“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. 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. 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. 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.
Often the Pharisees and teachers of the law come in for harsh criticism from Jesus. Indeed, Jesus calls them 'whitewashed selpulchres' in Matthew 23, 'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.' That is the highlight of 7 critiques in that chapter. Yet, here is Jesus saying that we ought to be more righteous than them. What does Jesus mean? Perhaps it is this. The Pharisees knew it was vitally important to live according to God's will and ordinances. Some say that they tried to do this by a zealous and strict obedience to the Law of Moses, and that practise rather than faith was a key element in their understanding. Jesus is telling us to live out what we believe....
Lord Jesus, may we be made righteous. Amen.