Matthew 5:21-26; First Example, Murder

No one will disagree that murder is bad and unlawful. But Jesus extends the law in a very stringent way. It may even be more stringent for disciples today than it was for disciples in the original audience.

Jesus wants us to watch even our internal attitudes toward others. If we harbor attitudes that demean others in our own minds, the attitudes may issue in some kind of action. Yes, saying something is an action. No hiding behind “it’s only words.”

Jesus is not the least bit afraid to extend the Word of God with his own word. That should tell us something about his self-understanding.

Earthly courts will not judge us on our attitudes. They might judge us on our words in certain circumstances. The heavenly court is looking on our hearts.

Acting in anger is something we should never, ever do. Cool down first and use your noodle.

Furthermore, our relationship with God is somehow dependent on our relationships with others. In this passage, reconciliation is seen as more important than worship. Imagine that.

God knows what we are made of. Let’s allow him to remake us into a better form of what we are.

Matthew 5:17-20; The Law and the Prophets

I think it’s important to notice that Jesus includes the Torah and the Prophets in his claim to uphold scripture. The Law needs to be read in light of the prophets, and vice versa.

Jesus says the Law is upheld, not abolished. He came to fulfill it.

I believe it is legitimate to take this little section as an introduction to the six points of law Jesus will talk about next in his Sermon. Far from loosening the law, he will tighten it. He will fill it out with his teaching and with his life. And he expects the same from his disciples.

Craig Keener says it well:

Jesus essentially says, “Look, if you thought the law was tough, wait till you see this. If you really want to be my disciples, give me your hearts without reservation”

Craig S. Keener, Matthew, vol. 1, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), Mt 5:17.

The prophets harshly judged those who kept the Law on the surface, but whose hearts were not in it. It looks like Jesus stands in that tradition. The Law and the Prophets.

Let us give Jesus our hearts without reservation.

Matthew 5:13-16; Salt and Light

It’s possible to over-exegete this passage, in my opinion, and look too much at the various uses and characteristics of salt. As I look at this in the context of the Sermon, I see it pretty simply.

Salt makes food taste better.

When the food is salted just right we don’t say, “That’s good salt.” We say, “That’s good food.”

Salt simply is hidden in the food and makes it taste better. We are the salt of the earth.

A lamp is a source of light for those in the vicinity. We don’t look at the lamp. We read our book or write in our notebook or look at our pictures.

Light makes the vicinity usable. We are the light of the world.

Let us hide ourselves and call attention to Jesus.

Matthew 5:11-12; On Account of Jesus

No doubt about it. People are saying all kinds of bad stuff about Christians today. You can read it in the news and see it on TV. Christians are the only subgroup people are allowed to publicly ridicule today.

But why? Why are we ridiculed?

Is it because of Jesus? Is it because we are indentured to the Lord? Because we bear his name?

It is obvious already in Matthew’s gospel that identification with Jesus is the marker that brings one into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says here that we should consider ourselves fortunate if we suffer, not just persecution, but even verbal defamation and vilification. But only if it is on account of Jesus.

There are many other reasons people today might speak against Christians:

  • wing nut preachers make a bad impression
  • overt hypocrisy is in the news, again and again
  • many “Christian” ministries just want money and promise their followers the same
  • false prophets pronounce judgment on the people in bridge collapses
  • hurricanes, and earthquakes. And pandemics.

The list could, I suppose, go on. But it’s depressing. Anyway, you get the point. We all get lumped into a category because of the weird things people see. Christians are bad, even dangerous.

Fighting back against what people say is not included in this teaching. We have a lot to learn from Jesus.

Matthew 5:1-10; Blessings

Only repentant people can participate in the kingdom. “Theirs is the kingdom…” frames this section. The blessings come from God. What are these repentant people like?

  • They are willing to let God work. They cooperate with him, but they do not force his hand. Actually, they are in no position to force anything, and they know it.
  • They are humble. They live in the strength of God, since they have so little of their own. They want God at all costs. Their confidence is in him.

These are characteristic is a disciple of Jesus. These are those who will see God.