February 21st | text: Matthew 5
This is the first sermon in the Things Jesus Said series. We will study some of the parables, teachings and sermons of Jesus for the next four weeks leading up to Palm Sunday and Easter.
Matthew 5, 6 and 7 are most familiar to us as the Sermon on the Mount. A recurring theme throughout most of Matthew 5 is Jesus telling his listeners to step it up a notch. Listen to what the Law requires and what the scribes and Pharisees have been teaching then go above and beyond. God desires more than the bare minimum of what is required of everyone. Think of it in terms of taking a class. Meeting the minimum requirements will earn you a passing grade but it won’t be an A. If we can’t be satisfied with minimum wage earnings, dial-up internet and standard definition tv, why offer God the least amount we think we can get by with?
Here is a link to the Salt of the Earth, Light of the World sermon I preached in November. Jesus’ statements about murder and adultery call for what I mentioned above, for us to go beyond what the Pharisees teach. Just like the 10th Commandment suggests, sin begins in the heart before it is manifest externally. Sin is about how we think and not just about what we do. “No one gets hurt” does not justify sinful actions. Our focus in this text is verses 43-48.
It’s east to love lovely things. Our daughter Johannah is six. If you ask her what she loves, although we’re sure she loves her parents very much, she will probably say something like rainbows, puppies and unicorns. She’s a little girl and those things are cute. It’s easy for us to love things – and people – that appear attractive or that love us back. Jesus points out that even tax collectors show kindness to the people that are kind to them. We are called to do more.
Easy things offer less reward. Math is hard. I’m not trying justify not doing it; Subjects that are tough, or sometimes teachers that are regardless of the subject, give us the opportunity to persevere. Returning to the grade analogy, a hard B is more rewarding than an easy A. Marriage is hard, going to the moon was hard. You can microwave a pot pie in under 5 minutes, but it’s not going to be as delicious and fulfilling as one made from scratch and baked in an oven. Instant grits, instant coffee, instant oatmeal; these are things we settle for in a hurry but not usually our favorites. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, each temptation offered was a basically a shortcut. The reward would be quicker and easier than taking the long, slow, painful road to the cross. The nature of all sin is that we are willing to settle for less than what God has to offer.
Love your enemies. It’s not natural and does not come easily. But Jesus says we do this to become children of God. He would know. And Jesus never asks us to do anything he hasn’t given us the example for himself. He tells his followers the world will hate them because it hated him first. He was known for suffering and as a man acquainted with grief and sorrows. After being beaten, spat on, mocked and hung on the cross, Jesus prayed for the people that were crucifying him. Before going to the cross, Jesus explained to his followers that he humbled himself so that God the Father cold lift him up. We are reminded of the servant nature of Jesus in Philippians 2 and told to have the same heart in us that lived in Jesus. That is possible through the indwelling Holy Spirit that leads and directs… if we are humble to God and willing to follow.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” -Gal. 5:14