HG054.2-3 Matthew 5:13-48, Luke 6:27-30, 32-36
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. 17 “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. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. 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.’ 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. 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. 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.
Helene has read a great chunk of Scripture for us and it covers a whole range of things, at least on the surface but are actually inter-related. Many of the themes within this passage come up again later in Matthew and some of those will be dealt with in more detail then.
We are salt and light.
If we live as those in the world then our testimony will lose its saltiness, its tangyness. It will have little or no effect. It is the same with the light for it is greatly dimmed when we ruin our witness. But if we are determined to follow Jesus and do good works then our light will shine and it will be impossible to hide the fact. Light does one thing: it disperses darkness so that we and others can see.
The following teaching then goes on to explain just how perfect we must be to please God.
The law was given by God on the mountain to Moses and for those following the 3 year reading plan you have read Exodus and have started Leviticus. Jesus is saying that all these laws still stand. Everyone single one of them will continue until their fulfilment; every letter of it, every stroke of the pen is God-breathed. The Pharisees must have been loving this sermon for it is exactly what they had been saying. Every part of it is important and Jesus confirmed that this was the case. The Pharisees excelled in the law and outwardly it was very evident.
But as with everything Jesus teaches it never quite goes the way you want it to go for then He said: unless your righteousness exceeds them then you will not get into Heaven.
This must have been very shocking to the hearers. I mean, who can be more righteous, more pedantic about the law than the Scribes and Pharisees? The should be shocking to us too. Who can be more righteous than these people who had dedicated their lives to the law?
So, Jesus explains further. Six times now we will get: You have heard it said... but I say to you.
It was Moses who said but, Jesus says, I say to you. Do you see what is happening here? He is saying that I am greater than Moses. The law was given to Moses directly by God to tell the people and now Jesus is saying I have the authority of God to interpret and make changes to the law. But did Jesus change the law? No. The Pharisees could keep the law in all its details but, Jesus is saying, they are not keeping the spirit of the law. The law is there to show it cannot be kept; to teach that it was impossible. And Jesus is now showing that no matter how perfect you think you are it is much harder than you that.
And here come the examples:
Who here has murdered anyone?
No-one? OK, good - but the spirit of the law is not only in taking a life it is in the desire to do so. Being angry is likened to murder. Anger, leads to hate, that leads to ill will, that leads to the actual action of murder. Of course, rarely would we get to that stage but it is in our heart;
Nevertheless our righteousness needs to exceed the Pharisees who would not murder and go the next step and not be angry either.
This means that we are to have the highest regard for our fellow human-beings and the sanctity of human life. This means that we have to sort out our ill will towards others before coming to communion. Moses said but I say, says Jesus.
Who here has committed adultery?
No-one? Perhaps. But again it is the spirit of the law in not only in sleeping with someone other than your spouse but in the desire to do so. Just looking at another woman or man with longing. Of course, rarely would we get to the stage of actually committing adultery but it is in our heart. Nevertheless our righteousness needs to exceed the Pharisees who would not commit adultery and go the next step and not lust either. Moses said but I say, says Jesus.
Who here is for justice?
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But what happens when it is personal? What if someone want to take your car without permission? Should we put up a fight? Jesus says, no, let them take whatever they want and let them exploit you. This gets to the root of where our citizenship is. Is our heart in this life? We should definitely seek justice when we see injustice done to others but when it is done to you we should not resist. Suddenly this seems so much tougher. Our righteousness needs to exceed the Pharisees who seek justice for themselves, but we are not of this world, we are to let God be the judge and take no steps against others as far as we are personally concerned. Moses said but I say, says Jesus.
Who here is for love? You shall love your neighbour but hate those who hate you. This is an extension of the previous one. You are not only to love and do good to those who will receive it with open arms and where they will be able to give back but we are to love and do good to those who will revile you, bad-mouth you, and insult you. Our righteousness needs to exceed the Pharisees who would do nothing against those who would be friendly to them and get on with them and go the next step and show ourselves friendly to those who do not like us and maybe even hate us. Moses said but I say, says Jesus.
I think we are getting the picture now.
Jesus ends what He says with: Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father is perfect.
The Pharisees and Scribes believe the law and, as far as was able, kept it. But the law is there to show it could not be done and so Jesus has come along to reveal that the Spirit of the law is much harder to keep. The point is that all that Jesus said we should do. I think that I may have touched a nerve when speaking of injustice being allowed to be done to us and to love those who don’t love us. To this we are called for we are called to a higher standard. This doesn’t just affect our outward spirituality but the inward state of our hearts.
Now, if we want to be more righteous that the Scribes and Pharisees we have to do what Jesus said but the point will be missed if we think that anyone of us can actually do it. This is not to say we shouldn’t and certainly not give that as an excuse. But none of us can. Not one of us is perfect. We have just touched on a few things but we need to extend this to the whole of the law. These were examples to show we cannot do it. Every one of us have broken each of the ten commandments. We have broken each and every one of them in the spirit of the law.
If we do not want to go to hell then we are to cut out our eyes, our hands, and other body parts, anything that will give offence to God. Jesus is saying that this is one place you really do not want to go so avoid it at all costs and deal with the sin that leads there. Jesus uses hyperbole to emphasise this. The problem with cutting off body parts, as some have gone so far to do, is that this does not actually resolve the issue of our minds and hearts. Many people have become monks to resolve the sin-issue but what they have found instead is that there is still bitterness, still desire, still sin and that even when they are in their little cell with little or no contact with others.
The impossibility of keeping the Sermon on the Mount should be plain to us.
We have need of a Saviour. We cannot do it, we cannot achieve it in our own strength, in our own righteousness. We will never be better than the Pharisees. This means hell is a very real place that we can end up. The gist of what Jesus said is that the Pharisees will end up there.
We have need of a Saviour. Jesus came to fulfil the law and He did. He did not break it in any point including not retaliating to the injustice done to Him and in loving those who hated Him. Jesus was perfect in every way. Jesus went to the cross whilst we were still sinners; whilst we were His enemies; whilst we were still in rebellion. There was a man on the cross next to Jesus who hurled abuse at Jesus and Jesus took it, received it, and took the punishment for it. What injustice! That same man, though, gradually realised that Jesus must be who He said He was and repented and asked Jesus to save Him, not from the cross, but from the torment of hell so that he could be with Him for all eternity. And he as accepted by Jesus. And paradise was gained.
There can be the Pharisee who does everything right but is still not perfect before God and then there can be the thief on a cross who did everything wrong but is made perfect. From the Pharisee to the criminal all need Jesus to be made right with God.
Now that we have been made perfect we can start to align our lives accordingly but only with the power of the Holy Spirit changing us from in the inside out.
Let us see the Sermon for what it is: a teacher showing it is impossible to please God
As a pointer to the only One who could please God and be our Saviour: Jesus
Now we can live lives that please Him which is only by faith. What we’ll discover is that we are being changed. This is a core end of our faith:
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
Jesus lived and died by what he taught and preached. He did not retaliate against the unfairness of His trials. Yet it is Jesus who is the Judge of the whole earth; of the living and the dead. Yet, He laid this aside and took upon Himself all sin, all injustice, all unfairness, all violence, to give us life in return and so that we, who are to be blamed, could go free and have eternal life in the grand exchange: He became sin. We became righteousness and perfect (2 Cor 5:21).
He suffered real suffering and died a real death in the name of love so let us give thanks for these emblems representing His body and blood:
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.