THE WEEK OF TRINITY VI – SUNDAY
LESSON: MATTHEW 5:20-26
“I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20
The scribes and Pharisees led a life of such a kind that both they themselves as well as other people were of the opinion that they would gain the kingdom of heaven as a result. But they were very wide of the mark. Christ censures them and tells His disciples that, unless their righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, they will never even enter the kingdom of heaven.
This naturally prompts the question, “What then shall we do to become righteous?” Here all works that any man can perform are given up and abrogated, and the most pious exponents of work-righteousness are struck down. No work can ever be performed whereby any man can save himself and rescue himself from sin. To make this statement today invites the charge of heresy.
There were certainly also those who would have been inclined to say to Christ here: “You are a heretic; do you really want to reject good works?” Christ is not disturbed by the possibility of such a charge. He openly concludes that the works of the scribes and Pharisees are worthless and nothing in God’s sight. These men, too, may have felt like answering Christ here with a counterargument, “If works do not make a man righteous before God, why do we have the Law through which we have good reason to trust that we will save ourselves, provided that we obey it in our lives?” This gives Christ a reason for introducing a discussion on the commandments in His Sermon on the Mount.
SL 11:1336 (3-4)
PRAYER: In Your revelation of the Gospel, heavenly Father, You have shown us with the utmost clarity that all reliance on our own efforts to gain righteousness in Your sight are vain and hopeless. May we always trust Your promises and assurances in firm faith and reliance, and thereby experience the full joy of salvation, in and through our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Editor’s note: No American Edition (AE) equivalent for today’s sermon excerpt exists at the time of this publication. For an alternate English translation of this sermon, see Lenker, Church Postil—Gospels, 4:167-178.