Do you remember playing “opposite day” when you were a kid? It could be sort of fun at first, but it always devolved into an annoying game of contradictions. There would usually be one kid who would take it too far and drive everyone around him to the brink of violence. I really should apologize for that.
Anyway, we’re going to be continuing our study in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount this Sunday – we’ll be reading chapter 5:17-48. So far, Jesus has been turning popular concepts on their heads, and it could be tempting to think that he’s just doing his own version of “opposite day”, until we get to this section.
Jesus is trying to make it clear that he’s not starting some new religion, and he’s not just trying to contradict the Old Testament Law, but his intention is to fulfill it. His coming on the scene is a continuation of the story that was developed in the Old Testament and he is the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham and David.
While he intends to fulfill the law, he also warns that our righteousness has to exceed that of the Pharisees. What do you believe he means by that? How do we apply that in our present world and time? If adhering to a moral code doesn’t produce righteousness, what do you think will?
Jesus has something else he wants to make clear: the deeper intention behind the Law of Moses. So from v21-48 he presents what have become known as the antitheses’ of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus reveals a contrast by putting two different ideas side by side. It will be in the form of “You’ve heard it said…but I say to you”.
He will cover themes of murder, lust, adultery, oaths and how to treat our enemies. What is the common thread that you notice to all these themes? Jesus is describing real righteousness that is more than the outward expression of the Pharisees – so how do you think real righteousness expressed based on the themes Jesus presents?
When Jesus tells us to present the other side of our face when struck on one side, do you believe he’s telling an abused wife somewhere to just take it? If not, then what would be a good way to understand the nature of Christ’s instructions here? What difference do you think there is between self-defense and retaliation and revenge?
What Jesus is describing is certainly no way to get ahead in this world. We know the rules of this world. If getting ahead in this world isn’t on Jesus’ agenda, what benefit do you think living out this kind of righteousness provides?
This is going to be a challenging study – Hope to see you Sunday…if you dare. 🙂