Summary: A sermon that deals with murder of the heart.
“I’d Kill You If I Could”
Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law - but came to fulfill it - not one jot or tittle would fade from the Law. In our text today, Jesus is not contradicting God’s Law, but rather getting to the ‘heart,’ or intent of the Law.
Read: Matthew 5:21-26 NIV.
You Have Heard.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ’Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5: 21).
Jesus began His statement here by referring to the Sixth Commandment found in Exodus 20:13 & Deuteronomy 5:17. This quotation is also based on Leviticus 24:17 which states, “If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death” (And it is based on Deuteronomy 19:12 and Numbers 35). They had heard these teachings through the Rabbis.
Question: What is the judgment that He was referring to? The Amplified Version says, “and whoever kills shall be liable so that he cannot escape the punishment imposed by the court.” The NASB says, “Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.” This would be referring to a local court. Basically this says that a person who murders will be found guilty by a local court.
Murder is a horrible crime. It is destroying the creation of God that was made in His image. Listen to this: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Gen. 9:6). It is literally an all out assault on God. Jesus was only stating the obvious; the very thing everyone knew and heard via the Rabbis.
The problem is that the teachers of the Law focused strictly on externals.
But I tell you.
“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:22).
Jesus isn’t contradicting the Law here, but rather getting to the heart of it. They’d heard that they had better obey the Law outwardly. But now they are hearing teaching stating that a man can be guilty of murder even if he never did anything to physically harm someone.
Question: What is Jesus talking about, being “angry with his brother?" And, is it always wrong to be angry?
Righteous indignation against sin, and even sin in an individual’s life, is a necessary thing. There are times when people make us angry by wronging us, but Paul warns us, “and ‘don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27 NLT).
Everyone will experience anger. But it is the boiling, festering anger that one holds in their heart, that Jesus is equating with murder. This kind of anger seeks revenge and would kill if it could.
Example: Cain felt this anger toward Abel and it bred physical murder.
This kind of anger is literally, at the heart of murder. In fact it is the attitude that precedes the action. So while the Rabbis may have been teaching the outward repression of murder, the internal heart of the issue was not being dealt with. Some may even have felt sure they’d never broken this Law, but now Jesus was exposing the truth.
“Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him” (1John 3:15 NIV).
“…anyone who says to his brother, ’Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin” (Matthew 5:22).
Question: What is meant by the word Raca? This word is basically calling someone a blockhead, brainless idiot, empty headed. It’s an abusive term.
The person who speaks with contempt towards another is answerable to the Sanhedrin (the national council of 71 members that was presided over by the high priest). Obviously this was not to be taken literally. In other words, the sin of a long-lasting, seething anger that you keep inside towards another is bad and worthy of judgment, but the sin of taking your anger and hurling it with insults at the object of your wrath is even worse! And it is worthy of a greater judgment.
“But anyone who says, ’You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:22).
The meaning here is to slander someone - “character assassination:" killing a person’s reputation. A person involved in this venting of anger shows true hate and murder in their heart.
The word here that is translated into "hell" is "Gehenna," the Valley of Hinnom located south-west of Jerusalem. King Ahaz had introduced the practice of sacrificing children in the fire to the god Molech. This was stamped out by good king Josiah. Hinnom eventually became a burning dump where Jerusalem’s waste was burned. This place was used by Jesus and others to describe a type of hell. Thus, Jesus got His point across about hatred in the heart and the insults that result from it and the serious judgment that results.