The Gospel of Matthew

This devotional is written by John Peters. John is the leader of St Mary's and is married to Jenny.

Matthew 5:21-48


 21 "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.' 22 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.

23 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

25 "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.


27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.


31 "It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.


 33 "Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.' 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Eye for Eye

 38 "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Love for Enemies
 43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


This translates Jesus' life into words. He alone gave perfect expression to these ethical and spiritual imperatives. But God wants us to be more like him so this is our discipleship manifesto too WARNING: based on their interpretation of this some have castrated themselves, refused to take oaths in court and stayed married to abusive men! Jesus quotes traditional teaching six times and then explains that the old way is not enough; a more exacting standard is required. "It was said to the people long ago" - by God at Mount Sinai (21). Jesus doesn't reference any authority for his teaching; it is true because he says it. Our anger will lead to judgement. He states a principal in stark terms and without exceptions. Even calling a brother "a fool" (22) will lead to judgement - and yet he calls someone a fool (23:17). This isn't a legal code. Jesus makes hyperbolic, startling statements to confirm that it's the heart that counts and it's the heart that needs to be changed. God also told the people not to commit adultery on Sinai (27-30). Jesus makes the point that anyone who looks lustfully has committed adultery in the heart. He relies on no support for his teaching; he is the ultimate authority. So here is the pattern; the old law says one thing but true righteousness requires more. He makes extreme statements to drive the point home (29-30) - better to lose a body part than to lose eternal life. But removing these body parts wouldn't actually help us with lust; it is a change of heart that is necessary. We need his radical intervention where it matters to break the power of sin.

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