How much time do you have? There are so many biblical truths tucked away in chapter 5 that it would take us years to get through them all, especially at the rate that I go through books of the Bible. Think about it, Jesus begins his teaching on what is called the classic sermon on the mount. If you have ever heard that term: Sermon on the Mount, then you can know that this is the chapter that people are referring to. It goes all the way through chapter 7. The teachings of Jesus in this setting have remained with us for millennia and continue to ring true today. He begins with the beatitudes: blessed are… I like to focus on the first one of the beatitudes. They are called beatitudes because each one of them begins with “blessed are” and the word beatitude means blessed. Here in Matthew he says blessed are the poor in spirit but in Luke 6:20 he doesn’t include spirit and just says blessed are the poor. These verses serve for me as the basis for my understanding of Jesus’ preference for the poor and preference for those who are the least of these. Jesus has a special place in his heart for those who are poor. Jesus has a special place in his heart for those who are destitute and persecuted. I say this with the full realization that I am not poor, I probably don’t fit any of the categories that Jesus lifts up as people whom he loves the most. That is a difficult realization to know that we are not the least of these and so what Jesus requires of us is so much more than what we think is required of us.
The abundance of resources and opportunities that we have living and growing up in the United Stated in comparison to those living in third world countries is astounding. We did not choose to be born into the families in which we were born, and neither did those who live in third world countries, and yet because we were then we are given those opportunities and faced with those possibilities that a small percentage of the world is able to enjoy. It is hard to understand this unless you have seen a third world reality where people live in such a different framme of mind than one in which we are used to living.
This chapter also contains the directive to be the salt of the earth, light of the world, Jesus as the one who fulfills the law, if you have something against a church member then you are not to take communion until you approach that member and ask for forgiveness (yes, if you read vs.21-26 that is exactly what it says), do not commit adultery and tear out your eye if it causes you to stumble (a real eye opener, no pun intended, for those who view porn as just another past time), Jesus’ teaching on divorce, prohibition against swearing, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, NOT, love your enemies.
That is a lot of material in such a short space. What you find is that in each of these prohibitions, teachings, and insights, Jesus takes the most strict interpretation possible. He allows for divorce but only on the grounds of adultery. Back in the 1st century the rabbis allowed for divorce if the husband woke up one morning and his wife wasn’t pleasing in his sight. Back then it was only the husband who could divorce, and when it happened then the woman would be left without any recourse and would be forced to prostitute herself. Jesus says no, this is not right, the only cause for divorce would be adultery. He limits what at one time was a free for all.
There are some who see Jesus as expanding the freedoms of what was being taught by the religious leaders. I think if you look at his life and see how he came to fulfill the law that he did not come to expand, but rather encouraged people to live in the freedoms that the law already provided. Don’t step outside of the laws of the Lord. Jesus was someone who said we have to get back to basics, not try to create things that God has not blessed or approved. It remains a good lesson for us today.