Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Matthew 5:17 (NIV)
Just like Moses, Jesus went up on the mountain to talk with his followers about the new rule God was establishing in his Kingdom. His antagonists, the Pharisees (and the scribes and the Sadducees) had accused him repeatedly of attempting to do away with the Law that had governed them for thousands of years. But actually, by the time of Jesus’ ministry, the Law of Moses had been so compromised by the religionists that it had little semblance to what God had intended.
For example, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’” (Matt. 5:43). This is a far cry from the original (Lev. 19:18), “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.” Nothing is said about hating our enemy but rather that we should love our neighbor as ourselves.
The Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7 is a study in what we are to be and how we are to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom. It says bizarre things to us, things that as rational people we find totally impossible to perform. We’re blessed when we are poor in spirit, when we are sorrowful, when we are humble, when we are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, when we’re merciful, and when our hearts are pure. We’re even blessed when we’re persecuted for righteousness’ sake. And that’s only the beginning.
All these characteristics are antithetical to our cultural teachings. And yet Jesus is the one who is speaking. There’s got to be something beyond the superficial here OR Jesus just didn’t mean what he said. He was merely speaking in hyperbole to get our attention. And surely he accomplished his goal. And so we, too, compromise the message saying it was only for a specific group of people or a specific time. It’s too biting for US.
Oswald Chambers notes that Jesus has called us to live a life we cannot live and to do what we cannot do, and yet WE CAN do what he’s called us to do and to live as he’s asked us—through the power of his Holy Spirit. This is how we move into life in the Kingdom of God that Jesus described as abundant life. That’s what I want—all God has to offer.
Throughout the fall I’ll be studying and blogging about the Sermon on the Mount and Life in the Kingdom. I hope you’ll join me.
Father, you offer so much, and we often take so little. Give us a hunger and thirst for you and your righteousness, for you long to fill us. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.