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Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

Our devotional reading for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany focuses on the Gospel text and is from Concordia Commentary: Matthew 1:1–11:1.

Scripture Readings

Deuteronomy 30:15–20
Psalm 119:1–8
1 Corinthians 3:1–9
Matthew 5:21–37

Read the propers for today on lutherancalendar.org.

Introduction

When Jesus explained the Torah to His disciples, He did so not to contradict the Law of Moses but to help His disciples see that He came to fulfill it. When you feel crushed by sin and burdened by the Law, may God remind you that because of Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law, you are forgiven for every sin and you can rest in God’s grace.

Devotional Reading

Before briefly considering the theology and application of Jesus’ teaching on doing and teaching God’s Torah commandments ([Matthew] 5:19) that is contained in 5:21–48 . . . hermeneutical issues should be addressed.

First, if Jesus’ sixfold saying “But I myself am saying to you” (5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44) involves a contrast of some sort between his authoritative revelation and something else, with what is Jesus making the contrast? Is the contrast between the Law of Moses and Jesus’ own teaching? Or is the Christ pitting his own authoritative interpretation of the Torah against current scribal interpretations of the same? . . .

Regarding the contrast, some interpreters argue strongly that Jesus’ teaching here is set as a contrast to the revelation that came through the Mosaic Law per se. However, at least three textual features lead us to a different conclusion: in 5:21–48, Jesus, the one who comes to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (5:17–18), is offering his disciples the true intention of the Law of Moses, in contrast to typical Jewish interpretations that Jesus’ hearers will have encountered in the first century.

First, when Jesus undeniably cites the OT Scriptures elsewhere in Matthew, he never says, “You heard that it was said” (which is the refrain in 5:21, 27, 33, 38, 43; a shortened version of that refrain is in 5:31). . . . Second, while I have argued above that 5:19 (and not 5:20) is, in the most important sense, the theme or heading or introduction for Jesus’ teaching in 5:21–48, Jesus’ reference in 5:20 to “the scribes and Pharisees” brings to the attention of readers/hearers typical ways that Jewish interpreters understood the Torah in Jesus’ era. Furthermore, the crowds’ reaction when the Sermon is complete does the same thing: “For he was teaching them with the conviction that he had authority, and not as their scribes [taught]” (7:29). While the evangelist’s words in 7:29 contrast the manner of Jesus’ teaching, rather than its specific content, other teachers in Judaism are explicitly in the foreground. Third, Jesus’ identity as the One who fulfills the Law and the Prophets and the important continuity between Torah and his own teaching (implied strongly in 5:17–20 and discussed in the commentary on those verses) support the position here taken, to wit, that Jesus is expounding the true meaning of God’s OT commandments.

To repeat, in answer to the first question, I conclude that in 5:21–48 what Jesus offers to his disciples as they seek to do and teach the commandments of God (5:19) is the proper, authoritative interpretation of the Torah. The Torah will remain unchanged until all things take place (5:18d)—and all things do take place in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Devotional reading is from Concordia Commentary: Matthew 1:1–11:1, pages 276–77 © 2006 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

 

Written by

Anna Johnson

Deaconess Anna Johnson is a marketing manager at Concordia Publishing House. After graduating from the deaconess program at Concordia University Chicago, she continued her studies at the University of Colorado—Denver in education and human development. She has worked as a church youth director and served a variety of other nonprofit organizations, such as the Lutheran Mission Society of Maryland. Anna loves playing video games and drinking a hot cup of tea almost as much as she loves her cat and her husband.

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