In last week’s reading, the temperature steadily increased day by day. We ended Day 4 with Jesus telling us to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Day 5 ended with the teachings of the narrow and wide gates, true and false prophets and disciples, and the wise and foolish builders. If we end our reading at week 1 there’s the risk of thinking the standards of Jesus and his kingdom are far too great for any of us to be welcome in it.
Week 2 invites us to follow Jesus as he heals a man with leprosy and calls a Roman officer’s faith greater than anyone in Israel. He restores two demon-possessed men that had been avoided by all others. Jesus even goes so far as to seek out a tax collector and call him to be one of his closest followers.
Is this the same Jesus who has standards so high that even the Pharisees could not attain the proper levels of righteousness?
Welcome to the contrast, tension, and necessity of God’s Kingdom.
Jesus has higher standards than anyone, greater love and mercy than anyone, and the inhuman ability to marry the two together. Jesus who is fully God and fully man shows us a shocking expression of God’s perfect standards and His perfect love all at once. This baffled the religious officials of his time and it baffles many of us today.
I want to invite you to see Jesus in both of these lights as we continue reading Matthew. Each emphasis has different implications for our lives, and both are incredibly important for our following Jesus. How have you managed this tension? How have you invited others to join you in doing the same?
-Jon Noto, Community Life Pastor