Theme of the Week: The Gospel of Matthew – King Jesus
Bible Verse: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Matthew 5:21-22
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5-7
When my wife and I are not parenting at the exact same moment, our sons have learned that they might get a different answer to questions if they ask the other parent. They have also learned that Daddy is probably the one who is going to say no, so they usually start with Mommy.
That makes me smile because I remember doing that when I was a youngster too. It’s a fun game to play with your parents. I’m not looking forward to when they learn to give it a little more thought and start to wonder why Mommy and Daddy have different answers to the same issue. Hearing someone contradicting the authority you thought you knew can be a little strange.
This is perhaps part of what the people who heard the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5 – 7) encountered. Not only was the teaching extraordinarily difficult to try and enact, but it countered and contradicted what had been laid down in the law! True, some instances were only a matter of Jesus taking the command further than what they had heard had been said. But in several cases, Jesus flat-out said the opposite of what was spoken in the law, as if the law was wrong. Don’t love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Instead, love your enemy and pray for those who do wrong to you.” “Don’t take vengeance (eye for an eye); rather, don’t resist an evil person, let them do what they will to you.”
Jesus wasn’t downplaying the law; He was showing that in matters of religion and what it meant to live a life pleasing to God, He was the standard and set it. Religious leaders had, for centuries, interpreted and passed on what had been given to Moses (and the rest of the writers of Scripture. But along came Jesus. He untied the knots of the law the people had been given and retied entirely different ones. Jesus didn’t take away requirements for living for God, but He did change them.
Jesus taught differently than anyone else for one simple reason, and it’s given at the end of chapter 7. “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28-29 emphasis added).
It’s often easy to get caught up in tradition and allow what has always been done to be how we continue to do it. But we need to hold ourselves and our traditions, even our denominations, up to the example and teaching of Jesus. Is what we do in line with what He said and did? Do we allow Him to be the authority for our relationship with God, or do we sometimes rely on what “was said to the people long ago”?
Prayer: Jesus, you came to explain and show what a life lived in worship and relationship with God looked like. It is all too easy to allow others to think for us and let traditions have their sway. Forgive me if I have allowed practices to dictate how I serve and love you. Please help me to draw closer to you and to live outwardly the new life you have given me inwardly.
Reflection: What traditions do you have that may need examining? How might Jesus respond to some of the attitudes and actions you have come to associate with Christianity?
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