Matthew 5:13–26 (NKJV)
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Jesus has just described the blessed life associated with certain characteristics of living the Christian life. He now describes these two similitudes to go along with the beautitudes. Christians are salt and light, two very necessary elements of life. Describing them as a seasoning, preserving substance speaks to the nature of one’s witness for Christ. Describing them as light (illuminating, warming, etc.) speaks to the piercing, transformational nature of the Christian witness. Either way, Christians are called upon to make a difference, to transform the environment, to change the culture around them.
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus here describes His relationship to the law. He came to fulfil the law. The reader has already noticed in book of Matthew several instances where Christ fulfilled prophecies concerning Him from the Old Testament. This statement completes the picture. Jesus is not necessarily on earth to create a new religion, but rather to fulfill the incomplete and veiled revelation of God provided through the Old Testament by correcting and fulfilling its purpose. He is the Messiah. He is the Christ, and as such can interpret, complete, and fulfill the whole purpose of the Bible and God’s plan. Jesus states that His purpose is to fulfill. This does not necessarily mean that He is just the fulfillment of prophecy, but–as one can see in the next passages–He has come to truly interpret the law and prophets in the way God intended, not the adulterated view that many of the teachers of the law have propagated.
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.
Jesus begins His discussion of what scholars call “six antitheses” with an explanation of what murder truly means. Each of the antitheses follows a “you have heard it said…but I say to you” formula to explain what has been understood versus what Jesus intends to be understood. In this case, the nature of murder is expanded to include the internal hatred or resentment that is tantamount to murder on an emotional level. The remedy for such an emotion is to reconcile oneself to the person he or she feels such feelings toward, and then come to the altar to reconcile with God. Jesus even admonishes the reader to reconcile with adversaries on the way to the judge for the adjucation of a matter to avoid possible judicial action or guilt. Make things right between you and brothers, and between you and adversaries.
This begins a grouping of six expositions of Scripture that Jesus–in opposition to conventional wisdom and teaching–corrects and fulfills beginning with the law’s prohibition of murder. Jesus exhibited how to live these principles every day. His sinless life shows the way, and His powerful teaching tells us the way. Follow Him, for He is the Way!
Artwork from https://biblia.com/bible/hcsb/Matthew%205.16