Sunday, April 15, 2018

[Matt's Messages] "But I Tell You"

“But I Tell You”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
April 15, 2018 :: Matthew 5:21-26

We’re learning to follow Jesus together by studying His theological biography, the Gospel According to Matthew. And we’ve reached the three chapter section where Jesus teaches His utterly amazing Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus has turned His disciples’ world upside down telling us what His kingdom truly values and what surprisingly is truly the “good life.” How to truly flourish and to influence the world as His followers, being salt and light for Him.

And then last week, we entered the main central section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where Jesus revealed His relationship to the first 2/3 of the Bible. We commonly call “The Old Testament,” and Jesus called, “The Law and the Prophets.”

Now let me know if I got it across to you.

What is Jesus’ relationship with the Old Testament?

He did not what?  Abolish the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus didn’t come to rip out the first 2/3 of the Bible. Even though it might have seemed like it at times!

What did He come to do to the Old Testament?

He came to fulfill it.

Jesus came to fulfill the entire Old Testament.

Isn’t that a bold claim?

Remember, I said last week that this really invites the question, “Who does Jesus think He is?”

He is not just claiming to be the greatest interpreter of the Old Testament. He is claiming to be the whole point of the Old Testament!

And remember what claim He made on His disciples’ lives at the end of last week’s passage (v.20)?

Jesus requires a greater righteousness.

Greater, that is, than the “extra-super-holy people,” or those who everybody thought were the extra-super-holy people, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law (“extra-super-holy people” comes from The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones).

Jesus said, “I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

And that sounds scary, and if you don’t belong to Jesus, it should scare you, but if you do belong to Jesus and He’s changed you and is changing you, then it should not scare you. Because, as we’ll soon see, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had a fake righteousness. It was wasn’t very deep and it wasn’t very high, and it wasn’t very real.

It looked good at first, but it wasn’t truly great in reality.

So Jesus is calling us to a greater righteousness.

And that’s what we’re going to see again and again as we move through the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus fulfilling the Old Testament and calling us to live out a greater righteousness.

Now, in the next section (verses 21 through 48), Jesus does just that.

In fact, He gives us 6 examples, 6 illustrations of both how He fulfills the Old Testament and how He wants us to live out a greater righteousness than the Pharisees.

Scholars sometimes call them the 6 antitheses. But I’m going to call them the 6 “But I Tell You's.”

Here’s our title for today. And it could be our title for the next several weeks.

“But I Tell You”

Jesus is going to use this phrase 6 times from verses 21 through 48.

Look down and find them:

Verse 22.
Verse 28.
Verse 32.
Verse 34.
Verse 39.
Verse 44.

And that last one should sound really familiar, because we’re memorizing it right now.

Your version might say, “But I say to you.”

Wait until you hear what it is in Greek! Are you ready?

It’s pronounced, “Ego de lego!”

I just love that.

This is the “But.”
This is the “I.”
And this is the “Tell You.”

Kids, today at the dinner table when your parents ask you what the sermon was about, you say, “Ego de lego!

And when they say what does that mean, you say, “But I Tell You.”

What do you think is the most important word there?

It’s the “I,” isn’t it? This is Jesus making a point again about Who He is.

Who does He think He is?

He isn’t just the greatest interpreter of Moses.

He is greater than Moses!

He is what Moses was talking about.

And what He says about the Law is what we really need to know about the Law now that He has come.

Does that make sense?

So all 6 of these “But I Tell You’s” follow a similar pattern.

Just the like Beatitudes all had a pattern. These all have a pattern.

First, Jesus quotes from Torah. Then He explains that statement with all of its Messianic meaning. And then He gives a practical application to daily life.

First, He quotes from Law. Then He gives the authoritative explanation of that quotation with all of its Messianic meaning. And really, He explodes the myths about the popular interpretations that these people had always heard and believed. He corrects those and sets everything straight. And then lastly He gives a practical application to daily life, really for the most part an antidote to the problem He’s addressing.

So that pattern gets followed basically through all 6 of these.

Today, we’re only going to do the first one.

It’s the longest one because Jesus is setting out the pattern. And then they’ll get shorter because He thinks we can extrapolate the pattern from there.

Next week, maybe we’ll get through 2 of them.

I believe that these are just 6 illustrations of how we’re supposed to read and apply the Old Testament now that King Jesus has come.

He is telling us what a greater righteousness looks like.

And He starts with the 6th commandment. “Thou Shall Not Murder.”

Do you see what I mean about “Who does Jesus think He is?”

I mean in verse 21, He quotes God from the Ten Commandments and then says, “But I Tell You...”!

Look at verse 21.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.'”

Who said that?

Well, that “Do not murder” piece is from the 10 Commandments. Moses said that and He was speaking for God!

And Jesus must think that He’s on the same level to come out with “But I tell you...that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”

That’s just amazing.

Now, that phrase, ‘and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment” is not a direct quote from the Old Testament.

That’s what the other teachers were saying.

And it’s true. If you murdered someone, then you would go to court and be tried for that killing. Normally there was a jury with 23 people on it to decide if you were guilty and needed to pay for it with your life.

Now, that’s murder. Not just any kind of killing but criminal killing with malicious intent.

It’s not manslaughter or an accidental death or killing enemy combatants as a part of your duties as a soldier or defending the helpless as police.

It’s murder.

And the Old Testament law in cases of murder called for the death penalty (Numbers 35:31).

“Do not murder and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”

And the Pharisees all said, “That sounds easy! I’ve never murdered anybody. I’m good! That’s it? I’m righteous? I’m in the kingdom? Cool!”

And Jesus says, “Not so fast.” v.22

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”

You don’t just get off if you keep from killing them.

You’re not allowed to simply refrain from shooting at them while still harboring contempt and rage and fury in your heart.

You see where Jesus goes with this?

He goes to the heart level.

He goes deep in.

He goes to the attitude. He goes to the affections. He goes past the externals and to the internals. He goes to the root.

Jesus goes to the heart.

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”

It’s not just murder that’s against the Law.

The Law is aimed at doing away with sinful anger.

If you get angry in ways you shouldn’t, then God sees that and you could be tried for it.

It’s not that murder and anger are the exact same thing.

It’s that murder is the result of anger.

Anger is at the heart of murder.

Murder is the most extreme version of sinful anger.

It’s not the same thing, but it is the same heart.

We murder because we desire to damage and destroy.

And anger, therefore, is “murder in the mind.” (From Grant Osborne)

Where only God can see.

But He can see!

Do you see how Jesus is showing His disciples what the Law was always driving at all along? He is fulfilling the Law by showing us the greater righteousness.

It’s not good enough to just keep from sticking a knife in their back. We also have to do away with the “want to.”

And the words that reveal that “want to.”

Killing people with our words. V.22 again.

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin [the court system]. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

Now, I don’t think we’re supposed to see a big difference between being angry, saying “Raca,” and saying, “You fool!”

I think they are all basically the same thing. But Jesus is escalating the consequences to make us feel approaching danger. He’s saying, “It’s going to go from bad to worse.”

You let this stuff rule your heart and come out of your mouth, and you are in trouble with God.

The word “Raca” means “empty-headed.” It’s like calling somebody an idiot or an imbecile or a dimwit.

The Greek word for fool is “moros.” I think we get our “moron” from it. It means someone who is stupid and senseless and probably unsaved.

These are spiteful words. They are attack words. They are rash, and angry, and abusive words.

It’s not just pointing out someone’s foolishness. It’s name-calling and pouring on the verbal abuse.

And Jesus says that if you do that are you are in danger of the fire of Gehenna.

The agony of hell, the place of punishment named after the valley of Hinnom where they had once sacrificed children to Molech.

A picture of terrible extreme punishment.


Just because you got angry?

Isn’t there a proper time and place for anger?

Yes, there is. Some versions add the words, “without cause” in verse 22 after “brother.” It isn’t in the oldest manuscripts, so it probably wasn’t in the original. But some copyist understood that there are proper times and places for righteous anger.

Jesus Himself gets angry and wasn’t in danger of the fire of hell for it.

But we are much more prone to sinful anger than we are to righteous anger.

And that’s what Jesus is going after here.

Killing people in our hearts and with our tongues.

I have only two points of application for today’s passage. And here’s the first one:


Don’t settle for just not murdering them.

That’s not good enough.

We cannot harbor unrighteous anger in our hearts and expect God to just wink at it.

God wants us to repent of our sinful anger at the heart level.

And He’s pretty serious about it.

Jesus says so.

And if we repent, it will come out in our words, right?

We won’t be calling people names.

We won’t be calling our brothers and sisters in Christ “idiots and imbeciles.”

We won’t be spitting out abusive and spiteful language at the people around us who we are angry with.

You know what? I think verse 22 should govern the way we talk on social media.

I see it all the time on Facebook. “Those idiots in Washington.” Or “those fools in Harrisburg.” Or “that jerk that cut me off in traffic.” “Those morons who are trying to [whatever political cause you’re against at the moment.]” “Those dimwits who are trying to run my life.”

Brothers and sisters, words like that should not come out of the mouths of people who claim to follow Jesus Christ.

And that goes for the “share” button, too.

If you share a post that says those things, then you are saying it, too.

And, of course, we don’t need social media to get this wrong.

We do it with our mouths, not just our keyboards.

Is this the way you talk to your family?
Is this the way you talk to your friends?
Is this the way you talk at work?
Is this the way you talk at school?

Our Lord Jesus Christ is calling us to repent of our sinful anger and our angry words as quick as we possibly can.

Where do you need to start?

I told you that Jesus was going to make us uncomfortable, didn’t I?

Jesus is turning our lives upside down.

He is challenging our little kingdoms as His own kingdom draws near.

That’s the problem, isn’t it?

That’s why we get angry like this. Because we think our kingdoms have been attacked.

But in Jesus’ kingdom, we love people, from the heart.

We don’t live lives of perpetual outrage.

I sometimes think that Facebook was made for being mad and getting people mad.

Let’s not let ourselves become like the world and be mad all of the time.

Yes, there are plenty of things to get mad about.

If you care about justice, you will get fired up when you see injustice.

Jesus did, too.

But He didn’t live His life set on perpetual outrage.

And when they actually attacked Him, He did not open His mouth.

That’s when I tend to get mad. When I get attacked.

When I don’t get what I want.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is calling us to repent of our sinful anger and our angry words as quick as we possibly can.


Remember there are 3 parts to this pattern. First, Jesus quotes from the Torah. “Do not murder.” Then He gives the authoritative interpretation as the Messiah. And the last part is an application point to daily life that presents the alternative to the problem. The antidote.

The antidote to anger is not repression. It is reconciliation.

It’s not “anger management.” It’s doing your part to resolve the conflict.

So Jesus gives two short examples of what that might look like in everyday life.

As usual, He is a master teacher and master storyteller who tells a story to teach.

And the main point of both stories is to resolve your conflicts with a great sense of urgency. V.23

“Therefore [to reduce this anger problem], if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

Get the picture?

Somebody has traveled to Jerusalem to bring a gift (perhaps a sin offering) and place it on the altar. That might happen like twice a year. Maybe they came from Galilee far away.

But as they’re doing it. They remember that they have sinned against somebody else.

“Your brother has something against you.”

What happened? Did you call him a name? Did you say “Raca” to him? We don’t know.

But you realize that you are the reason for this conflict.

And Jesus says, leave it right there and go make this right!

Now, we could say that Jesus is teaching that conflict resolution is more important than worship. I think that’s good to think through. Especially if you think of worship as mainly singing or giving your offering or taking the Lord’s Supper. External things that you do.

But I think the main point here is simply to waste no time trying to make things right.

Don’t wait for a convenient time.

Don’t think you have more important business that should come first.

Go do it. Right now.

So, as your pastor, that’s what I’m saying to you right now.

Go now.

I don’t care if you wait until the last song.

If you have a conflict with someone that’s your fault and you can do something to solve it, don’t wait.

Treat conflict resolution as urgent.

That’s the point of Jesus’ second story, too. V.25

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

I don’t think that’s a parable. The judge is not God or anything like that.

I think Jesus is just giving us another example of conflict resolution with urgency.

You owe somebody money and they’re taking you to court.

You damaged their truck or something.

Settle it quickly or you’ll be sorry.

That’s what Jesus’ is saying.

Take your conflicts seriously and do whatever is in your power. We don’t have power over the other side. But whatever is in your power, especially if you are in the wrong, to reconcile.

Because what happens if you don’t?


Rage, fury, contempt.

Then spiteful hurtful words.

And if not checked, murder.

But even nobody gets killed, King Jesus still wants us to delete the sinful anger out completely of the equation.

The earlier the better.

Because this is serious stuff.

If you don’t repent and reconcile, there can be disastrous consequences.

Resolve your conflicts as quick as you can.

Feel free to go right now.

Does this all seem impossible to you?

Repenting of your anger and resolving your conflicts?

Jesus died for your sinful anger and to bring peace into your relationships.

And He came back to life to give you power to put your anger to death and to do your part to have peace with others.

The gospel makes it possible for us to live out the greater righteousness that Jesus requires.

In Jesus, you can do it.

You can say NO to unrighteous anger and YES to peacemaking in relationships.

And then King Jesus will fulfill all righteousness in and through you.

And then King Jesus will get the glory.

Just like He told us!


Previous Messages in This Series:01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible