Matthew 5:21-26: Right with People, Right with God

I’ve been tinkering with the website, as you might have noticed :), and have managed to lose the pulpit notes I’d posted on last week’s sermon.  Here they are, again…

Introduction: 

  • Matt 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.
  • Mat 5;20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.
  • Fulfill = several aspects: eschatologically, soteriological, morally, didactically
  • Righteousness = 1. Forensic, or, 2. Behavioral, like Cornelius…  Acts 10
  • I believe Jesus continued in His sermon with the purpose of both fulfilling the Law before their very eyes through correcting the faulty interpretation of the Law, and be instructing them in the kind of righteous behavior that was truly “greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees…”

Verses 21-26 comprise the first of six lessons on how to live the life of righteousness that is truly greater than the scribes and the Pharisees (v20), or, better than the best people we know!

The Pattern of this section (vv21-48):

  • “You have heard that the ancients were told…” = The faulty interpretation
  • “But I Myself say to you…” = The correct interpretation
  • “Therefore…” = The correct application

Big Idea: Citizens of the kingdom of heaven don’t let grass grow under their feet when it comes to making things right with those they’ve hurt or offended.

I.          Jesus cited the traditional interpretation of “You shall not murder” 21

            A.        “You shall not commit murder” 21a

21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ‘

  • “You have heard that the ancients were told, = They didn’t teach—they quoted
  • MURDER = the crime of killing another person deliberately and not in self-defense or with any other extenuating circumstance recognized by law

            B.        And…“Whoever commits murder shall be guilty” 21b

and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’

  • and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ = liable = guilty. 
  • By adding this second verse to the original commandment, they suggested that all a person had to do to be compliant was simply avoid killing anybody, and that the reason to avoid killing anyone was that they would have to end up in court—nothing about God!  They limited the commandment to human reasoning, and made it quite attainable—easy to keep.  Legalistic, formulaic religion is created to be very “doable” for its followers!

II.         Jesus correctly interpreted the command, “You shall not kill,” giving three examples of its violation 22

Restated: To Jesus, underlying attitudes were EVERYTHING, as they were the impetus for all resulting actions.

            A.        I.e., Mere causeless anger is evidence of murderous guilt 22a

22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court;

  •  We get angry when we feel mistreated, insulted, disrespected.

            B.        I.e., Mere contentious expression is evidence of murderous guilt 22b

and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court;

  • (Raca! = Aramaic, “you fool”) = empty-headed, numbskull, dope, goof-ball = these are the names that we call people as a means of demeaning them, of presenting them in our conversation as being less-important, certainly not meriting of our consideration and attention.

            C.        I.e., Merely calling someone “Fool” is evidence enough of murderous  guilt to send a person to hell. 22c

and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

  • moron = in our language, a derisive term describing someone with deficient social and learning abilities, considered very offensive.
  • In the Bible, a fool is a person who has made a moral choice to disregard God by living as if there was not God.  (“low-life” “scoundrel”) cf. Psalm 15

Application:  To murder someone, according to the Law, does not simply mean destroying the physical life—it includes, and often begins with, the attack upon a person’s reputation, self-worth, or reputation.

III.        Jesus applied the biblical teaching “You shall not murder” to everyday life    23-26

Restated:  Since our holy God judges with such an exacting standard we should do all that we can to avoid facing judgment for unresolved anger, disrespect, and estrangements toward others.

            A.        The PRIORITY of reconciliation: Therefore, be reconciled with people before you worship God 23-24

 23 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

  • Psa 66  18 If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear; = there is no value or credit in praying and worshipping God when you knowingly harbor an unresolved stance towards another person.

            B.        The URGENCY of reconciliation:  Therefore, be quick to reconcile,                               before you are judged 25-26

 25 “Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.  26 “Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.

  • No mercy in the courtroom, only justice!  Therefore, make peace with both people and with God while mercy is possible!
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