This is the message for Sunday, December 18th, 2011.
Unless noted, all Scripture from the ESV.
Matthew part 15
The great Rabbi’s sermon part 6.
Murder by anger.
Matthew 5:21-26 – 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Jesus, being the great Rabbi has been explaining to 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.
Many times people will look at Matthew 5-7 as something to shoot for in order to find favor with God and obtain righteousness. And while these are things that we should be doing, we will not do them perfectly, nor do them well; only Jesus has done these things mentioned in these three chapters perfectly. We must look and trust in Him and His righteousness when it comes to the fulfillment of what He spoke of in these chapters.
Jesus now begins looking into the commandment concerning murder. In the rest of Chapter 5 He is going to be dealing with six things that the Jews have heard from the other Jewish Rabbi’s: Anger, Lust, Divorce, Oaths, Retaliation, and their Enemies. Now they will hear from the great Rabbi concerning these issues.
Let’s begin unpacking this text in this light this morning.
The proper interpretation of the Law.
Matthew 5:21 – You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.
Jesus now begins a series of contrasts.
He is contrasting what the Pharisees and other Rabbis taught concerning the Law, to what He teaches concerning the Law.
He is not adding to what the Law was originally intended to mean as some teach, but actually getting back to the original intent of the Law and its meaning.
You see, some were using the Law, not as the method to point to their sins, but as a method of justifying their sins.
Here the example will be anger. They would say something like: “It’s alright for me to be angry and hold a grudge against such and such person because they wronged me; it’s okay because I didn’t kill them.” But for the rest of their lives, there would be bitterness and hatred for one individual against another.
Many people have a wrong way of looking and interpreting the Law in our day as well. They may think that the purpose of the Law is some moral code that if obeyed is pleasing to God and therefore you receive His favor and a blessed, prosperous life.
The reality is that the Law has a two-fold purpose.
(1) It shows us what a good work really is.
(2) It shows us our inability to keep it properly thereby needing a substitute that can keep it perfectly and a sacrifice that will forgive us of our imperfect attempts to keep it.
So the Law, in reality points to Jesus Christ: He is our perfect substitute and our perfect sacrifice.
Anger and insults equal murder.
Matthew 5:22 – But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
Jesus interpretation of the murder commandment.
According to Jesus, judgment for murder doesn’t begin with the physical act; but the condition of the individual’s heart toward another.
Jesus says, “Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
You fool in Greek literally means, “empty or dumb head.” In our day this would be equal to calling someone a “moron, stupid, dummy, etc…”
I can see the Jews eyes getting big as Jesus was teaching this truth.
Let’s apply it to our time.
When we are angry with someone, particularly someone who is a Christian, it is easy to begin to insult that person behind their back, and ultimately start degrading them to the point that you believe that they are empty-headed people.
We need to be careful in our anger. It is easy to justify our anger and our reaction of anger, but in reality, when we react in anger wrongfully we are breaking God’s Law and thereby sinning.
Our reconciliation with fellow believers is more important than our gifts to God.
Matthew 5:23-24 – 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
I like the way the ESV Study Bible puts it: “Reconciliation with the person who has something against you must take precedence even over offering one’s gift in worship.”
It really doesn’t matter if you are in the right or the other party, you and I as fellow Christians must try to live at peace with other Christians if at all possible.
If it isn’t possible, then we should pray for them and pray for our own hearts.
There is a principle that Paul uses in his epistles that we should consider in our reconciliation with other believers.
1 Corinthians 6:7 – To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
In other words, even if we may be right in our assessments of the situation, it is better to humble ourselves and apologize than to stand our ground as being right in our relationships with other fellow believers.
Anger and unforgiveness imprisons you.
Matthew 5:25-26 – 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
During Jesus time they had basically a “debtor’s prison.” When you owed someone money, if you couldn’t pay it, you were enslaved in prison until such a time as it could be paid.
Think of anger, bitterness and unforgiveness as a debtor’s prison.
It doesn’t just bind the person that you have issues with, but actually it enslaves you in your bitterness and refusal to forgive. So we must do our part to forgive other believers, especially in light of what Christ has done for us.
Let’s conclude with some practical, gospel truths this morning.
- All of us have broken the commandment concerning murder with our anger toward other believers in Jesus.
- But grace and forgiveness is available through Jesus Christ.
- As He forgives and reconciles us with God, may we forgive and be reconciled with fellow Christians.