Psalm of the Day: 28
The Old Testament Lesson: Exodus 20: 1-17
The Epistle Lesson: Romans 6: 3-11
The Gospel Lesson: Matt. 5: 20-26
Hymns: 342, 389, 371, 412
Trinity 6 Introit: The Lord is the Strength of His people.  He is the saving Strength of His Anointed.   Save Your people and bless Your inheritance, shepherd them and bear them up forever.   To You I will cry, O Lord, my Rock: do not be silent to me, Lest, if You are silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.
Trinity 6 Collect:  Lord God, heavenly Father, we confess that we are poor, wretched sinners, and that there is no good in us; our hearts, flesh and blood being so corrupted by sin that we are never in this life without sinful lusts and desires.   Therefore we beseech You, dear Father, forgive us these sins, and let Your Holy Spirit so cleanse our hearts that we may desire and love Your Word, abide by it, and thus by Your grace be forever saved; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever.   A-men.
What is the meaning of murder?   As Jesus said, “You have heard that long ago people were told: ‘Do not murder’.”   Just a moment ago, we heard the giving of the Ten Commandments and the Commandment prohibiting murder which follows immediately after the one commanding honor and respect for parents.  So just what does murder involve or prohibit?   And are we guilty of murder or not?
It might surprise us to learn that this section of the Sermon on the Mount is not so much a condemnation of murder as it is about the condemnation of self-righteousness.    Jesus uses the commandment prohibiting murder to reveal a deep-seated self-righteousness inherent in the mindset of the Pharisees.
You see, the Pharisees believed that they led holy and upright lives.   But they based this conclusion only on the outward keeping of the Law.   So, they saw themselves as “holy” because they did not commit the physical acts of murder or adultery or theft or slander.
In this context, Jesus warns the people gathered there on that day to hear His sermon, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness is much better than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.”   Then at the conclusion of this section Jesus adds, “I tell you the truth, you will never get out (of hell) until you pay the last cent.”
 
The “holiness” of the Pharisees was literally “skin deep.”    It was outward and it was for show.   Jesus later would compare the Pharisees to white-washed coffins (or burial chambers).   They look great from the outside; ornate, stately, but they contained a dead, rotting and stinking corpse.   So with the Pharisees!   They wanted people to commend them for their lives, to take notice of their “goodness.”    They even placed themselves on display as the “separated ones,” and the examples of how “good people” should live and act.
But their heart, their soul, their thinking was rotten with self-righteousness rather than faith in Jesus.   Try as they might to present an aura of righteousness, their hearts were still filled with lust and hatred, jealousy and greed.    They were like the coffin, beautiful on the outside, but dead spiritually on the inside.
With this section, Jesus challenges the self-righteousness in each of us.    We too, may look respectable and stately on the outside, but God sees the heart and mind and He judges the heart and mind.    God tells us exactly what He sees in our hearts and it is not a pretty picture: “For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual sins, stealing, murders, adulteries, greed, wickedness, cheating, shameless lust, a jealous eye, slander, pride, foolishness.   All these evils come from within and make a person unclean.”     (Mark 7: 21-23)     I did not make up this litany of evils; Jesus spoke this list to His disciples.   Who among us can proudly say, “My heart has never been party to even one evil thought in my entire life.”
A moment ago, I asked “What is the meaning of murder?”   The law of our state defines it as the physical taking of one’s life.    God sees it differently.   The apostle John defines the way God sees murder: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has everlasting life awaiting him.”    Hatred, or a preoccupation with self is the equal to murder.    That is the “negative” side of how God sees murder, but there is also a positive side: “If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts his heart against him, how can he still be loving God?”   
 
So, not only is murder defined by what we do, but what we neglect to do.   But this negative and positive attaches to every command of God: sexual sin has its counterpart in how we love our spouses and hold to the sanctity of marriage.   Stealing has its counterpart in greed and how we use the material possessions of this life and content ourselves with the things God allows us to have.     The command against slander has its counterpart in speaking the truth in all things to others.
Finally, it is the positive aspect of God’s commands that indict us so completely.    We have neglected to love and forgive as we should.   We have neglected to thank God for the gracious way in which He has taken care of us in this life.   So often we have neglected the earthly needs of our brothers as we concern ourselves with our own needs.   We have neglected to show consistent kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and love.
Now, as Jesus says, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness is much better than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.”   As Nathan said to David in light of his murder, “You are the one.”    You and I are the real murderers in the courtroom of God.   So what plea do you wish to enter?    “Not guilty?”   That plea will bring us hell for God has revealed the nature of our hearts.   “Insanity”?      That might work in the human court, but God knows only two pleas: guilty or not guilty.
However, God’s justice works in a way that is different than a human court.   God has sent Jesus to this world to go into His courtroom.   There, God laid all the blame and guilt on Jesus for the sins of the entire world.     God sentenced Jesus to the penetentary of eternal hell with all of its horrible torture and suffering.   There, Jesus paid every “last cent” of our crime.   The justice of God now sees us as guiltless for as Isaiah says, “And the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
But there is the positive aspect of this verdict as well.   Jesus came to this world to keep the Law of God perfectly.      In the courtroom of God, the righteousness of Jesus is credited to us.   So not only are we “Not guilty,” but we are now completely pleasing to God because we have fulfilled the Law of God in and through Christ.    Our righteousness not only exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, our righteousness is perfect in Christ.
Go in peace.  Amen.