“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matt. 5:21-22)
How does Jesus’ preaching contrast with the Law of Moses? Jesus came to fulfill the Law, to fulfill the Scriptures, not to abolish them. Jesus fulfilled the Law on our behalf, as He was the only one who was able to follow the Law to perfection. He fulfilled it with His life of righteousness, death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.
But Jesus also came to fulfill the Law by bringing out its authoritative and true sense. Godliness is not a matter of mere outward acts and good deeds. The religious leaders of the 1st century Jews who heard Jesus preach taught that it was essential for one to obey the letter of the Law, no more, no less. They believed that scrupulous adherence to every rule and nuance of the Law, as they interpreted it, was essential to righteousness.
What Jesus taught was more stringent than the Law, and nearly impossible to any human being to fulfill. He taught that the attitude of the heart, what a person thinks and believes is essential to God’s Law, not mere actions or the keeping of rules. That is why the man who entertains lustful thoughts about a woman is just as guilty as the one who has committed the physical act of adultery (or fornication), and the one who is angry or disrespectful toward another is just as guilty as the murderer. If our hearts are right with God we will do what is right and in accordance with His will because He enables us to do so.