In a previous reading, I was so pleased to learn a new interpretation of Jesus’ baptism, that John was preparing the people to look to the savior rather than the law for their redemption. Matthew 5:17-18 provided some more context for me. Matthew quotes Jesus, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Jesus came, according to my understanding, not to change the law, nor to make the people turn away from the law, but to fulfill the law. It seems to me that the fulfillment of the law would cause an evolution of the law, but Jesus says here that it does not change, nor relax the smallest bit. (Matthew 5:19)
Indeed, not only does he not relax the law, he intensifies it. Before the law had focused on actions “do this” or “do not do this” but Jesus takes it further. Not only “do not murder” but also “everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement.” (Matthew 5:21-22) Not only “do not commit adultery” but also “do not lust.” (Matthew 5:27-28) Jesus changes the law by making it bigger. It’s no longer only what you do that you are held accountable for, but also what you hold in your heart.
I appreciate the idea that what is in your heart matters more than what you actually do, but I would have loved to see the weight of the good in your heart also because based on what I have seen of the God of the Bible, good matters little, only obedience.