THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our series on the Life of Christ, we have been examining the Sermon on the Mount. We have looked at the first 20 verses on Mathew 5. We ended our last lesson looking at how Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law of Moses not destroy it. Before we get to some new verses, I want to emphasize verse 20 once again because it sets the stage for the verses that follow it.
Matthew 5:20 "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
The Scribes and the Pharisees knew the Law of Moses and they even kept it to a degree, but as we read in many places in the New Testament, they just went through the motions and did a lot of things just for show. We also know they had a lot of problems with making their traditions equal with God’s Word and even sometime would make their tradition even more important than God’s Word.
As I have been teaching, Jesus is saying that the mentality of the Scribes and Pharisees is not good enough. It is not about treating the Law of Moses as a checklist, it's about loving God with your whole heart, mind, and soul and allowing that to motivate you to keep the law. This is why we Jesus keeps setting the spiritual bar higher in His sermon. He will continue to emphasize how we must have our very thoughts focused on God and His way and not just be people who keep the commands.
I think Paul gives a great commentary of this in:
1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
In the verses we are about to look at starting in verse 21, we are going to see Jesus talking about how the people had heard what the Law had said. In other words, this is what they people had been taught by such men as the Pharisees and Scribes because many of the common people did not read the Scriptures like you and I can today. They had limited access to them and many times they got a lot of their teaching from hearing men like the Scribes and Pharisees.
However, Jesus is going to appeal to His authority to teach the people a deeper more accurate meaning about some of these various laws. Moses predicted that Jesus would do this very thing in:
Deuteronomy 18:15 " The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 "according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.' 17 "And the LORD said to me: 'What they have spoken is good. 18 'I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 'And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. See also Acts 3:22ff.
With this thought in mind, let’s now look at verses:
Matthew 5:21 " You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.'
The command to not to murder is found in Exodus 20:13, which is part of the 10 commandments. Being in danger of the judgment is referring to those who were responsible for making judgments of such matters. This is associated with:
Deuteronomy 16:18 " You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the LORD your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.
Those guilty of murder would be put to death (Ex. 21:12). The interpretation was that only the physical act of murder mattered, but Jesus takes it a step further to deal with the source of murder as we read in:
ASV Matthew 5:22 but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire.
There are three different stages that Jesus gives about the sin of anger. The first stage is simply being angry with your brother. This is a silent type of anger because you are keeping it to yourself, but Jesus still says that this will put you in danger of the judgment. Anger is one of those emotions that can build inside you like an active volcano that is moments away from erupting. This idea of keeping your anger in check is not a new one because we read in:
Proverbs 24:17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; 18 Lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him, And He turn away His wrath from him.
Proverbs 25:20 Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, And like vinegar on soda, Is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. 21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
Now think about this. We are talking about our enemies here. If there is anything that can stir up anger in a person it is an enemy who does despicable things to you or people you love. In fact, it seems very natural to hate your enemy and be full of anger against him, but even here in Proverbs, we see that we are to keep our anger and our hate in its place because even if something bad happens to the wicked that they deserve if we rejoice in their torture and downfall then it will displease God and can cause Him to unload His wrath on us. We will talk more about our enemies later when Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for them. These are certainly hard things to do, but we are to keep our anger under control because it is the source of murder. Even John says:
1 John 3:15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
The second stage of anger is this:
and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council;
The word Raca means this:
Thayer: empty, i.e. a senseless, empty headed man 2) a term of reproach used among the Jews in the time of Christ
Many times when our anger increases, we can no longer remain silent and we feel like we have to say something. So, we begin to lose control of our tongues and we start striking that match that can burn down an entire forest. Those who begin to spew out words like these in anger, will be in danger of the council, which would refer to the Sanhedrin council.
The third stage of anger is this:
and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire.
The word fool means:
foolish, stupid always a term of reproach; (1) of persons considered to be intellectually weak, irrational, or lacking in foresight
Though this may seem similar to the previous insult, this statement expresses even more hatred. The idea here is not to point out specific words such as Raca or fool, but to show how anger will continue to grow inside of you and cause you to increase the actions that you will take when your anger is not brought under control. Jesus says once you enter this level of anger, you put soul in jeopardy of hell fire.
There a few things we can learn from the verses we have looked at so far. First, sin begins in the heart. Jesus said to the Scribes and Pharisees:
Matthew 12:34 "Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.
Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
Though Jesus is talking about the Law of Moses in the Sermon of the Mount, the principle of controlling your anger applies to Christians as well, because the overall message of the New Testament is for us to Love God and keep His commandments and it also emphasizes how we are to keep ourselves pure from the inside out. As the verses we just read teach, if we want to be able to control sin in our lives, it must begin with the heart. As Paul said:
2 Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
We might think we are doing a great job of biting our tongues and not saying what we are thinking or we might keep from putting a knot on someone’s head, but God’s Word is teaching us that we need to control our very thoughts and not allow them to control us. This is a difficult task to achieve, but it's what we are to strive to do, by bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
Is hating your brother or being angry with him the same as murdering him physically? No, it is not the same, but it can yield the same results because both are sin, both acts can cause you to lose your soul. If one continues hating or being angry with his brother, it may very well lead the physical act of murder. Jesus continues this thought in:
Matthew 5:23 "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 "leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Bringing your gift before the altar was a public form of worship in the temple. I can just imagine in my mind how the Pharisees and Scribes would have some sort of ritual in the way they did this so that it looked the best. Jesus is saying that taking care of a problem between you and your brother has a higher priority than worshipping God with your sacrificially gift. Notice, He said leave your gift behind and go be reconciled with your brother, then come and offer your gift.
This goes hand and hand with what John taught in:
1 John 4:19 We love Him because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
We cannot offer up acceptable worship to God if we hate our brother because we cannot be in fellowship with God if we hate him, which is why Jesus emphasizes taking care of this problem right away.
This does not mean that we will always be able to reconcile with our brother because they have to be willing, but we must make every effort to do so and to never harbor hatred in our hearts for that person. Then Jesus says:
Matthew 5:25 "Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 "Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.
Under Roman law, you could resolve a disagreement before you stood before the judge, but if you did not, then you would be subject to the judge’s decision. So, the idea here is to try and be reconciled with your adversary quickly so you do not have to stand before the judge in your offensive state because once you get before the judge, there is going to be no getting out of the punishment.
Here is what I think of when I see this. If you and I do something wrong to someone and we do not resolve it we are sinning. If we do not take care of that sin before we stand before the judge, who is Jesus, then it will be too late for us. We will not be able to fix the problem and we will receive the punishment due, which is eternal punishment in hell. Since there is no way for us to pay for our wrong after the fact, then that means we will be there forever.
So, let’s take what Jesus has challenged us with to heart. If we do someone wrong, try to reconcile the situation. If someone does you wrong and wants to reconcile, you must be willing to forgive and move on as Jesus said:
Matthew 6:14 "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
I know this can be challenging, but if our brother repents, let us forgive him and be reconciled otherwise our Father in heaven will not forgive us of our wrongs and our worship will not be acceptable to Him. This particular teaching goes hand and hand with the Beatitude of being a peacemaker.
Let’s take a look at what Jesus says next:
Matthew 5:27 " You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.'
This is the 7th commandment in the 10 commandments (Exod. 20:14). The Jews only considered it a sin if there a physical act of adultery done, which is sex outside of the marriage, and it was punishable by death as:
Leviticus 20:10 'The man who commits adultery with another man's wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.
Notice what Jesus says next:
Matthew 5:28 "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Once again Jesus goes directly to the source of adultery, which is the heart. Now God has given both men and women the desire to look at the opposite sex, otherwise we would have no desire to procreate or marry another. While there is nothing wrong with looking at the opposite sex per se, it can become wrong if we look at the opposite sex in a lustful way. Just like anger, lust can build up in a person and cause them to commit sexual sin, which is why Jesus says that the man who looks at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery in his heart.
David is the perfect example of this, as we read in:
2 Samuel 11:2 Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" 4 Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, "I am with child."
David saw Bathsheba bathing and because of her beauty he lusted after her. It did not take long for lust to move from his heart to committing adultery. As Christians, we must learn to have self-control especially when it comes to lusting after the opposite sex. As Job said:
Job 31:1 "I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?
In our time and age it so easy to for us to get trapped in lusting after the opposite sex because there has never been a time before now where there is so many naked pictures and videos available for people to watch and lust after. Much of this can be done in the privacy of the home. We must let Jesus’ words sink into our hearts because if we continue to allow ourselves to look lust after the opposite sex not only are we sinning in our hearts, we are just a step away from committing physical adultery or some other sexual sin.
Like Job, we should make a covenant with our eyes not to look at such things. We must keep our minds off such things by filling our hearts with good things as Paul said in:
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
This would be a good time to deal with a question that someone might ask regarding Jesus’ statement. If a man is found lusting after another woman, can his wife divorce him for adultery?
The simple answer is no. If one could divorce his or her wife for a lustful heart, then just about everybody could do it because most men and women alike have probably lusted after another in one way or another at some point in their lives. This would make about much sense as putting everyone in prison for murder who was angry at their brother. Besides this, Jesus did not say that lust is physical adultery, but it is adultery in the heart. Both things are sinful, but lusting and actually physically adultery are two different things. Physical adultery requires two people as can be seen in:
1 Corinthians 6:16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh."
John 8:4 they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.
Though lusting after another is sinful and can certainly lead to physical adultery, one cannot divorce another for the lust of the flesh because actually adultery must take place as we will see in just a minute.
Next, Jesus expresses the importance of keeping sin out of your lives, which include the heart.
Matthew 5:28 "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
This is not meant to be taken literally, but some in the time’s past have. All Jesus is saying in this is that whatever seems precious to you in your life that is a sin, cut it out. Get rid of it because is not worth losing your soul over. If you struggle with anger or with lust as we have been looking at, then get rid of it by filling yourself full of God’s Word and good things. Don’t put yourself into situations that will cause you to be tempted to do these things or any sinful thing. This points right back to the beatitude of having a pure heart. There is no sinful pleasure on the earth that is worth losing your soul over.
This next topic is one that many struggle with because it many are affected by it.
Matthew 5:31 " Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.'
There were three schools of thought based on the Mishnah from a section called “Gittin.” Notice what we learn from what WVBS says about this:
1. Shammai school of thought - taught that a man could not divorce his wife
unless he found her to be unchaste.
2. Hillel school - taught even if she burned the food a man could divorce his
wife (see Deut 24:1).
3. Akiba school - taught if a man found one fairer than his wife (“no favor in his
eyes”), he could divorce her.
The school of Shammai agrees with Jesus’ teaching. Mark chapter 10 approaches
divorce from the woman’s viewpoint. Divorce was allowed in Judaism, and it involved a
simple process in which the person being divorced from would receive a certificate (called
a get ). There was no thought about the sanctity of the marriage relationship, or the
consequences of this action. This certificate, which was placed into the woman’s hands,
read “Go, thou art free to marry any man” (Gittin 9:3). The certificate protected her from
being charged as an adulteress if she should remarry. (WVBS)
We also see more information about this starting in:
Matthew 19:3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?" 4 And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' 5 "and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." 7 They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" 8 He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.
Jesus makes it clear that one cannot just simply divorce his wife for any reason. Though a divorce paper was granted under the Law of Moses, it was not that way from the beginning. Marriage was supposed to be forever. Next, Jesus teaches us the only lawful way for one to divorce and be remarried.
Matthew 5:32 "But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.
Matthew 19:9 "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."
This is not a hard saying to understand, but it is hard saying to follow especially when you consider our high divorce rate in this country. Jesus, is clearly teaching that the only way that two people can divorce and then the innocent party can remarry another eligible person is if fornication was involved. However, the guilt party must remain unmarried. If someone marries the guilty party, they commit adultery or as the Greek grammar shows, they continue to commit adultery. If the marriage ends in divorce for any other reason than fornication, then neither party can remarry, or they will be living in adultery. We will talk more about this in a later lesson once we get to Matthew 19.
As I said, the Sermon of the mount will challenge us, and I think we have certainly seen just how challenging Jesus’ sermon can be, but there is so much more He has to say. So, I hope you will be able to join us next time as we continue to see how Jesus will continue to challenge us to grow in our faith and our commitment to God.