“SERMON ON THE MOUNT – AND BEYOND !!!”
By Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor
From Matthew 5:17-26
The story is told about a snail who was in a horrible accident. How horrible was it? Well, he lost his shell! So he went home to recover. Several days later, a good friend stopped by. “I heard about your accident,” the friend said. “How do you feel?”
“Well,” said the snail, “to be honest I feel a little sluggish.”
Don’t you think that we occasionally feel a little sluggish in our appreciation and respect for, as well as the regular application of, the amazing love and grace of God for us?
The Sermon on the Mount, and in particular the verses which follow the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), have much to say about the practical application of the teachings of our Savior!
But PLEASE remember this: while the Lord Jesus IS a Great Teacher – He first of all is LORD OF ALL! His desire is not for us to be good students of the Word. His desire is for our WORSHIP of Him FIRST of all!
Into that scenario come the verses of today’s text,:
”Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one [b]jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 5:17-26.
In this section, our Savior begins a vivid attack/counterattack with the false teachings of the religious leaders of the day. Those leaders were suffocating the grace of God with their rules and regulations!
Do BELIEVERS have rules and regulations that are suffocating? I once walked into the gym of a neighboring church. As one enters the gym there were written on the wall next to the door the “Twenty Rules for Gym Use”.
Ok, I get it. There should be rules for courtesy of our fellow gymnasts. But THESE rules were even more specific than that: what clothes to wear, what length of hair for boys, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. From the minute I walked into the gym after reading those rules, I felt I couldn’t breathe! I was fearful that I might intentionally or unintentionally break one of those 20 rules!
AND dear friends, that was how the religious leaders of Jesus’ day affected the populace of Israel!
It behooves us to see the Savior’s insights into a number of the leaders’ views on something as foundational to the state of the nation as murder. What is His heart?
FIRST, God’s view of murder and killing has never changed! Exodus 20:13, a part of the 10 Commandments, says, “Thou shalt not kill” [or “murder” in NKJV]. To kill means “to break or dash into pieces; to slay in a violent or unjust manner; to murder without cause”. The phrase “without cause” is a key! God never applied “killing” or “murder” to the slaying of brute beasts! Can you imagine what the Lord, much less Old Testament theologians, would have thought about today’s “animal rights” activists? He would have said that while the 10 commandments do NOT cover that, He would rather have a respect for all life. Furthermore, in Genesis 9:6, written well before the law, the Lord says,
“Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; For in the image
of God He made man.”
God takes a high view of ALL human life! So, for example, when you read in the paper about an airplane crash where there were no survivors, what is your first thought? It SHOULD be not only for the families of those victims, it should be this: “where are those victims now spending eternity? Were they ever under the hearing of the Word of God, and of the love of God in Christ? Did they ever receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior?” We need to have God’s view of people! People are eternal beings!
So since God’s view of murder and killing has not changed, even the Pharisees and other religious leaders of Jesus day should have been surprised when the Savior made a more practical application in Matthew 5:22:
“But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be
in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in
danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell
Wow! So SECOND, God’s view of murder includes more than just a physical slaying! It is more than just the letter of the law! It involves causeless anger against a fellow human being.
The psalmist wrote in Psalm 97:10:
“You who love the Lord, hate evil!
He preserves the souls of His saints;
He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.”
Ephesians 4:26 directly quoted Psalm 4:4:
““Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath…”
Do you feel anger or rage, even against someone who has done nothing to you? The Lord Jesus is saying that that is equal in His sight to…MURDER.
What about “RACA”? “Raca” is the word for “worthless fellow, a senseless empty head”. If you were to call your brother that – apparently something that those of the religious right of the day felt free to do – Jesus says that you are guilty as if guilty of murder.
AND if you call someone “FOOL”, that in our Savior’s eyes (and heart!) is the utmost in human abuse. Consider again all the animal cruelty laws that are in the books. When I worked for the City of Norwich (NY) police department, I was authorized to enforce those laws. But here is the Lord’s “HUMAN CRUELTY LAW”! He said that if you call someone a “fool”, you are guilty of “hell fire”, or “Gehenna”. The citizen of Jesus’ day would know that He was equating the awfulness of the city dump – with its constant burnings and otherwise heinousness – as a human picture of an eternal truth. He was showing that it is possible for someone to be in danger of more than just man’s judgment. Someone can be guilty of God’s judgment: hell fire.
THIRD and last, there must be reconciliation. Verses 23-26 can be summed up well with His one pointed statement:
“Agree with your adversary quickly…”!!!
God’s view concerns outward relationships! There MUST be reconciliation, something the heart of man often overlooks. Think of this: God demands a reconciliation between man and Himself through the cross in order for a person to have fellowship with the eternal God. So it shouldn’t surprise us that God also wants reconciliation between man and man in order to have a relationship with one’s fellow man!
As we close our lesson for this week, please note a small word, only 7 letters.
QUICKLY! (v. 25)
Remember the account of that airplane crash? Life is full of the unexpected.
“Behold, NOW is the accepted time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2)
“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20)