Free Bible Commentary
“Matthew 5:21-48”Categories: 50 Days with Jesus
“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 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. Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 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. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil. You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
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Jesus taught with great power and authority. Over and again He tells us that what people have to say is not nearly as important as what He says. Six times in today’s reading Jesus sets what He says, not against what the Law of Moses said, but against what some people had to say about the Law. Jesus didn’t come to destroy the Law, He came to fulfill it (verse 17). But He did have a lot to say about how the scribes and Pharisees abused the Law (verses 19-20). Sometimes they carried things too far, other times not far enough, and they were always looking for loopholes around keeping parts of the Law they didn’t like. Jesus said that we must do better than that. Our righteousness must exceed their superficial righteousness.
Verses 21-26 – THEY said don’t commit murder or you’ll be guilty before the court. JESUS said we will be liable before God for not only what we do, but also what we think. Jesus tells us to get our anger under control before our thoughts and emotions lead to slander, aggression and even murder. Jesus gets to the heart of the law, not just the punishment for an offender. God wants us to control our hateful thoughts and volatile emotions before something regrettable happens.
Verses 27-30 – THEY said don’t commit adultery, as if just not doing the act is good enough. JESUS said get control of your lust. Once again, the heart of the issue actually is the issue. People say there’s no harm in looking. Jesus says that’s where all the trouble begins. And while it is absolutely true that “it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell,” Jesus uses hyperbole in verses 29-30 to teach us to do whatever it takes to keep from looking and lusting in the first place.
Verses 31-32 – THEY said you can divorce your wife as long as you give her a certificate relinquishing all rights to her. JESUS said the only legitimate reason to divorce your spouse is if they have been sexually unfaithful. Divorce does not dissolve the bonds that God has created in marriage, unless infidelity occurs. And even then only the innocent party is free to remarry.
Verses 33-37 – THEY said you are required to keep the oaths you make “to the Lord”. JESUS said “make no oath at all.” They thought they had a good loophole for not following through with their vows. As long as they didn’t invoke the Lord’s name, they weren’t really swearing by Him or to Him. But Jesus said that anything you swear by is to God, since it was all made by God; whether it be something as big as the earth or as small as a hair on your head. Better still, Jesus said just be a person of your word and you won’t need to swear at all.
Verses 38-42 – THEY said “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” While the law of “equivalent retribution” served many useful purposes, it never gave the offended person the right to exact his own vengeance. It was still left up to judges to determine appropriate penalties (Exodus 21:22; Deuteronomy 19:18). But JESUS said that we are to treat people far better than they deserve. Don’t retaliate when offended. Give more than has been asked of you. Go the extra mile for others. That’s just exactly how Jesus lived His life.
Verses 43-48 – THEY said love your neighbor and hate your enemy. JESUS said love everybody. Jesus said carry your love for the people in the world farther than they would carry it for you. Jesus said pray for the people who treat you poorly. They need your help not your hatred.
Don’t you worry about what “THEY say”. You focus on what the Master says.
Please read Matthew 6:1-18 for tomorrow – Sermon on the Mount – Giving and prayer.
Have a blessed day!