, change the rules or throw out the rule-book.  It is the human way since Adam and Eve, asking with the serpent if God really said what He said.  It is your way, every time you try to wiggle out of what you know is right and true and good, and seek the easy way, the less painful way, the way that gets you what you want.

God knows this about you and I, of course.  He has always known this, and so that there will be no mistaking His holy intent and purpose, God delivered His Law to the hands of Moses on Mount Sinai.  There is no variation or change in God’s Law.  It is consistent.  It is good.  As the hymnist wrote:

You have this Law to see therein
That you have not been free from sin
But also that you clearly see
How pure toward God life should be.
Have mercy, Lord! (LSB 581:11)

God delivers His Law to you in His Holy Word.  This Law is what is best for you.  Always.  There is never a time when God’s Law will be bad for you.  It is always good, always holy, always perfect.  It is always best for you.

But like the Israelites before us, we don’t accept this basic reality.  We believe, like that four year old, that if we keep asking God long enough, that we’ll get the answer we want.  It is the insanity of unbelief, to think that God will give us what is bad for us simply because we ask it of Him.

This is what Jesus speaks of when He tells His disciples: “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 ESV)  In order to gain heaven, your righteousness must be greater than any righteousness on earth, any righteousness ever known in the history of the world.  In order to gain heaven, your righteousness must exceed all expectations.  It must be perfect.

And it is.  Oh to be sure, this righteousness of yours does not come from you.  Left to your own devices, you will never attain heaven.  The holiness of God is too high to attain of your own accord.  But you do not attain it yourself.  Hear again the words of St. Paul:

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4 ESV)

The key to your salvation lies in the Law, but not the Law you keep.  The key to your salvation lies in the Law which Jesus Christ our Lord, kept for you.  His righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees and indeed the whole world.  His righteousness is holy, perfect, complete in every way.  His righteousness is your righteousness, deliver to you in Holy Baptism.  You have been joined with Him at the font, so that now God’s righteousness is joined to you, and your unholiness and unrighteousness is left outside the gate, nailed to the cross of God’s Son.

What this means for you, dearly baptized, is that you are redeemed.  You are Christ’s.  You belong to Him, and He has given all things to you in His body and precious blood.  Rejoice and be glad, dearly beloved!  God’s Law, which we still do not fully understand this side of the grave, has been kept for you.  Jesus is your redeemer, your Law-keeper, your life-giver, and your righteousness.  Rejoice and be glad, for God’s plan for you is rich and deep.  He will deliver His gifts to you via His Word.  The Law is kept.  You are free in His sight.  Free, holy and beloved.  Believe it for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting.  Amen.

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