I. When our parish speaks of “putting Jesus first,” it is because of what Jesus reveals in our Gospel today
A. Jesus places himself first,
1. ahead of all tradition – “you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times… but I say to you”
2. ahead of all God-given laws, even the X Commandments – “you have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not murder… You shall not commit adultery…’ But I say to you”
3. ahead of all social and cultural norms – “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate…’ But I say to you”
4. ahead of all spiritual practices – “Again you have heard it said, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord…’ But I say to you”
II. What authority does Jesus cite for these radical sayings?
1. He does not claim a new revelation from God
2. He does not critique the old laws
3. He does not present a list of new laws
4. He does not make any case or argument for his position
5. He simply says, “I say to you”
III. What are the implications of what he is doing in this passage?
A. He speaks as God, claiming in himself all authority over everything.
1. C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity":
People often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say.
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
B. Because he is divine and we are not, our attempts to follow him will always be marked by misunderstanding and even failure.
1. The Confession: “We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.” I suspect that few of us need to stretch very much to say that.
2. His demands for inner purity and renunciation of anything that we put ahead of him make us shake our heads in disbelief. None of us meet his standard of righteousness.
IV. What, then, is the good news of “But I say to you”?
A. Let me put it this way: We have heard it said, “Your anger is as bad as murder and your lust is as bad as adultery, and you should be cutting off parts that cause you to sin.” But Jesus, on his own authority, says to us… "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."(John 6:51). He is the living bread that makes us new within, his is the flesh that is broken for sin.
B. When we come to the altar for Communion, he doesn’t hand out tracts, or gold stars for good behavior, or mark us with a red pen for flaws. He gives us himself.