Please open your Bible and turn with me to . If you do not have a Bible, you can follow along by looking at the screens in front. The passage will be on those screens. Today we are going to be studying and learning from Jesus’ teaching on anger. A topic I’m sure you need no instruction on, but as we make our way through the Sermon on the Mount, it is here nonetheless. Of course, it’s false that you need no instruction on this. We all do! Everyone of us struggles with anger. We get angry with each other, with our spouses, children, friends, and football team so it’s a very common experience for us.
What is God’s opinion about our anger? Is he indifferent to it? Because it’s so common, it can’t be too big of a deal, right? I have a lot of other sins in my life right now, does God really care about my anger? I hope that you will see that anger is important to God and as a disciple of Jesus, it should be important to us. Living under his reign means that we take anger seriously. Today, I hope you learn why. Let’s begin by reading this passage. Please read with me as I read -16.
Read . Pray.
There are many ditches that we can fall into as we walk the Christian life. Two of the more prevalent ditches are (1) the ditch of legalism and (2) the ditch of antinomianism. The ditch of legalism says that we can earn God’s blessing and favor. We can work and earn his grace. As good Christians, we know to not let those words come out of our mouths but we subtly speak them with our hearts when thoughts like these go through our minds: “Why are things going so well for him and not for me? I bet I read my Bible more than he does.” This is legalism talking.
The other ditch is just as evil. “Antinomianism” is just a fancy word for “lawlessness”. It means “no law”. Christians reveal lawlessness in our hearts when we think thoughts like, “I have all of the righteousness I need from Jesus Christ. Worrying about and dealing with sin is irrelevant now.” These thoughts lead us to not care about obedience or holiness. We become lawless.
Of the many ditches that Christians need to avoid, these are two of the most prevalent. We’re often fighting for a balance between legalism and antinomianism. And balance is what we need to be striving toward.
Why are we talking about this now? This is very important as we look at these verses because of what Jesus is building on here. In verse 20 of Jesus said this:
20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
That’s quite the challenge. Scribes and Pharisees were observant of the Law. They were thought of as righteous people. So, it is possible to read this and think, “I need to be a little better than they were in order to be saved.” However, what Jesus is talking about here is not a little more righteousness than Scribes and Pharisees but about a qualitatively different righteousness. A righteousness that we cannot produce on our own but that must come from outside of us: from Jesus.
For the unbeliever: If you are here and do not consider yourself a Christian. First, we are very glad that you are here. There are a lot of wrong things taught about Christianity. One of them is that a person has to be “good” in order to call herself a Christian. This is wrong. In fact, Christ did not come for good people but for bad people, which is good news for me. If you look around this room and think, “I see a lot of scribes and pharisees around me.” We want you to know that it’s not true. We are broken and sinful people, and this is exactly who Jesus came to die for. But by trusting in Him we have received His righteousness, which makes us acceptable to God.
But as we rejoice in this it can be easy for us to slide into the ditch of antinomianism. We can think that since we have Jesus’ righteousness in our account, we don’t need anything else. Jesus teaching is contrary to that, however. When Jesus says that your righteousness must exceed the scribes and pharisees, he is not saying that you need to be a little better than them. He is saying you need an entirely different righteousness, one that can only come from him. He is also not saying that obedience does not matter. The righteousness that he gives us in a transforming righteousness, that makes us different from the inside-out.
The salvation that we receive makes us different than the pharisees, who Jesus said were like whitewashed tombs, clean on the outside but full of dead bones inside. Instead, we are made clean from the inside and begin to live truly holy lives from the inside-out. What follows in Jesus’ teaching is what living righteously looks like. Throughout the sermon on the mount we are learning what living like a true disciple looks like. And Jesus begins with anger.
These verses are the first of 6 times that Jesus will say, “You have heard…but I say to you.” Not only will Jesus teach us about anger but also about lust, divorce, swearing, revenge, and love. Each time Jesus will say, “You have heard that it was said” and then say, “But I say to you.” And when Jesus says this, we need to keep in mind what I said just a second ago, what Jesus is teaching us here is about an entirely different kind of righteousness. He is not simply correcting misinterpretations of the law, misconceptions, or even just the true meaning of the law. Jesus is teaching us here, through these 6 contrasts, about an entirely different righteousness that will identify his people.
As he teaches us about anger, Jesus begins by teaching us about anger and then giving us two practical (and potentially confusing) examples of anger to illustrate what he means and how this righteousness should be practiced. So our sermon will have two parts, Jesus’ Teaching and Practical Illustrations.
We’ll begin with Jesus’ Teaching.
We Must Deal With Anger In Our Own Hearts
We Must Deal With Anger In Our Own Hearts
In verse 21 Jesus begins by saying,
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
Clearly, Jesus is making reference here to the law of the OT. Specifically, Jesus is pointing us back to the Ten Commandments. Commandment number 6 tells us, “You shall not murder.” And then the book of Deuteronomy goes on to tell us legal proceedings that take place when someone is guilty of murder, which Jesus is also referencing in verse 21.
I assume everyone in the crowd knew about this, both the command and the judgment that came when someone broke the command. Though I said it before, it bears repeating again, what Jesus is doing here by offering this contrast between teaching that they had heard about the law and what he was about to say is showing us a higher righteousness. He is giving his people a higher standard. He is not abolishing the law, but instead he is showing that He can as the law’s fulfillment. He was it’s goal and is the perfect revelation of the law. Now, he is giving to his people a deeper, higher standard to live by.
This week in our Bible reading we read . This chapter speaks to what we learned about Jesus last week and are seeing again this week:
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
Jesus is “the exact imprint” of God’s nature. He perfectly and completely reveals to us what God is like. He is God! And through his teaching, he is showing us how his coming and revelation are showing us a higher righteousness in himself. The OT was pointing us to Jesus and now Jesus is teaching us about an entirely different kind of righteousness.
And what does he say? “Whoever is angry with his brother, whoever insults his brother, and whoever says ‘You fool’ will be judged.”
22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
The standard that Jesus sets goes higher than murder. No, the character of God reveals to us something qualitatively different is set forward in the heart and mind of those in God’s kingdom. It’s not just murder, but anger from the heart and insults with the mouth.
There’s one word that stands out here and it’s the word brother. It’s common to hear Christians refer to one another as brothers and sisters. So common that it has become more sentimental that a true reflection of our hearts, but Jesus is pointing us to something through this word that should grab our attention. The people of Christ’s kingdom are truly brothers and sisters. We are a family from the deepest level possible. And we have been made such by the blood of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Fellow Christians in this room are your brothers and sisters because Jesus shed his blood on the cross to make it so. And when he did, what was happening? Through his sacrifice, Jesus was diverting God’s anger, his just anger against our sin, Jesus was diverting it away from us and onto himself. Now, all anger from God has been removed from us. There is no anger, no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
So, to be angry with your brother is a direct contradiction to the mind and heart of God. God loves his children and he deals with us according to his love. So Jesus reveals to us that living according to the standard made known to us through the arrival of Jesus who is the fulfillment of the law means living NOT ONLY without murder, but now without anger in our hearts.
And now Jesus shows us how this is worked out in life
We Must Be Eager To Make Peace With Others
We Must Be Eager To Make Peace With Others
These two illustrations are in verses 23-26. And as we read them, notice something. Neither of these refer to our anger but to someone who has anger against us. Let’s read these verses again:
23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
The first illustration is in verse 23-24 and Jesus says that if we are offering our gift at the altar and remember that our brother or sister has something against us, we leave and go to be reconciled. Jesus is telling us that we should be so committed to dispelling anger among the family of God that not only will we work to deal with our anger toward others but also others anger towards us. Essentially, Jesus is reinforcing what he revealed in the beatitudes when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” We should pursue peace.
Whether you are the one angry or you are the one who is subject to the anger of someone else, you should go and be reconciled. Go with a heart of humility, ready to repent of sins you have committed, not seeking to justify yourself and vindicate your own actions. Go as a peacemaker, eager to get rid of any anger that exists between you and your brother or sister.
That is the first example. The second is a bit more challenging to understand. Jesus tells us in verses 25-26 that if we have been accused of wrong doing we must come to term quickly, even on our way to court, with our accuser. Notice again, in this illustration we are not the angry ones, someone has an accusation against us. But we must be eager to deal with it nonetheless.
But what is Jesus saying? Jesus is urging reconciliation. He wants us to make things right with one another. No bitterness or grievances allowed. Make it right with your accuser. But could Jesus also be pointing us to something more, something deeper? Could he be pointing us not only to earthly judgment but to eternal judgment as well?
Clearly in verse 22 Jesus is talking not just about judgment on earth but also eternal judgment. Is he doing the same in this second illustration? In verse 26 Jesus says, “Truly I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” Is this pointing us past this earth? I believe so.
In Peter asks Jesus how much he must forgive someone that sins against him. As you probably know, Jesus says 70x7 but then Jesus follows this with a parable, the parable of the unforgiving servant. This servant owed a large debt to a king, a debt too large for him to pay. But when the servant cried for mercy, the king showed mercy. Despite that, however, when the servant was owed a debt from another servant he had his fellow servant thrown in jail until the debt could be paid. When the king heard about this, he responded by saying, “should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” And then Jesus said, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Jesus is teaching us more than just forgiveness on earth but he is also pointing us again to the judgment of heaven. Jesus has brought about an entirely new righteousness. A righteousness that is received and not earned. It is a righteousness that proceeds from your heart, it’s not just external. And now that righteousness shines forth like a light through the people he has redeemed. It shines forth by our common love for one another. Jesus has come to reveal to us this kind of love and enable this love among us all.