Thoughts on Matthew 5:48
Here is the sum of all that Jesus has said thus far in the Sermon on the Mount, and the prerequisite to enter into the Kingdom of heaven: “You therefore must be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” It’s the highest and most impossible call for us fallen humans with an inherited sin nature. Yet, Jesus’ words are true and the standard has been set. Any hopes of entering the Kingdom of Heaven based on external actions, religiosity or good deeds have been smashed to bits (at least in the minds of those who are able to see the pervasiveness and magnitude of their sin). If Jesus were to have been taken up into heaven at the moment He concluded this first half of the Sermon on the Mount and left humanity to hopelessly strive for sinless perfection, everyone would be lost … eternally.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,..” (Ephesians 2:4-6) This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the only hope we have. When we are broken by the weight of our sin and see Jesus, the Messiah, standing with outstretched, nail-pierced hands, the cross upon which He bore the punishment for our sins looming larger and larger, it’s then, when we hear His call, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” that freedom from slavery to sin and death are realized, our hearts of stone are removed and replaced with hearts of flesh, faith is ignited in our new hearts, and our mouths are opened and we confess Christ as Lord and rejoice in songs of thanksgiving to our Savior.
There’s so much that happens in that moment, and it’s all the grace of God working salvation in us and sealing us with His Holy Spirit. It’s what happens next that Jesus really gets after in the second half of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus focuses in on holy living as it relates to prayer, fasting, tithing, supplication, good works, judging, interpersonal relationships and other topics. As I have said before and as we will continue to see, the things to which Jesus calls us are not possible without Him as our Lord and savior, empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit. Thus, the call is first to believe the Gospel and “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” and then to let all the other things fall into place as we walk with and in obedience to Him. May our prayer today be to abide in Him, and He in us that we may love Him, love others, and, ultimately, bring Him glory.