Matthew 5 & 6
For some time now, many manufacturers of fruit cordial (squash) have been removing excess water from their products in order to reduce the size of packaging needed. Therefore a smaller amount would go further – apparently. It was more concentrated. That’s a little like what I feel about these pivotal chapters in Matthew. They are packed full of concentrated teaching by Jesus.
Commonly called the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, it has lots of Jesus’ teaching concentrated so that you could spend a very long time looking at each line and lesson, each phrase and passage. Then even longer studying and applying them. But stepping back a little, what is the overall message, or to keep the original metaphor, what is the main flavor of this concentrated mix?
At its heart is a tale of two kingdoms colliding together. The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of the world – of us. So often Jesus starts by saying, ‘You’ve heard it said…’ whether that is from quoted (or misquoted) texts or from common, popular human wisdom. But then Jesus continues and says, “…but I say…”. These verses in front of us today cover what it means to really be ‘blessed’; about being an influence in the world; about following God’s ways; about murder and hate; unfaithfulness and lusting; oaths and agreements; revenge and loving enemies; giving without glory and praying without piousness; priorities, money and worry. Pretty extensive, eh?
Often Jesus is portrayed as having a very simple message – ‘be nice, like you want people to be nice to you.’ It seems easy enough. It is in fact too easy. Jesus’s message is actually in 5:48 – ‘be perfect…’. Looking at Jesus’ real standards that are beyond being nice and loving, they are not a popular, easy-going message. It is a hard way. One which Jesus knows is challenging – in fact that he knows is ultimately impossible.
And that’s the point. It brings everyone down to the same realistic level and the need for God’s mercy. It also shows that the way of the Kingdom or Kingship of God is in stark contrast to the way of human nature. Loving enemies, resisting hate and lust and self-fulfillment at the expense of others – it’s hard. But it is the way that makes the difference – that brings salt to a flavourless and rotten world and light to one which is stumbling around in the dark.
Have a think…
- There’s lots in here – so which bits stick out for you? Perhaps they are challenging, maybe you haven’t noticed them before; it could even be that these are some of the verses you try and hide from.
- Why does Jesus’ way contrast so much with the way of the world – including, interestingly with the way of ‘religiousness’?
- How does it make you feel when Jesus challenges us to, ‘Be perfect…’?
- In what real 21stCentury way can YOU be salt and light as Jesus says we should be?