Good morning. I hope you are well today. Today we are going right back to work looking at the Gospel of Matthew. The Sermon on the Mount begins at Chapter 5, verse one with the Beatitudes. and ends with the last verse of the seventh chapter. The "sermon" is actually a teaching discourse. Jesus wasn't a preacher in the way we think of a preacher. He wasn't behind a pulpit getting loud and "fired up." He wasn't waving a hanky around in the air and begging for folks to "Amen" him. He sat down and he taught. Yesterday we looked at the Beatitudes and the statements about the disciples being the "salt of the earth" and "the light of the world."
"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." (Matthew 5:17)
This is an interesting statement due to what is said before it and what is about to follow. Why would Jesus need to make such a statement? Because someone was most likely making accusations that Jesus came to destroy the Law. Now, there is a lot to say about the following verses, but I am going to go on to verse twenty-one.
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement." (Matthew 5:21-22)
From verses twenty-one to forty-eight we discover six antithesis that contrast Jewish Law where Jesus either altars, or radicalizes the Law. "You have heard...But I say unto you..." Here, Jesus is not changing the Law, but is intensifying the Law. When Jesus speaks about murder and adultery he intensifies the Law by saying "it is not enough to not just commit the act, you must not have the intent." Jesus is warning about the state of the heart and the state of the mind that lead to murder and adultery. The emphasis is on the inner condition of the soul. Jesus is demanding purity of attitude.
O.K., I want to slow down a bit and look at the issues that Jesus is speaking of. First of all, murder. Jesus is dealing with the anger that leads one to murder another human being. But, I also believe that he is saying much more. In verse 22b Jesus warns: "But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell." Later he advises the hearer "to settle matters quickly." (Mat. 5:25) In other words, Jesus is saying "do not let matters get out of hand." But, lets look deeper.
By calling another person "fool," what is one doing? Let me explain like this. Recently I was pleased to be able to watch the latest Ken Burns documentary on The Vietnam War. It was a tremendous program. In one segment a veteran was being interviewed. He stated that while in Vietnam he only killed one human being. He said it really bothered him. He said after that he never killed another human being. But, he did kill several (he gave various terms as to what they called the enemy soldiers). In other words, he saw the enemy, not as human beings, but something other than. Jesus is warning about the de-humanizing of others. If we see someone as (fill in the blanks) then it becomes easier to justify actions that we otherwise may not take. For instance, it is easy to look at a drug addict and say, "That guy/gal is nothing but a dope-head." Notice, my wording. I lowered the person to being "nothing." Therefore, it is easier for me to say, "He/she deserves whatever they get..." What I am forgetting is that this person is someone's child. Perhaps, this is someone's mother or father.
Is Jesus changing the Law? No! Of course he is referring to the commandment where murder is forbidden. So, what does this passage say to all those sitting around saying, "Yeah, they should have never taken the Ten Commandments off the walls of our public places." Well, Jesus would probably ask, "What's in your heart?" Jesus, in this passage, is really stressing the value of all life. Think about what Jesus has already said" "You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world." Is Jesus not also saying to us that it is not enough to simply not take life by killing the body, one must be careful to not kill the spirit?
Every election, and often in between elections, we hear folks declare: "I am Pro-Life! Praise God!" Well, good! But, what does this all mean? Well, in the rhetoric that we use it simply refers to being "against abortion." The statements that Jesus makes regarding murder are pro-life. But, he is dealing with all of life. This is one of the most difficult verses in all the Bible for me. It causes me to ask: "Do I have this type of anger toward anyone?" And, it causes me to ask: "What do I do to give life?"
We unfortunately live in a world that is so violent. People get angry and therefore, start shooting. Someone walks into a Wal-Mart, pulls out a weapon, and shoots the first person he sees. Why? He's angry over...(his wife broke up with him, he lost his money, etc), or he's just angry. A guy aims a weapon out a hotel window and kills over fifty people. Why? Who knows? A guy walks into a church and kills twenty-six innocent people. Why? He's angry with his in-laws. He's just angry. I could go on all day like this. Long ago I was in a GameStop. I don't go into GameStop much, just when Zander says, "Daddy, take me to GameStop!" I went to this store one time with my son Tyler. I'll never forget a conversation I was ease-dropping in on, I mean accidently overheard. A customer asked the employee about the kill-rate in the video. He asked about the graphics...how much blood could be shed, etc. I was not only appalled, but frightened. Is this how we view life?
Tomorrow, we will look at the issue of adultery. Oh, this will be interesting. Join me tomorrow. -Pastor Rick