Jesus’ Teaching on the Law
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’[f] 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
Sins of action begin with sins in the heart. If you work on the heart issues, then you are changing your behavior.
- The Ten Commandments
- Murder anger and the image of God
What is behind murder?
It is anger and
a lack of willingness to resolve personal disputes in a quick and positive manner. (The implication is that you may just be the one with the blind spot!)
It is the consequent refusal to honor the image of God in people and a desire to condemn and punish.
It comes from defining people according to their sin instead of seeing them as created in the image of God.
- Adultery and Divorce
Lust precedes the act of adultery.
A failure to recognize the purposes of marriage precedes divorce. And it also precedes sexual sin in general.
Matthew 19: 3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
- Bearing false witness against a neighbor
If you require an oath to demonstrate truthfulness, what does this imply about regular speech?
The Satan is a liar and the father of lies. If we are lying to take advantage of someone else, then we are acting like the evil one.
God NEVER lies.
In each of these instances of Ten Commandment living, Jesus points to the issues behind the motivation to break the command.
If you are dealing with the law on the level of the heart, then you have a chance to really manage keeping the law on the level that really keeps it. This is the application of truly hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
And in response to this issue of the heart, Jesus moves more toward heart issues next here in Matthew 5.
What about when people don’t keep the law toward me? What then?!
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
- Law, Mercy and Justice
- Understand an eye for an eye in context
- This is a limitation: It’s not a life for an eye!
- This is not prescriptive: I am not required to have an eye. And if I am to act like God, then I will demonstrate patience, forgiveness, kindness etc.
6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
- Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly
God doesn’t want rivers of oil and thousands of animal sacrifices. What does He want? And what does this accomplish?
Peaceful relationships! At least as peaceful as they can be!! It’s the requirement of the law as directed toward other people.
If you will act this way you will take on more of the burden of an ordered beautiful world than others!!
This is what the examples of this passage refer to. Turning the other cheek. A slap to the cheek is an insult. This is not a prohibition against self-defense.
Sue and take a cloak? Give more than you take.
Forced to go a mile? A Roman soldier could require this.
When I play disc golf I pick up trash. It’s the same issue to me.
Give to the one that asks. (There are obvious limitations, but the default setting is to help bear one another’s burdens. (The story of the Goffs in Costa Rica.)
- How does God act toward His offenders?
This is where we are headed in our behavior.
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice!”
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
All of the Law and Prophets are summed up in two commands:
- Love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
What does loving neighbor look like?
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
III. Loving People as God Loves People
- Loving with initiative
Take the first step to demonstrate love.
It might be the step of overlooking an offense in order to act in service toward another person.
Love means to act in the best interests of someone.
- Loving those who are different
Different desires, motives, drives and pursuits.
Different philosophies, politics, education and economics.
Different families, habits etc.
We have the opportunity to demonstrate the Love of God and show that He is real! I John 4:12 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
They will know that we are Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another!
- Loving as God loves
God is holy, righteous and good. He is perfectly just. His appropriate punishment for sin is seen in the suffering and death of Jesus on the Cross. God of wrath in the OT and not NT? Not so! Wrath on the Cross. Wrath in the Book of Revelation.
But, the whole goal of God in this time in our world is to bring people to repentance. Jesus came preaching: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near!” This is still true!
If you are following Jesus today, it was God’s patience, not judging you as your sins deserve, but allowing you space to come to Him. This is God’s plan for you. And it is God’s plan for all who will believe and follow Jesus.
This is why we love as God loves. Because His love was necessary for us to have life. How can we not express that love to others?
So, in this section of Matthew 5 we see how Jesus treats the requirements of the law. We are to continue to take the law seriously, not the smallest part of it will be abolished. We are to understand how the motivations that drive us to break the law are the issue.