Exceeding Ourselves

In my days of high school sports I enjoyed participating in track meets.  I enjoyed the high jump event, however for those who know me you can quickly see I was not a likely high jumper.  In fact, I could barely clear the bar at its lowest setting, a humbling experience in tryouts!  But a friend on our team was pretty good at the high jump so I would watch the event closely, cheering for him.  As the competition went on the officials kept raising the bar inch by inch until even the best jumpers could no longer clear the bar.  Yes they could jump much higher than me but the officials always made sure even the best jumpers were humbled by the bar, and in the end no one could clear the bar, everyone had to relinquish to the forces of gravity and fall into the padded pit below the bar. 

In this Sunday’s gospel reading Jesus keeps setting the bar higher and higher on matters of sin.  But he is not doing this to terrify us; he is doing this to confront those who seemed to be claiming a victory over their own bar height of righteousness.   Jesus points clearly and candidly to the depth of human sinfulness, but he does so for all people, even to those who are claiming to jump very high.  Jesus sets the bar for keeping The Commandments at a God-only height, but only because that is also the height of his love for us.  And in his grace he wants ALL of us to know that our only way over that bar is through him and the cross-bar he once and for all cleared on top of a hill for us, all of us.  It’s not only about the height of the bar; it’s about how high Jesus lifts us over the sins of our lives.  

Is this the “righteousness that must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees” Jesus claims for us in verse 20, that leads us to this reading?

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