This section is known as “the antitheses” – where Jesus gives His teaching on the key instructions in Torah. This was something rabbis did all the time, usually citing many, many other rabbis along the way. Jesus quotes no one, and in all of the teachings He makes the requirements of the Law even HIGHER. He teaches that the right actions of His disciples must SURPASS the Pharisees – who were very good at keeping the Law! This higher righteousness is possible because Jesus is talking about the inner intentions – the sins that happen in the heart – lust, anger, unfaithfulness – before they become actions. God’s plan in Jesus is for us to be changed from the inside out.
Here comes the problem – Christians don’t take the teachings of Christ seriously enough. We cling to the cross (a good thing), and use it as an excuse to sin. Jesus will forgive us and love us, so we decide we don’t have to work very hard. Then we come to Matthew 5, and we don’t know what to do with these verses, this teaching of Christ, our Lord.
Jesus demands ALL of who we are. His grace is unlimited, and His calling and demand is unlimited – He is God, and He died for us, and He deserves nothing less. Nothing less will transform who we are. He died not so we would have an excuse for sin, but so that the Holy Spirit would live inside of us and change us from the inside – change even our desire to sin. We have misunderstood the cross, and the mission of Jesus.
Obedience is not optional. We don’t earn salvation – we follow Jesus every day.