STRIVE FOR GODLY PERFECTION
Matthew 4:17-7:29 September 16 2007
After His baptism and temptations i the wilderness, Jesus
began His public ministry by proclaiming the nearness of the
kingdom of heaven (Matt.4:17). He also gathered disciples,
taught, healed, and cast out demons (Matt. 4:18-25) . He
performed these tasks in Galilee (northern Israel), though
people from throughout Israel followed Him.
Matthew’s Gospel provides a large block of Jesus’ teaching
in the sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:1-7:29). The sermon has
instruction on how citizen of the kingdom of heaven should
conduct themselves. It can be divided into five sections.
The first section focuses on what God wants to give citizens
of the kingdom (Matt.5:1-16).
The second section focuses on behavior. The remainder of
chapter 5 is often called "the antitheses"(Matt. 5:17-48).
The third section looks at our priorities (Matt. 6:19-34)
Relationship are the focus of the fourth section (Matt. 7:1-12).
The concluding section (Matt.7:13-19) present a challenge to
choose wisely. Our decisions have eternal consequences.
1. The Standard to Exceed (Matt. 5:20)
Matt. 5:20 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.
Jesus is not speaking against observing all the requirements
of the Law, but against hypocritical, Pharisaical legalism.
Such legalism was not the keeping of all details of the Law
but the hollow sham of keeping laws externally, to gain merit
before God, while breaking them inwardly. It was following the
letter of the Law while ignoring its spirit. Jesus repudiates
the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Law and their view of
righteousness by works. He preaches a righteousness that
comes only through faith in him and his work. In the verses
that follow, he gives six examples of Pharisaical externalism.
(Matt. 5:18) Smallest letter. One word in Greek (IOTA), which
we use when we say, “It doesn’t make one iota of difference.”
It is the nearest Greek equivalent to the Hebrew YODH, the
smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet ( Psalms 119:73 title).
Least stroke of a pen. The Greek word for this phrase means
“horn” and was used to designate the slight embellishment or
extension of certain letters of the Hebrew alphabet (somewhat
like the bottom of a “j”).
2. Behavior Toward Friends (Matt. 5:21-26)
Matt. 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago,
‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca, ’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. 5:23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 5:24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. 5:25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 5:26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
It was said. The contrast that Jesus sets up (Matt. 5:21,27,31,33,38,43) is not between the OT and his teaching (he has just established the validity of the OT Law). Rather, it is between externalistic interpretation of the rabbinic tradition on the one hand, and Jesus’ correct interpretation of the Law on the other. Murder. Several Hebrew and Greek verbs mean “kill.” The ones used here and in (Ex 20:13) specifically mean “murder.” Raca. May be related to the Aramaic word for “empty” and mean “Empty-head!” Sanhedrin. (Mark 14:55). Hell. The Greek word is Gehenna, which derives its name from a deep ravine south of Jerusalem, the “Valley of (the Sons of) Hinnom” (Hebrew GE HINNOM).
During the reigns of the wicked Ahaz and Manasseh, human
sacrifices to the Ammonite god Molech were offered there.
Josiah desecrated the valley because of the pagan worship
there (2Kiins 23:10; Jer 7:31-32; 19:6). It became a sort of
perpetually burning city dump and later a figure for the place
of final punishment.
Penny. The smallest Roman copper coin.
3. Behavior Toward Difficult People (Matt. 5:38-42)
Matt. 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth
for tooth.’ 5:39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If
someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
5:40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him
have your cloak as well. 5:41 If someone forces you to go one mile,
go with him two miles. 5:42 Give to the one who asks you, and do
not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
This passage portrays undeserving , difficult, and demanding
people and guides us in relating to them. We do not have the
option of automatically writing of difficult people. We are to
look for ways to establish and deepen relationships that lead
them closer to God. Merit is not the governing principle in our
relationships . Mercy Is.
(Ex 21:23-24; Lev 24:20). Tunic. . . Cloak. The first was an
undergarment, the second a loose outer one. FORCES. The Greek
verb comes from a Persian word meaning “press into service”
and is used in (Matt. 27:32), where the Roman soldiers pressed
Simon into service to carry Jesus’ cross.
4. Behavior Toward Enemies (Matt. 5:43-47)
Matt. 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor
and hate your enemy.’ 5:44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and
pray for those who persecute you, 5:45 that you may be sons of
your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and
the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 5:46
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not
even the tax collectors doing that? 5:47 And if you greet only
your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even
pagans do that?
Tax collectors. Traditionally known as “publicans,” these
were local men employed by Roman tax contractors to collect
taxes for them. Because they worked for Rome and often
demanded unreasonable payments, the tax collectors gained
a bad reputation and were generally hated and considered
As Jesus did on the cross we can love people who obviously
do not have our best interest at heart. Love may mean desiring
good for them. That is an appropriate expression of love. Also,
prayer can defuse hurt and resentment. I may not be able to solve every issue someone has against us, but we can pray for and ask God to bless that person. we also can ask Him to take care of situations beyond our ability to solve.
5. The Standard to Seek (Matt. 5:48)
Matt. 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The word for perfect means " Whole" or "mature." Some
interpreters have tried to use these translations to lesson the
force of Jesus command and thus make it more attainable.
Nothing in the Sermon on the Mount or in the rest of Jesus’
teaching, however, permits that kind of retreat.
Be perfect. Christ sets up the high ideal of perfect love (Matt.
5:43-47 )—not that we can fully attain it in this life. That,
however, is God’s high standard for us.
We enter the kingdom through the new birth (John 3:1-16), but we enjoy the kingdom by living for those things that please God the most (Matt. 6:33). The world(and worldly believers) would disagree with Christ’s description of a blessed (happy) person, but the description is true just the same. God majors on character, and so should we .
"In taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over , he is superior."