Summary: Like the Pharisees we are often content to live out the letter of the Law but God is looking for the hearth that seeks to live out the spirit of His word. Living by grace is a higher calling then living by the Law!
Jesus Says What?! (Murder) - Matthew 5:21-26 - October 23, 2011
Series: Kingdom Life – A World Turned Upside Down #12
I had a great-uncle who served in the Royal Air Force during WWII. He had gone over to England to join up a couple of years before the war started. By the time war did break out he was considered a highly experienced regular officer. On May 11, 1940 he was assigned to lead a formation of aircraft to bomb the bridges over the Maastricht canal. The German army was surging over them and the idea was to slow their advance by taking out the bridges.
Now my great-uncle never returned from that mission. He is buried in Belgium near the place where his aircraft came crashing to the earth. For years the family never really knew what had happened. The rumours abounded. I grew up hearing that he died in his parachute as the German pilots used the helpless airmen for target practice.
Radio broadcaster Paul Harvey was famous for his line, “and now you know the rest of the story.” Over the course of the last year or so we’ve been able to learn, from interviews with eye witnesses, what took place that day; “the rest of the story,” as it pertains to my uncle.
As they were making a turn to line up for their bomb run, German fighters attacked the formation. In an instant my uncle’s aircraft was set afire and plunged towards the earth. One man managed to bail out, his parachute just having time to open and slow his descent before he touched down.
It appeared to those who witnessed it that before the end came some control had been established in the aircraft. It came down on fire, but level, barely missing a house before a wing fell off and it crashed into a field with my uncle’s body still strapped in his seat. He and the one other crew member were both dead when German troops reached them moments later.
At some point the bodies were taken and buried in the place where they rest today, while the majority of the aircraft was eventually taken and sold for scrap. Before that happened though, villagers from a little town nearby, took souvenirs from the wreckage. A ring, an ammunition drum, and some other assorted odds and ends. It was a sad ending for a young life but the final chapter wasn’t written till some months later.
It seems that someone, while out looking for a souvenir, had taken from the wreck a couple of small black cylindrical objects. No one knew what they were. Over the months they were passed from hand to hand and every now and then the children would take them down and play with them. What was already a sad story suddenly became even more tragic. It turns out that these cylinders were a couple of small bombs which eventually exploded as two young boys were playing with them. Two more young lives destroyed by an explosion that never should have happened.
And among the things that struck me as that story was pieced together, was the destructive power of something that had lain dormant for so long, but which erupted with fury when it was least expected. And it made me think of the effects that anger has on our relationships. Emotions – like anger, bitterness, and resentment – can lie, seemingly dormant, just under the surface, until one day they erupt with destructive force bringing great pain and hurt into the lives of everyone near them.
And I’m sure we’ve all been hurt, by someone else’s anger at one time or another. And I’m just as certain, that we’ve all hurt others, with our own anger. Every one of us will be angry at some point – the question is – what do we do with it? That being said, I’ll ask you to open your Bibles with me this morning to the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew because Jesus has something to say about anger that we need to take to heart. Last week we looked at Jesus’ declaration that He had not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them. Jesus fills them up; He completes them. And the verses we looked at last time ended with Jesus saying unto them, “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.” (Matthew 5:20, NIV)
And in the verses that follow, the ones we will start looking at today, Jesus gives us some concrete examples of how it is that we need to be living the spirit of the Law rather than the letter of it. He shows us what it looks like when our righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees. This is what it looks like in daily life. So let’s start reading in verse 21 …