This is the sermon for Sunday, January 8th, 2012.

Unless noted, all Scripture from the ESV.

Matthew part 17

The great Rabbi’s sermon part 8

God’s will concerning revenge and love.

Matthew 5:38-48 – 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Introduction

Jesus, being the great Rabbi has been showing those listening to the Sermon on the Mount the high demands of the Law and their total inability to keep it.  We must remember in our interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount, this is a Jewish Rabbi (Jesus) teaching Jewish people.  Rabbi’s taught concerning the Law of God.  And Jesus is doing the same within this sermon.

Jesus now is going to be dealing with a couple more issues found within the Law: One concerning revenge and the other concerning how to treat your enemies.  Jesus demand for Law-keeping here is far above an acknowledgment of the written code of the Law; but the spirit of the Law itself – which demands perfection.  Let’s begin unpacking our text.

God’s will concerning revenge and retaliation.

Now before we begin looking into this text, in our culture there is an expression that “revenge is a dish best served cold.”

Well, let’s see what Jesus has to say about this.

Let’s first look at verses 38-39.

Matthew 5:38-39 – 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Jesus begins with the Law of retaliation.

He is quoting from the Old Testament here, where three times it is mentioned in the Law of Moses this law of retaliation (Exodus  24:24; Leviticus 24:20; and Deuteronomy 19:21).

And in this law we see that God did allow for equal retaliation and revenge, but it wasn’t for the purpose that the Jews has made it out as; they thought it allowed complete vengeance.  But his law was actually given in order to prevent so many acts of vengeance.

Why can I say that?  Because the retaliation was of equal value, and most people who want revenge are not just satisfied with the equality, but they want to go much further.  And in this case the Law wouldn’t allow it.

Notice also that Jesus is admitting that sometimes people who are evil will wrong us: Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…”

This slap in the time of Christ was considered very insulting, so it injured more than just the face, but the person’s reputation.

But Jesus says to turn to the evil person your other cheek also.

Next Jesus goes to three more things that could be considered worthy of retaliation: Being sued, being forced to do something, and being begged to give.

Matthew 5:40-42 – 40And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Let’s look at these three things.

Sued – First off, the first century Jew did not have an overabundance of clothes like we do today.  They had a tunic – which was the undergarment – and a cloak – which was the outer garment.  At night, they would take off the tunic and put the cloak back on to sleep in, and then often clean the tunic for the next day.  It was a prized possession to the Jew.  And here Jesus said that if you are being sued for your tunic – undergarment; let him have your cloak – outer garment as well.  The idea here is that you are that is doesn’t matter whether you are sued rightly for doing something wrong, or wrongfully, you are the innocent party, we must give to the one who sues, i.e. our enemies.

Be forced to go the extra mile – Here Jesus is likely referring to the Roman soldiers, who would often stop and make the common Jew carry some type of load for them for one mile (an example would be Simon helping Jesus carry His cross).  Here Jesus says to go an extra mile – go above and beyond what you are being forced to do.

Giving to the one who begs – In the Law God had a way to help the poor Jew – and that was to lend money to them.  Now the idea was for them to pay you back; let’s look at that law.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 – 7“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, 8but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. 9Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin. 10You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

Tying this all together – many would see the poor and question if they could return the money lent to them.  They may go ahead and lend, but if later they couldn’t return, then they would sue them, and even take away their precious undergarment if they couldn’t pay.

This was revenge going much further than what the Law intended.

How do we apply this to us?

Revenge is not something that the Christian should pursue.  Why?  Because the sin that was sinned against you, Jesus died for.

Also, we give to those in need when we are able, not expecting anything in return because Jesus gave His life for us, knowing that it would be impossible for us to pay it back.

Concerning loving your enemy.

Matthew 5:43-47 – 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Love your neighbor and hating your enemy.

Here we see a classic “reading extra into the text” example.

Jesus is quoting from Leviticus 19:18 which is talking about loving your neighbor.  But the Rabbis of Jesus day added to the thought of the text, “if you should love your neighbor, then it is expected that you should hate your enemy because they are not considered your neighbor.”

And Jesus is correcting that interpretation of the Law of Moses.

He says: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Why?  “So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”

Though we may hate our enemies, God’s loving hand is upon them.  What is the evidence of this? “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Our love for our enemies shows the unconverted world that we are truly sons of the kingdom of God.

“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same.”

Concerning the Law – absolute moral perfection.

Matthew 5:48 – You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Let’s look at the Greek word for perfect.

It’s the Greek word τελειος (tel’-i-os) – it means, “1) brought to its end, finished 2) wanting nothing necessary to completeness 3) perfect 4) that which is perfect 4a) consummate human integrity and virtue 4b) of men 4b1) full grown, adult, of full age, mature.

But here within our text its meaning is absolute moral perfection when it comes to keeping the Law.

What God is saying is that His moral standard for righteousness is not or own feeble attempts at perfection – but Himself.

Folk’s we don’t even come close.  So what is our hope?  Well let me quote from Romans 7 as we conclude.

Conclusion

Romans 7:14-25 – 14For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

This absolute moral perfection Jesus lived and it is through Him that we are delivered from it.  Though we love the Law and what it teaches us, through Christ it has been fulfilled, and now the life we live, is lived through Him, not or own ability to live it out.

 

 

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