Summary: 1. Jesus reinterprets the law and makes it a more difficult way (not less). 2. Jesus’ way had to wait until the human family was able to hear it and follow it. 3. We cannot live the way Jesus taught us without each other.
• Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, tells this story from his childhood: “I remember to this day exactly where I was when it hit me: riding north on Haledon Avenue between Sixth and Seventh Streets in Paterson, New Jersey after Sunday morning church with my parents. Isn’t it remarkable how we remember exactly where we were when great events happen that change our lives?
I had learned some things about God and Jesus, about heaven, and about good and evil in church and Sunday school. Like most children at that age, I was a bit confused and overwhelmed by it all, especially by what this great being called God expected of me. I felt a little insecure, I guess, about not knowing and a little guilty about not doing everything that I was supposed to be doing. Then all of a sudden the sun shone through the fog. I saw the one thing necessary that made sense and order out of everything else.
I checked out my insight with my father, my most reliable authority. He was an elder in the church and (much more important) a good and wise man. ‘Dad, everything they teach us in church and Sunday school, all the stuff we’re supposed to learn from the Bible—it all comes down to only one thing, doesn’t it? I mean, if we only remember the one most important thing all the time, then all the other things will be O.K., right?’
He was rightly skeptical. ‘What one thing? There are a lot of things that are important.’
‘I mean, I should just always ask what God wants me to do and then do it. That’s all, isn’t it?’
His father replied: ‘You know, I think you’re right, son. That’s it.’
I had perceived—via God’s grace, not my own wit, surely—that since God is love, we must therefore love God and love whatever God loves. I now knew that if we turn to the divine conductor and follow his wise and loving baton—which is his will, his Word—then the music of our life will be a symphony.”
Peter Kreeft as a child grasped the central message of what Jesus is saying in our Scripture today.
1. Jesus’ reinterprets the law and makes it a more difficult way (not less).
• People love rules. They love rules because they like for things to be black and white. Give a person a rule and they don’t have to think any more, they just have to follow the rule. Rules are simple.
• I read on the news this week where a 61-year-old Portland, Oregon man died in a hospital parking garage just 100 feet from the entrance of the hospital’s emergency room. Portland police said no one from the staff of the hospital would respond to calls for help as officers struggled to revive the man who had suffered a heart attack in his car. None of the hospital staff came to help because they had a rule: Someone had to first call 911, and if there was not call they were not to respond. Judy Leach, a hospital spokeswoman, said emergency room staff was told it was a car crash and they were following the proper protocol by instructing police to summon an ambulance crew. Leach said Friday. “There are protocols in place to ensure the right thing is done for the right patient at the right time.” They had a rule, and no one bothered to use common sense. They followed the rule exactly and someone died.
• Rules are simple, but using our brains to think in terms of ethics, values and morality are not simple, and Jesus showed what the real intent of the law was. The law was not just to affect our actions, but our heart, our attitudes, our intentions and our motives. Now things really begin to get difficult.
• Jesus said that it was not enough not to have murdered anyone, you must not even hate anyone. You must not be angry with anyone. You must not insult anyone. You must not call other people names. And you must do everything you can to be reconciled to people when something has come between you.
• It is not enough not to avoid committing adultery. You must not lust after another person. It is not enough not to steal. You must not even desire what another person has.
• May I ask you, “Which is easier, not to commit adultery or not to lust in your mind? Which is easier, not to steal or not to want what you see someone else has? Which is easier, not to murder someone or not to call them a jerk?”
• It seems to me that we sometimes think of Jesus coming and making this whole relationship with God thing easier, when actually he made it much more difficult. He said things like, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 Yes there is grace, and yes there is forgiveness, but we cannot brush aside the fact that Jesus is calling us to take on the character of God. We are to live on a higher plane. We are to strive to be perfect because that is what God is like. We are to forgive even those who do not deserve it, because that is what God is like. We are to seek to be like God, not only in our actions, but in our reactions, our attitudes, our thinking and our heart.