GROWTH AND SUCCESS IN LIFE – Lessons Learned at the Feet of Jesus – Sermon on Mount (Part 19)
The High and True Standard of God and His Kingdom is now developed by Jesus. Rather than listening to the phony teachers of the Law, the guardians of the Law who twisted Truth for their selfish interests, Jesus now lays out what standards are in harmony with a correct understanding of the Old Testament. The greatest sequel to this instruction is that Jesus, in all he was and was to do, came not to set aside or annual the Law, but to fulfill it. In this following section of six antitheses, Jesus places his own authority over the misinterpretations of the religious norm of His Day…’It is said, but I say…’ (Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38 and 43). Separating the counterfeit from the Real.
The gauntlet is down, and the standard is set twofold:Spirituality greater than the religious leaders and perfection which matches God the Father.
(1) Matthew 5:20 and 5:48: For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven, and (2) Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.
Jesus explains that Truth is defined as the measure of God that looks at the heart and not just outward actions. Again, the scribes were following the artificial letter of the law without a heart obedience. From the ethic of love, Jesus now reminds his listeners that the heavenly standard for God is nothing less than perfection. That is the good news and bad news, but it leads to the solution – Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins which forgives us before God the Father.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
1. Loving others as part of the Great Commandment. Jesus had taught that the Greatest commandment was to Love the Lord with all your heart…and Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:28-34). The scribes bastardized this command by adding ‘and hate your enemy.’ This may have worked politically, but it was the exact opposite of the Old Testament, as we saw last week – e.g. Exodus 23:4-5. Jesus now stands in the breach. He flips this false teaching on its head, and says rather that we are to love our enemies! Remember Matt 5:20 – righteousness that surpasses the Pharisees. So it is here. The follower of Jesus has two requirements: rejecting the false teaching and narratives of His day and following Him as the True fulfillment of the Law. In other words, this emphasizes love over vengeance.
2. God’s heavenly standard of perfection or holiness. Even the casual listener or reader of this text wants to throw up their hands in despair. Perfection! I don’t think so. Well, that is the point. It is the holy standard of heaven and of God that is both our dilemma, in our fallen self, and our hope, in the redemption of Jesus and the cross. It is the simple saving recognition and belief of the thief on the cross – remember me – to which Jesus then promised, today you shall be with me in paradise.
John 5:24: 24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
There it is, the solution. Not a life just trying to be better or good or confused about salvation and right standing before God. The solution is Jesus. No wonder the early message of the church was twofold: Jesus and the ResurrectionThat is how our righteousness exceeds the Pharisees, how we are perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfectly. Our holiness, the satisfaction of God, is in Jesus. Enjoy these life changing truths this week, and stay well. Next week we begin a section of the Sermon on the Mount that focuses on the practical working out of our righteousness before and around those with whom we live and work. Practical life changing truths coming.
— John Moore