Matthew 5:17-18, 21-22, 27-28, 38-39, 43-44
In the text before us, Jesus continues to address the multitude which had gathered to hear His teaching. The multitude, like any gathering of people, could be divided into two groups — one which would enter into the kingdom of heaven and one which would not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
In verse 17, Jesus prefaces what He is about to say with the words: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Not everyone present would believe this statement. One group would come to believe that He had come to destroy the law, while the other would believe His words. At issue is entry into the kingdom of heaven. Those who would believe Jesus would enter in; those who would not believe would be on the outside.
Jesus stated that He had come to fulfill the very law that He would be accused of destroying. Jesus came to fulfill both the law and the words of the prophets.
Verse 18: Every detail of the law would remain in effect until all be fulfilled. Two thousand years have come and gone since Jesus spoke to those gathered on the mount. Today, there remain two groups: those who believe and those who do not. Believers know that all prophecy has not been fulfilled. The Messiah has yet to rule from the throne of David in Jerusalem. The issue which separates believers and non-believers is Jesus’ fulfillment of the law.
In verses 21 and 22, Jesus addresses God’s judgment as it relates to the actions and motives of men. All who listened to His words knew that according to the ten commandments that a murderer would face God’s judgment. Jesus states that evil thoughts and evil words toward another are subject to the same judgment that a murderer would face. With God, the act of murder, the desire that unjustified harm fall upon another, and the utterance of hurtful words are all the same. God’s judgment extends beyond the letter of the law; it looks upon the heart of all who would and do harm others.
That which applies to evil thoughts and murder also applies to thoughts of adultery and commission of adultery. Jesus reveals that fulfillment of the law encompasses more than outward compliance. Fulfilling the righteous requirement of the law requires one to follow the intent of the law. In verse 38, Jesus addresses a misuse of scripture. “An eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth” appears in Exodus 21:24 and is repeated in Leviticus 24:20 and Deuteronomy 19:21. The context in each instance is that one’s wrongdoing will be dealt with fairly. The scripture was not given with the intent that one wrongdoing should justify another’s wrongdoing. Jesus instructed his listeners to resist hitting back when hit and to return evil with good.
In verse 43, Jesus quotes both scripture and the words of men. The children of Israel were commanded to love thy neighbor as thyself (Lev. 19:18). This is scripture as given to Moses. The addition, “and hate thine enemy”, is not scripture. Deuteronomy 23:3-6 could possibly serve as a basis for the teaching of men to hate thine enemy. In this scripture, the children of Israel are instructed to remain separate and apart from a specifically named enemy and not to engage in practices which would enable that enemy to prosper. But the general teaching of hatred of one’s enemy clearly conflicts with Proverbs 25:21 in which God’s people are instructed to give food and drink to their enemies.
In verse 44, Jesus makes it known that we as God’s people are to love our enemies, are to bless them who curse us, are to do good to them who hate us, and are to pray for them who despitefully use us and persecute us. God’s people are called to extend love to them who would bite the very hand that feeds them. We are called to reach out with love to them who would purposely abuse us.
The justice system of men is based upon fairness, while the justice system of God is based upon love. In the halls of justice erected by men, there is no requirement for us to love enemies or to do good to them who injure us. This requirement, however, has been placed upon us by our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. Why? Because this is what God does and we are to be like God our Father who art in heaven. God judges men with the fairness of His love. Christ Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. God extended His love to us, the undeserved. Fairness with God is that we extend love to others as He has extended His love to us.
The enemies of God curse Him. The enemies of God hate Him when He reaches out to them with goodness.
We, as His children, are to be perfect as He is perfect. His love is perfect. What is perfect love? His love is without condition. God extended His unconditional love to Israel, yet He punished Israel for her willful disobedience. God corrects them whom He loves (Prov. 3:12). God is not an enabler of them who would do evil. Unconditional love does not go away; it also does not unable evil doers. We are not to assume the role of an enabler by the manner in which we extend unconditional love to others. We are to do it God’s way. We are to show God’s ways to others.
Jesus has shown us the ways of the Father. God rewards them who mirror Him. He does not reward men for being like other men. We, as His children, are to be like Him. God is a rewarder of them who extend unconditional love to others. God has not called us to be as other men. He has called us to walk in the way of the Son. The Son is our perfection. He has made a way for us to walk with God. Let us seize His perfection and testify of His perfect love.
Let us love others as we are loved by Him.