But I say to you – Jesus again dives deeper than the surface emphasis of the Old Testament Law. The Law was a standard that emphasized externals and actions, but the prophets had made it clear that God was also concerned with essence and attitudes (Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6 / Jeremiah 4:4 / Romans 2:29 / Colossians 2:11-12). God often rebuked the people for not being “circumcised in heart” (Leviticus 26:41 / Jeremiah 9:26 / Ezekiel 44:7, 9 / Acts 7:51).
Jesus, in stressing internal realities and interpersonal relations, is taking the essence of the prophets and expanding upon it greatly. The Pharisees felt that they were avoiding guilt when they committed acts they thought were beyond the jurisdiction of the Law. But you cannot limit the holiness of God to meticulously kept rules that relate only to the outer, legal life. Jesus said that the righteousness of the religious crowd and its leaders was not enough.
He was saying that we are all guilty (Romans 3:23).
Jesus reduces the righteousness of the religious crowd to the absurd. He says that if you think that laws can eliminate sin you should cut off your hand or gouge out your eye so that you can’t commit the bad acts. However, it is futile to try and remedy a spiritual lack with a physical act. It is more than the eye that looks with lust or the hand that attempts to entice another to sin. It is a matter of the heart.
Ah yes, the heart. What Jesus is pointing to is a positive love that keeps its mind, eyes, and heart on God, and rebukes any rebellion that would try and change its focus. It is not the radical physical act, but the radical, spiritual heart. That is what He is calling for.
The problem is that only He has that kind of heart, not you, or me, or anybody else, ever.
You see, let me explain it this way: Jesus is the problem, and He is also the solution. He is the standard, and He is the savior. Your actions aren’t enough, and your heart won’t save you.
Only faith in Jesus can do that.