Friday 14 March 2014

Bible Book:

"For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (v.20)

Matthew 5:21-26 Friday 14 March 2014


In God's eyes it is a dreadful thing to breach the fellowshipamong the disciples of Jesus, or to disrupt that community indestructive ways. Jesus' vision was of disciples of great diversityliving together in peace and mutual respect. That vision is damagedby outbursts of anger and inner feelings of contempt. Such 'sins'are as serious as an act of murder.

The commandment against murder appears in Exodus20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17. Hence the reference inMatthew 5:21 to "those of ancient times", ie when the law was givento Israel through Moses. Once confirmed in court, the sentence formurder was death (Leviticus 24:17). In verse 22 Jesus piles upmetaphors to put the expression of negative feelings against a"brother or sister" on the same level: anger, insult (or, saying'Raca', which was presumably a term of abuse) and contempt areworthy of condemnation by the courts and merit God's judgement,which is here pictorially conveyed by the smouldering fires in themunicipal rubbish dump outside Jerusalem, called Gehenna.

In Jesus' teaching, it is crucial that disciples see how serious itis when they are the cause of a falling-out with a fellow-disciple.Indeed God cannot receive the worship, offerings or prayers ofsomeone until they have made peace with an offended brother orsister. Being in the wrong and failing to put things right as soonas possible puts a disciple under God's judgement (verses25-26).

To keep the new community up to Jesus' vision for it is the'greater' righteousness which is expected of disciples, comparedwith the righteousness practised by the scribes and Pharisees(verse 20). (The Pharisees were a lay movement advocating strictadherence to Moses' Law and to a supplementary body ofinterpretation which had been developed by the 'scribes' - thetrained and accredited pharisaic teachers.)

To Ponder

  • How significant is the sharing of the peace in Christianworship for settling arguments between members of acongregation?
  • What sort of experiences make you lose your temper? And whathave you learned which best helps you to control your temper?
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