You have heard . . But I say; Anger Matt. 5:21-26
September 21, 2014 Series: The Gospel of Matthew
Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 5:21–5:26
Matt. 5:21 - 26 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. 23“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25“Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26“Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.
Six times Jesus is going to use this formula. You have heard that it was said, but I say;
This is the classic definition of antithesis.
A new standard? No. An old standard that had been displaced.
When the remaining two tribes of Judah had been taken captive and removed to Babylon, one of the problems they returned with is their language had been lost. Hebrew was replaced among the common folks with Aramaic.
Thus, most of the jews who returned to Judah could not read their scriptures in their original languages.
It was a situation similar to what the common folks experienced later on in the Catholic church when you would sit and listen to someone chanting away in Latin, and it meant nothing to you.
They were absolutely dependent on the Scribes and Pharisees to interpret their religion for them, and what had happened was that the simplicity of revelation had been replaced with mountains of traditions.
Regarding this arrangement, Jesus would later say: Mt. 15:14 “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
And then, this: 17“Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? 18“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20“These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”
The thesis of the Pharisees was all about external showy religion. The antithesis of Jesus in all of these six case studies is the sin that is inside the man.
Remember when the Lord sent Samuel to annoint David as the king who would replace the dis-obedient Saul? What did he say when Samuel was drooling over David's good looking brothers?
1 Sam. 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
And at the end of the book, in Revelation, Jesus says; 'And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
Again and again we'll see this. Jesus doesn't look at the outside of men, He looks at the heart.
A fascinating passage from early in His ministry; John 2:23 - 25 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. 24But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.
It's always what comes from inside that God sees and repays. I don't know about you, but that's enough to get me on my knees! I'm painfully aware of what's inside my flesh without the cleansing blood of Jesus.
Of all of the commandments that Moses gave and that the pharisees turned into outward showy righteousness, the one you never hear them talking about is number 10. Remember it?
Ex. 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Covetousness is inward. The others are outward. Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Honor mother and father.
All of those can be seen by men around you. Even the ones about worship and God, #1-4 could be turned into grandisement and outward show, which we shall see.
But covetousness is inside. It bubbles up from inside the man and lives inside his mind and his heart. Sure, no one sees. Although arguably, complaining is the outward breaking of this commandment.
But covetousness is an inward sin. An inward sickness. Paul uses covetousness as an illustration of how sin becomes alive inside the man. Unseen but deadly!
Ro. 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET." 8But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.
What Jesus is going to do with these 6 antithetical statements is show the sickness inside.
When He's done, we're either begging for His mercy, or we're hardened into deafness and blindness like so many who heard these things first hand.
I remember when one of our corporate buzz words was "root cause analysis". And that's what Jesus is going to do here. He'll get right at the root cause of murder and adultery. Sin that is dwelling inside every fallen man.
And He starts with relationship conflict.
As soon as there were 2 fallen men on this earth, there was conflict. Cain murdered his brother Abel. Conflict
So Jesus begins with thesis. This is what the Scribes and Pharisees were teaching. Don't murder.
21“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’
That was the standard. Stop short of murder. How many times have you heard someone say, "I haven't killed anybody..." as if that's worth something. "Hey, at least I'm not a murderer." Let God deal with them, but I'm OK. I haven't killed anybody.
And then the antithesis; 22“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
Immediately, this is a departure from anything they've ever heard. What did the prophets say? "Thus saith the Lord"
Direct revelatory authority because the prophet is the agent acting as the voice of God himself. This is what God says; and then whatever the message was.
Here, Jesus bypasses a step. This is what I say.
And the people didn't miss that. It didn't escape over their heads. It says they were stunned because He spoke as one having authority to bypass the whole prophet thing. He spoke as God himself, first person.
The people understood that. They were astonished. And the pharisee's understood that, and it drove them to plot His murder.
Maybe that's why He begins with murder. The thoughts of murdering Him were already in their hardened hearts.
Back to thesis, antithesis, the common ground idea is court. Judgement. Want to avoid judgement and prison. Do not murder.
But Jesus says "Court's in session for every person who was ever angry with his brother."
Ever been angry with someone close to you? You say, yikes! What court is that?? The court of heaven. The eternal judge.
And it just gets worse from there. Ever think to yourself, about someone you work with . . "worthless!" "Moron!" "Idiot!"
Raca! Empty head! It was an onomatopoeic word. Useless person. It's the supreme court for you, if you've done that.
Fool! gr. MÅre from which we get our word moron. Done that? It's the fiery hell for those that have.
fiery hell. gr. geennan Jesus used the valley of ben hinnom, which in greek became geennan or gehenna as an illustration of hell. It was a cursed place because Ahaz established Molech worship there and little children were burned to the god molech.
Because it was cursed, it became a dump and the fires there never went out. The smoke never stopped.
When my girls were about 3, 4 1/2, and 5 1/2 they used to ride with dad out to the dumps. One year there was a deep pit, full of old tires, and it caught on fire and burned for weeks it seemed.
Black smoke and orange flames in a pit. I told my children that was what hell would be like. I wanted to frighten them, on purpose. You could stand at the edge and look in. Very close to the illustration Jesus used which I knew about.
Jesus just took the standard that was mostly possible for almost everyone; Do not murder, and he internalized it and raised it to a level that I'm going to stick my neck out and say, no living fallen human has ever been able to accomplish.
Don't tell me that Mother Teresa in India never once got irritated with someone and thought to herself, this person is useless. Idiot. Moron. Fool.
Jesus really didn't need to go any further than this one law right here to shut us all up in gross failure. We've all done this. We're all guilty.
Even after we're saved, we keep right on having problems here. With our spouses. With each other. With our neighbors. With anyone else in the room.
I was laughing inwardly at that stupid show my wife had on the other day, and I'm guilty, I watched it. Naked and afraid. Not to worry, they've got the fuzzy thing going so you don't really see anything, but I thought of this passage.
You're down to 2 people on a desert island who desperately need each other for any hope of survival, and they still fight.
The formula for conflict among fallen men is this. Put 2 people in a room. This sin is alive and well in every one of us.
Under the scribes and pharisees, the standard was so low that the sin was dead. Jesus raises the standard back up to God's design, and bam! Every one of us in this room is guilty of the supreme court and the fiery hell. Sin becomes alive, and we die.
Raise your hand if you're not guilty enough of the sin Jesus describes here, to be condemned to the fiery hell. Anybody?
The response is to flee to Jesus. I pray that everyone in this room has had that response. We flee to Jesus for forgiveness of sin. We are bankrupt. Helpless. All we can do is flee to the judge and beg for mercy.
Like I said, He could have stopped right there. We're all under the judgement. That's enough. But of course, He doesn't.
He shuts us up to sin, but then He also gets very practical. This is real stuff that we need to take deadly seriously if we've fled to Jesus for remission of sin. Then we need to get practical about real time resolution. Real damage control.
23“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
Notice that here, it isn't in the guy who has been offended's court, it's in your court. Did you offend your brother? your brother has something against you Don't bother with phony so called worship. Get that fixed first.
Me and Pam both have in common that neither one of us has any tolerance for people being angry with us. We both hate that. We both shun conflict, maybe to a fault.
A couple of weeks ago, Tina and Phil were home in The Dalles, and all of a sudden they heard glass shatter. Investigating, they found that someone had thrown a "shot glass" through their window.
So, the police came, and what's the first question the police always ask? "Can you think of any one who's angry with you?"
Conflict. It comes between you and acceptable worship with God. We need to take this very seriously.
When we're passing out the communion bread and wine, this is the truth that we should be quietly considering. Is someone angry with me. Is it for a reason that the Lord Jesus would judge me as in the wrong and the other person as in the right. Is there real unresolved conflict that we haven't taken the steps related here to make it right.
We talk a lot about acceptable worship. This passage gets right to the very heart of acceptable worship. Don't waste your time going through the motions of worship if what you really need to do is damage control. It doesn't mean anything to God.
25“Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26“Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.
How does this illustration fit?
Again, we have the idea of a court rendering judgement for a crime. We have a plaintiff and we have a defendant. But the day before the judge has not come yet.
Instead they are on their way to the court.
In this illustration there doesn't seem to be any question remaining as far as guilt, only what the judgement will be when it is handed down.
And the advice is this; If it gets to the court, it's a done deal. Prison until the debt is repaid, which is impossible, because there's no way to generate money to pay the debt, while you're in prison. So this is a 'life' sentence. Hopeless.
So, the thing to do is work hard to settle out of court. Work for a plea bargain. Anything short of the inevitable prison without parole, is to be strived for.
How does this fit with what Jesus is teaching here.
First of all, it's sound advice. Settle out of court. Consider the plea bargain. We see this all around us. We're familiar with all of these terms and ideas in 2014.
But the deeper truth is this. The passage is about conflict.
We are - every one of us - as fallen sinners, we are in conflict with the God who is perfect, and also judge.
While we're alive, in this life, we're on our way to the inevitable court house in the heavens. Guilty! We will appear before the righteous judge and He will cast us into the fierry hell until every cent is repaid. In other words, forever and ever.
Now is the time to approach the plaintiff who holds the charges against us, and beg for a plea bargain. There's still time, as long as we live in this life.
Jesus died for those sins. Forgiveness is available. God is full of grace and mercy for those who seek reconciliation, on the way.
To the Colossians, Paul builds on this very idea of plaintiff and defendant.
2:13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Because of the cross of Jesus and the blood shed there, the plaintiff is satisfied. Case closed.
In Romans 8:32-34, Paul says; 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; 34who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
In my study, I enjoyed looking at what the devines wrote for us about this question 450 years ago in the Heidelberg Catechism. We would do well to pay close attention to what other christians treading the path to glory before us experienced and wrote down.
The 6th commandment that Jesus deals with in our passage this morning and that the devines will enlighten us is of course, You shall not kill.
Question 105. What does God require in the sixth commandment?
Answer: That neither in thoughts, nor words, nor gestures, much less in deeds, I dishonour, hate, wound, or kill my neighbour, by myself or by another: (a) but that I lay aside all desire of revenge: (b) also, that I hurt not myself, nor wilfully expose myself to any danger. (c) Wherefore also the magistrate is armed with the sword, to prevent murder. (d)
Question 106. But this commandment seems only to speak of murder?
Answer: In forbidding murder, God teaches us, that he abhors the causes thereof, such as envy, (a) hatred, (b) anger, (c) and desire of revenge; and that he accounts all these as murder. (d)
Question 107. But is it enough that we do not kill any man in the manner mentioned above?
Answer: No: for when God forbids envy, hatred, and anger, he commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves; (a) to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness, towards him, (b) and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies; (c) and that we do good, even to our enemies. (d)
More in The Gospel of Matthew
March 26, 2017The Authority and Commission of Jesus Mt. 28:16 - 20
March 19, 2017Jesus IS Alive! The Tomb is Empty Mt. 28: 1 - 15
March 12, 2017The Burial of Jesus Mt. 27:55 - 66 pt. 2