Summary: Throughout the sermon on the mount, Jesus clarified misconceptions. He explained the deeper implications of the law and broadened their understanding so they could conduct themselves according to God's intentions. Today, Jesus does this regarding retaliation.
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (part twelve)
Jane Vajnar writes the story about her friend's four young boys. They were always full of energy; even in church. But the sermon her minister preached on turning the other cheek got their undivided attention. The minister stressed that no matter what others do to us, we should never try to get even.
That afternoon the youngest boy came into the house crying. Between sobs he told his mother he had kicked one of his brothers, who had kicked him back in return. "I'm sorry that happened", she said, "But you shouldn't go around kicking people." The tearful child replied, "But Mom, the preacher said he wasn't supposed to kick me back!"
I'm sure Mom took the time to clarify things to him. Jesus had to do this. Throughout the sermon on the mount, Jesus clarified misconceptions. He explained the deeper implications of the law and broadened their understanding so they could conduct themselves according to God's intentions. Today, Jesus does this regarding retaliation.
1) "I'll get you for this!"
You've heard the phrase, "don't get mad; get even"? Many people live by this. Actually, probably more people live by the "get mad and even" rule. This is the problem that Jesus is addressing in our text today.
Matt. 5:38-42, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."
The, 'eye for eye' thing refers to instructions about retaliation and compensation. When these were implemented by God to Moses, it was for public matters to be taken from the hands of the people and put into the hands of the magistrates; to prevent abuse and excessiveness.
From the Albert Barnes Commentary, "This command is found in Ex 21:24; Le 24:20; De 19:21. In these places it was given as a rule to regulate the decisions of judges. They were to take eye for eye and tooth for tooth. As a judicial rule it is not unjust. Christ finds no fault with the rule as applied to magistrates, and does not take upon himself to repeal it.
But, instead of confining it to magistrates, the Jews had extended it to private conduct, and made it the rule by which to take revenge. They considered themselves justified, by this rule, to inflict the same injury on others that they had received. Against this our Savior declares that the law had no reference to private revenge; that it was given only to regulate the magistrate; and that their private conduct was to be regulated by different principles.
The general principle which he laid down was, that we are not to resist evil; that is, as it is in the Greek, not to set ourselves against an evil person who is injuring us. But even this general direction is not to be pressed too strictly. Christ did not intend to teach that we are to see our families murdered, or to be murdered ourselves, rather than to make resistance. The law of nature, and all laws, human and Divine, have justified self-defense, when life is in danger."
The 'eye for an eye' rule was meant for authority figures when the matter was brought before them; not for the private citizen to enact his own justice; except when it had to do with self-defense. Jesus goes a step further to encourage not only a resistance to retaliation but a bestowal of blessing to the offender. Let's look at the three scriptures cited concerning the 'eye for an eye' rule.
Exodus 21:22-25, “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise."
We see that compensation was to be in the hands of the authorities. With such a sensitive subject we can see how a husband could become enraged and take matters into his own hands. So God implements fair and rational rules in such emotionally charged cases.
Lev. 24:19-20, "If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured."