Summary: Jesus teaches us by expounding the interpretation of Scripture by emphasizing and contrasting our outward vs inward (spiritual) obedience.
February 17, 2019
Matthew 5:21-24, 27-30, 33-37
Jesus Clarifies Some Scripture For Us
Jesus is actually confronting these areas of the Law and expounding the interpretation beyond that of the scribes. How and why is He doing this? The how is of great importance. The How is of His authority as The Messiah – The Chief Prophet – The Divine Teacher. The why is to provide us with the fullest meaning of this reading and to help us avoid misinterpretation.
As we read with an open and eager to understand mind, we soon sense that Jesus is speaking to our mind but even more so to our heart. When we commit any act, good or bad there is the external act or deed. What Jesus is saying is there is also the internal act of the heart. You may already be anticipating where I am going with this, if you have heard many of my sermons. You would be correct if you saw coming the word ATTITUDE as it relates to the inner action.
We have all been taught to obey God’s Word from childhood Sunday School onward, haven’t we? We have been taught to be obedient because God loves us, and that obedience is a means of showing Him our love in return. However, the obedience or degree of obedience centers more on our attitude than on our love for God. Think hard on that and be honest with yourself.
I have shared before something that Philip Yancey once said that was something like, doing the right thing because it is demanded of us, misses the teaching of love and a response to that love. It’s been a longtime ago but that is an overview as I remember it. He followed it up by saying it is an unintended consequence but at least it resulted in good.
I tried to find a better direct quote but wound up with the following, which I think is a great word for us:
"The proof of spiritual maturity is not how pure you are but awareness of your impurity. That very awareness opens the door to grace." - Philip Yancey
Martin Luther King once said: “Avoid not only violence of deed but violence of spirit”. Now that quote aligns with this teaching to a T, doesn’t it?
As we move forward, we read what Jesus says about Murder, Adultery and Oaths.
As we read in verse 22: “ But, I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
Ouch! As I read this, I have to wonder how many have I put in this position with some stupid, silly pranks and antics through the years. I pray that when such a retort is deserved, that it wouldn’t fall into this sinful category.
Remembering that word attitude or from the heart, it seems to me that even harboring a like sentiment about someone, without any outward expression is equally sinful. Another giant WOW! At least for me. That draws me back to Yancey’s quote earlier about “awareness” of impurity.
I used an example once in the Dominican Republic: If you grab a coconut and bash someone to death with it, that’s murder. If you conjure some vision of someone lying under a coconut tree and hope to see a coconut fall and strike them in the head with a deadly blow, that is a murderous thought and attitude for which you shall be brought into judgment. It also brings to mind while ministering in Miami, an abused housewife who many times expressed how she dreamed of her husband driving off the road into a canal and drowning.
“Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” 1 John 3:15
And then we come to a point in His teaching about ADULTERY. I do not want a show of hands, but I ask you, how many hearing or reading this message have committed adultery? Answer only to yourself and to God (He already knows anyway).
I confess – yes, I have entertained thoughts of lust and adultery. According to this teaching, I have indeed committed adultery. I will never forget when President Jimmy Carter said these very same words, confessing to the entire world.
Shall I pluck out an eye? According to this teaching, the answer is YES! We aren’t talking about surgery here. I have glaucoma and have to be very protective and deliberate in daily drops and visits to the eye doctor. What we are talking about here is “spiritual surgery”. Remove the things that lead to immoral thoughts for it is what is within the heart (the attitude) where the problem lies.