Sunday 12 February 2017

Bible Book:

“You have heard what it was said to those in ancient times ... But I say to you...” (vv. 21, 22)

Matthew 5:21-37 Sunday 12 February 2017

Psalm: Psalm 119:1-8


Matthew's Gospel tells us that Jesus began the Sermon on theMount by going up a mountain and beginning to speak. In describingthis mountain-top experience Matthew clearly wants us to think ofMoses who received the law on a mountain top and passed it on tothe children of Israel (Exodus19, 20). But now Jesus is taking that law and radicalising it.He does this first by talking about inner motivations, thoughts andfeelings; in essence, the things that are in our heart instead oflaws that are simply written in stone. (When you get to Friday's reading from Ezekiel it will be worthre-reading today's passage as a commentary.)

Jesus' words are radicalised by his statements emphasising asense of crisis, citing the risk of hell and using hyperbole tocreate a sense of the importance of not sinning in any way. (So,please don't cut off parts of your body (verses 29-30) - it is avery visual exaggeration for effect.)

Jesus' teaching on divorce (verses 31-32) is also radical, notsimply because the reasons for divorce are tightened up by hiswords but because there is now less reason for a man to divorce awoman. Previously a man could divorce a woman almost on a whim,leaving the woman without any protection. But Jesus is reducingthis possibility so a woman's security at that time isincreased.

At the heart of Jesus' commandments are our relationships withothers. Issues of anger, lust and calling someone a fool all bringinto question whether we are valuing others as humans made in theimage of God. We joke today by saying 'I could murder them', buthow much do we really mean it? So too with making vows and oaths;if we need to make an oath what does that say about the rest of ourconversation?

To Ponder

  • Do you think Jesus would say the same things about divorcetoday? Why?
  • Think about someone you find difficult and how you view them.What might Jesus say?
  • Do we take sin seriously enough in the church today? Why? Orwhy not?

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