5:1-6 The Sermon on the Mount is the most popular speech given in all of human history and is the first of Matthew’s 5 majors speech sections (5-7; 9:36-10:42; 13; 17:22-18:35 & 23-25). Each speech ends with something like “When he had finished saying these things” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). Since Jesus was not staying in one location (4:25), it is impossible to know where this mountainside was. It makes no difference. It was an outdoor setting with a large group of followers and the first word out of Jesus’ mouth was “Blessed.” Blessed means to be in God’s favor, as if a congratulations is in order. The first blessing is for the poor in spirit, those able to recognize their own spiritual impoverishment. This realization leads to mourning followed by becoming meek; which is one able to deal with others in a kind and gentle manner, tamed. The phrase inherit the earth is a Jewish phrase referring back to receiving the promised land in Deu 28:1-25; which is symbolic for heaven under the New covenant (Heb 11:9-10). It does not mean some believers get to stay on this earth, which is going to be destroyed by fire (2Pet 3:10-11). The word hunger in v.6 is the same word used in 4:2 after Jesus had gone 40 days without food. It means starving to death. When we are starving to death and dying of thirst for righteousness we will be filled.
5:7-10 Jesus next encourages followers to be merciful with the promise of receiving mercy in return, followed by becoming pure in heart. Next we are called to be peacemakers, a rare Greek word meaning the opposite of a busybody. This is one who builds relationship bridges. When we come to Christ, we are called to help others make peace with their God. Those who do so earn the right to be known as sons of God, a Hebraic figure of speech referring to what type of person we are, rather than who God is (John 8:44).
5:11-12 There is a blessing that comes from Christian persecution, knowing one is being ridiculed for a righteous cause. These 12 verses are called the Beatitudes. We get our word beatitude from the Greek beatitudo, meaning to have perfect happiness.
5:13-16 This command is very personal. The passage does not say “we are”, it says, “you are”. Salt adds flavor and was once used as a preservative. It was used in OT sacrifices to represent an everlasting covenant, Numbers 18:1. Light enables us to see more clearly. We do not show off our own light. Rather, Jesus says to let your light shine.
5:17-20 Jesus’ purpose was fulfillment rather than abolishment of the Law. The law is part of God’s Word which, Jesus assures us, will not disappear. Everything God says is important. The rabbis believed there were 613 laws in the Torah, some of which were “relaxed” or not as important to obey. Jesus is contesting that theology. It’s all important and our righteous standards should be higher than those of the Pharisees.
5:21-26 Jesus takes an original command from the OT and expounds on it. He is changing nothing, only revealing the teaching that was there from the beginning. He is publicly conflicting with the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees, who placed more emphasis on the external sins (23:27-28). To be angry with someone is an inward thought but it is still a sin. Raca means to be empty headed or a good for nothing. This is verbal anger deserving discipline from the Jewish tribunal. You fool was a strong expression of contempt, a verbal idiom of the evil within one’s heart. Such aphorisms exposed a soul which was worthy of eternal punishment. This is the first time Jesus mentions hell, but it will not be the last. He mentions hell no less than 7 times in Matthew. Jesus referred to hell more than any other Bible character.
5:27-30 Lust is the root of sexual immorality. You struggle with sexual impurity when you neglect dealing with the lust in your heart. Note that lust is not the same as adultery; it is merely adultery of the heart. Adultery is grounds for divorce in 5:32 and 19:9, but lust is not. If it were, just about anyone would be eligible for divorce. And if lust is adultery than anger is murder (5:22). Should everyone with anger receive the penalty for murder? Strong measures are to be taken to prevent one’s self from lusting; not the literal amputation of eyes and hands but removal of situations and conditions that lead to lust.
5:31-32 The certificate of divorce or get, which we discussed in 1:19, was necessary to give a woman freedom to remarry. but it never meant that divorce was acceptable regardless of the situation. If God does not recognize one’s divorce, that individual is still married in the sight of God and to sleep with another person would be an act of adultery.
5:33-37 The Pharisees would swear by different objects that they would keep their word, but this was pointless since Christians should keep their word regardless of what they swore by. If you say you are going to do something, do it.
5:38-42 Revenge belongs to God and not to man, therefore man should not be taking revenge. Self-defense is another matter and not one that Jesus is dealing with in this sermon.
5:43-48 God said, “Love your neighbor”, but He did not say hate your enemies. This phrase was added by oral tradition and is not part of the canonical Bible. From the beginning God has wanted His children to love their enemies, just as God loves His enemies. This practice sets Christians apart from the world. The summary of this whole chapter is be perfect. Be perfect in love for everyone. Be perfect in purity. Be perfect in the way you live and treat others. God gives us nothing less. He deserves nothing less in return.
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