Matthew 5:17-24 Sermon – Righteousness Fulfilled

In this sermon Tim talks about righteousness, and Jesus’ call to us to have righteousness greater than the Pharisees, a righteousness that flows from the inside out, from our heart rather than external religion. He then goes onto to talk about what Jesus says about anger, and how we can be peacemakers and righteous in that area!

Sermon preached by Tim Giovanelli on Sunday February 22, 2021.

05/02/23 – John 12:20-33 Following Jesus & Intro – by Tim Giovanelli – The Farewell Discourse Series Manly Life Church Podcast

In this sermon Tim introduces us to our first sermon series in 2023, The Farewell Discourse Series – messages from John 12-17! Tim helps us understand who John is and the book itself leading up to chapter 12, before diving into chapter 12 vs 20-33 and what it means to follow Jesus! We can't wait for this series so make sure you stay tuned each week! SERMON NOTES: Sermon preached by Tim Giovanelli on Sunday February 5, 2023. Find out more here: Find us on Facebook here:
  1. 05/02/23 – John 12:20-33 Following Jesus & Intro – by Tim Giovanelli – The Farewell Discourse Series
  2. 29/01/23 – The Glory of Christ – Greg Beech
  3. 22/01/23 – Luke 15:1-8 God's Heart for the Lost – by Lani Daniel
  4. 15/01/23 – 1 John 4:11 Friendship In Church by Tim Giovanelli
  5. 08/01/23 – Philipians 3:17-4:4 Stand Firm in 2023 – by Peter Brooks


Well today I want to read to you the entire Sermon on the Mount again

  • Haha, just kidding. We have to stop making that joke.
  • We are doing a series on what did Jesus teach… about discipleship… his life being formed within us. 
  • Brilliant message from Greg… they are all going up on the church website and on spotify… so stay on track with us…
  • And Greg exhorted us that in order to be salt and light in the world, we need to have Christ formed within us…. And that comes through engaging with Jesus 
  • And allowing the values of the beatitudes amongst other things to displace our cultural allegiances. 
  • I wonder how you have gone with that this last week?
  • Do you sense mercy and meekness and peacemaking forming within you?

Let’s listen to the next section – Matthew 5:17-24

17 “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.18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Well we come to the next section of what Jesus taught, in the sermon on the mount.

  • And I think it is probably the most difficult section to wrestle with.
  • It talks about our righteousness exceeding that of the religious leaders of Jesus day
  • And we get these very challenging teachings on murder and anger, marriage and lust, broken down relationships…
  • And the bar for righteousness seems to be set at an almost unreachable level. 
  • Not murder… ok I can do that… but not be angry?

And I think what Jesus is doing in this section is getting to the reality of the human condition and what really diminishes a persons life, or allows it to thrive. 

  • If the kingdom that he is bringing from heaven to earth is about wholeness and peace and life…
  • Then what reduces our humanity? As image bearers of God, what stuffs up our lives?
  • What are the big issues of life that will either mean you are a flourishing human being, or you are or become a counterfeit of your true humanity?
  • What do I mean by that?

Victoria and her sister who is here from New York at the moment, were watching a show called Inventing Anna on Netflix the other night. 

  • And somehow I got through a whole episode…
  • But anyhow, there was this scene between a journalist and a fashion designer. And basically straight away he identifies that her clothes are cheap knock offs of expensive brands.
  • Now to an untrained eye, it probably would have looked like the real thing, but to him who knew what the real deal was…
  • He immediately noticed that the patterns didn’t line up at the seams, and the material was lower quality. 
  • So her clothes looked like the real thing, but actually were a counterfeit version…

And much of modern life or even dare I say it, our lives… is counterfeit to the real thing God created us to be… 

  • We become a cheap knock off of the real thing God created us to be. 
  • And what Jesus is going to do, is go beyond the legal requirements or laws we may try to follow in order to be seen to be doing the right thing
  • To the heart of the matter of that which really diminishes our lives. 
  • Are you with me?

Jesus is so for you in this section. You got to believe that. It might seem tough teaching, but he is so, so for you!

  • Because what I see, is he wants you to flourish and to avoid the pitfalls of the broken inner life. 
  • He is forming a new humanity…
  • And he wants us to avoid just having the appearance of righteousness… but to actually develop true inner righteousness. 

So Jesus addresses the big things in this next section which we will set up today and go into more detail in the next few weeks. 

  • Right, not just don’t murder but watch out for a life riddled with anger.
  • Right, not just don’t divorce and commit adultery, but watch out for a life saturated in lust
  • Right not just swearing oaths, but let your speech be truthful.
  • Right, don’t just limit your retaliation, but actually bless and go the extra mile for those who seek to harm you. 
  • OK?

When we think of Jesus message, or what did he teach, we often think of love, or forgiveness, or mercy… but I wonder if we think of him as a preacher of righteousness?

  • And yet, Jesus heart is for righteousness amongst his followers… would you agree?
  • So what is this? 
  • Maybe we think of righteousness as seriousness… I don’t know?
  • Maybe a rule keeping life… a holier than thou type existence?
  • Maybe even a party pooper life! Or being a do-gooder… is that righteousness?
  • But Jesus exalts and demands righteousness for those who would follow him…

We’ve seen this already in the sermon on the mount in the beatitudes…

  • Already he has said blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Right? Blessed are those whose appetites are transformed towards righteousness…
  • And blessed are those persecuted for righteousness. Right? 
  • Blessed are those who because of this righteousness begin to cop it from the rest of the world for how they live…
  • And now today… “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

So what on earth is righteousness and why is this so important in understanding how we might flourish as opposed to living a diminished, broken life? 

Well, righteousness is a relational word….

  • It’s meaning is right relationship – being in sync with someone… no outstanding issues or resentments or debts owed… if you have a righteous relationship with someone… 
  • You are all good man! 
  • This is having right relatedness…
  • So if I hurt Victoria’s feelings, we are no longer righteous! But if she forgives me… we become righteous again… we restore our right relatedness… 

So yes righteousness is about morally right behaviour. A way of ethical living…

  • But notice that when Jesus expands on what righteousness looks like, it all relates to our relationships… 
  • Our anger, our lusts, our falling out with people. 
  • So righteousness is not an ethical philospophy… it is grounded in the nitty gritty, earth reality of how we relate to one another…

So Jesus says, If you’re righteousness doesn’t exceed the pharisees, you wont inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Now of course the deeper theme in the New Testament is that we have imputed righteousness given to us through Jesus death on the cross.

  • The thing that makes our relationship right with God is the gift of forgiveness that we have not earned. 
  • That is why Paul will say in Romans “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”
  • He goes on to say “in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed.”
  • Are you still with me?
  • So Paul is saying in the gospel the way that God brings righteousness… right relationship to us has been revealed. 
  • You and God can be “all good” because of this good news about Jesus. He has dealt with the stuff that separated us. 
  • Our sin. On the cross. 

So obviously Jesus in his ethical teaching is going to expound on what it looks like to have right relationships. As those given righteousness, what does God require in our relationships?

Now in this section, Jesus for the first time, makes himself the center of the message…

  • “I have come… 4 times “I have come”, or “but I tell you…”
  • So with no appeal to any higher authority… he begins to redefine the meaning of the law.
  • I have come… not to abolish the OT, but to fulfil. Not to destroy but to complete…

Now this is cool, because clearly in what Jesus is about to teach, he is upsetting the old order of things…

  • But he say, you must not ever think I have come to abolish… but I have come to fulfil God’s original intent for the law!
  • Now that is clearer for us with what he says about fulfilling the prophets. 
  • As we saw in Isaiah, the prophets announce God’s character and his great plans to move in history, through the coming one… especially on the side of the righteous and poor. 
  • The longings of the prophets are going to be fulfilled.
  • In Matthew, 13 times, the gospel writer sees something in Jesus and says this was to fulfil the prophets… text after text after text…

But he has come not just to fulfil the prophets, but also the law? 

  • Now you most likely know bits of the law from the Old Testament like the 10 commandments.
  • Thou shall not murder, thou shall not commit adultery, thou shall not covet your neighbours possessions 
  • And the point of all of those is to govern how a society do life together…
  • Right? 
  • If we do these things and keep many of the other laws… it’s a good thing right…

But Jesus wants to go further… to the underlying conditions of the human heart… 

  • You see you could keep the law and look like you are living an ethical life… but what about the inner condition of your life that really governs your reality. 
  • That’s what the Pharisees were criticized by Jesus for. Outwardly they kept the commandments, but their hearts were not following the intent of the law. 
  • Jesus is going to go after the true meaning of the law. 
  • It wasn’t meant just for restraining chaos or evil… but for bringing right relatedness to human relationships and towards God. (repeat)

So let’s take one for example today and do the other fulfillers in the next few weeks…

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. 

So how might our righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees?

  • Well you might keep the law by never murdering anyone throughout your life…
  • But Jesus is saying, what good is keeping the law if actually on the inside you are riddled with anger and resentment and bitterness?
  • Right? That would be a counterfeit life… it may look good to the outsider, but the reality is that it is a cheap knock off of what God really wants to do with you. 
  • God desires righteousness… he desires right relatedness in your relationships and inner being. 

So you have heard it said… but I say to you! Come on Jesus. Go after my heart! Get it. Fix it. Transform it!

  • Go beyond mere words and codes and laws and go after what you have created me for!
  • A clean heart and righteous relationships… 
  • So that is why Jesus says this relates to inheriting the kingdom of heaven. 
  • Jesus kingdom is not just about external conformity to the law… but to right relationships and the condition of our hearts!

Remember Christmas… Matthew 1 and the angel appears to Joseph and says Mary will give birth to a son named Jesus, which means “he will save his people from their sins.”

  • On the cross – yes…
  • But in his teaching in the sermon on the mount he is saving us from our sins! 
  • Do you agree?
  • On the cross we get imputed righteousness… a gift… right relationship with God through faith. 
  • But in the sermon on the mount Jesus is saving us from our sins too!
  • He is saving us from the stuff that diminishes our lives like anger, lust and revenge… 
  • Amen?

In the Greek, there are two different words that are translated as anger. 

  • The first is thumous… it has been described as like the flame that comes from dried straw… quickly combustible… but goes out… 
  • The second word we translate as anger from the Greek is Org-ay: anger that has settled in our hearts and minds… anger that we nurse to keep warm…. (PAUSE) 
  • Yeah…
  • It is the second word Org-ay that Jesus uses in his sermon. 

In the gospels we see Jesus get thumous… turning over tables of money makers in the temple. 

  • So there are probably good reasons to be angry… to feel anger at injustice or wrong doing…
  • But the issue is what we do with the anger… do we let it stew…. Do we lie in bed at night having endless conversations… putting people in their places…
  • Do we allow it to bubble out so that we hurt the other… through gossip and put downs and even violence…

Now Jesus does the application for us… he teaches us how to deal with it…

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

This is the natural implication of Jesus dealing with our inner condition… stop your worship and go and be reconciled…

  • This is righteousness… fixing your relationships matters to God. 
  • Because our relationship with God is profoundly intertwined with our relationship with each other…
  • Again what is righteousness? It is our right relatedness to each other. 
  • That is why Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in the Cost of Discipleship that when I erect a barrier between me and you, I am erecting a barrier between me and God. 
  • So leave holy pretenses behind until you are first willing to reconcile with a brother or sister!

Now I am aware of the many challenges that Jesus raises… and we’ve not even got to the section in the coming weeks on marriage and divorce and revenge and…

  • But my guess is when it even comes to anger you have hundreds of “but what if’s” 
  • But what if I should be angry…
  • What if the other person wont respond… 
  • What if I’ve been the victim of an unspeakable crime…
  • What is the other person has already died…

And I’ll confess that I have broken and strained relationships… 

  • Some I have tried to restore….
  • But if I am honest some I have not… I’m quite good at nursing a bit of anger and resentment…
  • But I need to believe that in this teaching Jesus is so, so for me… he wants this new life of the kingdom to form within me…
  • And if we let all the “but what if” questions constantly get in the way… we will never get to the life of the kingdom. 

So as I come into land… are you hungering and thirsting for righteousness?

  • There is too much at stake to just acknowledge this teaching on murder and anger and reconciliation… and just move on.
  • Is it beginning to take shape in your mind what this might look like?
  • We need to allow the Spirit of God to come in and begin renewing our humanity. 
  • You may get to end of your life and have never majorly broken the law!
  • Then again you may… but too many of us allow anger and resentment and bitterness to consume our humanity and diminish our lives…
  • Jesus is calling you higher…
  • Jesus has come to move you into the fulfilment of the prophets and the law. 


Published by timgiovanelli

My wife Victoria and I are planting a new church in Manly, NSW

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