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Sunday, May 06, 2018

[Matt's Messages] "But I Tell You (3)"

“But I Tell You (3)”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
May 6, 2018 :: Matthew 5:38-48 

We took a break last week to hear from Pastor Peter Bors about Apex missions and our calling to have beautiful feet as we’re sent out with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But today we return to following Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew and specifically in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Do you remember what we’ve learned so far?

Jesus is teaching with extraordinary authority. He has gone up on a mountainside and has begun rocking the world of His listeners by teaching them about the kingdom of heaven.

We’ve said that Jesus is turning our world upside down. Because He’s teaching us what God truly values and what God truly wants from us. So really, He’s turning our upside-down world right-side up.

But it sounds strange to us.

For example. What is the good life? What does it mean to flourish?

According to Jesus the flourishing are those who are needy, sad, lowly, unsatisfied, and even persecuted.

And yet they change the world by living as salt and light and bringing glory to their Father in Heaven.

And now Jesus is teaching us how to live out a righteousness that is greater than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

Jesus says that He has not come to abolish the Law but to what? To fulfill it. Every jot and tittle. Every last word.

Jesus says that He has come not just as the ultimate interpreter of the Law. Which He is. A New Moses. But He has come as the ultimate fulfillment of the Law. He is the whole point of the Law. He is the goal of the Law. Where the Law has always been headed.

And now Jesus calls His followers to live out a greater righteousness than the righteousness that the Jewish religious leaders were living out before them.

And He has given us 6 examples of that.

Six illustrations of both how He fulfills the Old Testament and how He wants us to live out a greater righteousness.

Scholars called them the “6 antitheses.”

But I call them the 6 “But I Tell You’s.”

And I promise that next week, I’ll come up with a fresh title.

But this one is just “But I Tell You (3)"

The sequel to the sequel! The last in this trilogy of sermons walking through the “But I Tell Yous” of Matthew 5:21-48.

“But I Tell You.”

What word carries the most emphasis?  “I”

The Greek is “ego de lego.” And the word “Ego” is the I.

Six times He says it.

“You have heard it said...but I [Jesus] tell you...how it really is now that I have come on the scene.”

Now, do you remember the pattern?

Do you remember that there three parts to each “But I Tell You?”

In the first two messages we looked at the first four teachings. And they basically each have three parts to them. Do you remember what they are?

First, Jesus quotes from the Torah.

Then, He gives the authoritative explanation of that quotation with all of its Messianic meaning. And in that interpretation, He explodes the myths about the popular interpretations that these people had always heard and believed. What they had been taught often erroneously. Jesus corrects those and sets everything straight.

And really, He’s picking a fight with the Pharisees over each one.

And then third and lastly, Jesus gives a practical application of this teaching to daily life which is really an antidote to whatever the problem is He’s addressing.

He quotes from the Law. He gives the Messianic meaning. And then He gives a practical application to daily life. What it looks like to live out this greater righteousness in real life.

And He does it with a twist. Always with a twist. He keeps us on our toes and a little off balance to send us into a new direction.

And He’s always driving at our hearts.

Right? Have you seen that each week?

Jesus turns us right-side up by changing us from the inside-out.

And so that our insides and our outsides match.

Because the Pharisee’s didn’t.

They had some of the outside but they were missing the inside, which is the greater point!

Well, today, we’re going to finish this section of Jesus’ sermon. We’re going to look at the last two of the “But I Tell Yous.”

And they are very closely connected to one another.

So far Jesus has told us to repent our sinful anger as quick as we can, to resolve our conflicts as quick as we can, to do whatever it takes to defeat sexual sin, to stay faithful to our spouses if we have them, and to keep all of our promises.

You can see how focused He is on our relationships.

Just because He’s looking at the heart, doesn’t mean that it stays in the heart. The way Jesus wants our hearts to be will inevitably affect our relationships with others...including our enemies. Our opponents, our adversaries. The people who are against us.

In these last two “But I Tell Yous” Jesus cranks it up to 11.

This is how Jesus wants us to be.

You’ll notice that they follow the same pattern. 1-2-3.

Let’s look at the first one. Verse 38 has part one.

“You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'”

Where is that from? Is that from the Bible? Yes, it is.

That’s actually taught in at least 3 books in the first 5 books of the Bible, the Torah.

Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:19&20, and Deuteronomy 19:21.

“Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.”

Now, the big words for that are the “Lex Talionis” or the “Law of Retaliation.”

And a form of it appears in other ancient law codes like the Code of Hammurabi (though in that law code it only applied to social equals, those in the same class of society).

But the is an “eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”

And is that a good thing or a bad thing?

It sure was a good thing!

It was God’s law!

It communicated justice commensurate with the offense.

And no more.

This kind of law presented a line drawn in the sand that prohibited escalation and blood feuds.

You know if someone from my family knocked out your tooth, you didn’t get to knock all of the teeth out of my whole family’s mouths.

And we didn’t have to answer with breaking all of your kneecaps.

Which you then answered with...you get the idea.

This law was good.

And it was supposed to be administered by the judges of Israel.

This was not for establishing a personal vendetta and carried out with a vengeance.

But that’s exactly what they had done with it.

They had used these words to justify vindictiveness.

“Get your eye!”
“Get your tooth!”

“Let’s get what you’ve got coming to you!”

And it was all perfectly legal.

Except that it wasn’t perfect. And it wasn’t what the Law was ever intending to do.

Do you see how the Pharisees thought that the Law was easy here to follow?

“Do not murder. Do not commit adultery.”

“And take what is coming to you. If someone takes something from you, demand that they lose the same thing.”

“Boy, this righteousness is easy!”

Was that what God’s Law was driving at?

Not according to the Messiah. V.39

“But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person.”

The Messiah, the whole Point of the Law, has arrived, and He says to not retaliate. To not resist. To not fight ‘em and get yours back.

Here’s point number 1 (of 3 this morning):

#1. GIVE TO YOUR TAKERS.

That’s a surprise, isn’t it?

You know that there are givers and there are takers in this world?

Well, Jesus says that you and I are supposed to be givers.

Even to the takers.

Does that sound wrong?

That’s because we’re upside down.

And it’s also because it’s not the whole picture.

I don’t think that Jesus means that we ought to neglect seeking justice.

I don’t think He’s saying that there never is a time to resist someone who is evil. Jesus resists evil people Himself. Paul resisted Peter (same word) to his face in the book of Galatians and that was a good thing at that point.

Just like when He said in verse 34 that we shouldn’t take an oath if we’re going to do it that way but He really wasn’t forbidding all oaths, I think the same thing is happening here.

Jesus is going after our hearts.

And the kind of hearts that He wants us to have are generous ones.

Super generous ones.

Gracious hearts.

Hearts that go above and beyond what is just and fair.

Give to your takers.

Our impulse even when we’re wronged should be generosity.

That’s the greater righteousness.

It’s more than just “Don’t retaliate against them.” It’s “Seek their good.”

The Pharisees thought it was “Return evil for evil.”

But Jesus said, “No. No. Return good for evil. That’s how we’re going to do it in my kingdom.”

And then He gives four illustrations. This is the third part where He gives practical application. Jesus gives them 4 illustrations of this principle of super generosity.

I don’t know how literally we’re supposed to take them. But we’re supposed to take them all very seriously. V.39

“If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Now, that’s not a fight. That’s an insult.

Probably a superior giving a subordinate a backhanded cuff.

Right hand to right cheek.

Probably legal but very shaming.

How do you feel like responding?

I saw a cartoon yesterday on Facebook. It had a teacher asking the students, “If you have 10 cookies and someone takes away half of them, what will they have?”

And the answer was, “A broken hand.”

That’s what we feel like doing!

But Jesus says, “Smile and show him the other cheek.”

He probably won’t know what to do with it!

Be the bigger person. Don’t descend to their level.

Do you see how this takes a strong person, strong on the inside to do?

This isn’t saying to be a doormat and just put your head down and let people abuse you. This isn’t saying that at all.

This is saying where you could retaliate in kind, go out of your way to be generous.

Don’t get even. Be a blessing! V.40

Jesus says, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”

You owe him money. And he wants to take the clothes off your back. Go ahead and give ‘em all your clothes!

I don’t think he’s being literal here. He’s using hyperbole and humor, but He’s really serious in His point. Go beyond what you have to do.

Yeah, so this guy is a taker. So what?

Go ahead and give it to him. V.41

“If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”

Who could do that?

A Roman soldier. The occupying force.

They could commandeer a Jew to be a pack mule for a mile.

Jesus says, “So you owed him a mile...Give him two! That’ll teach him!”

Don’t stand on your rights.

Don’t be spiteful and bitter but helpful.

Kids, somebody grabs your toy out of you hand. Find the matching set and give it to them. Overcome evil with good!

Be large-hearted, not stingy. V.42

“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Even if they don’t deserve it?

Sure. Go ahead.

Even if you don’t think you’ll get it back?

Can you afford it? Go ahead.

Even if they are your enemy?

Don’t be always asking, “What’s in it for me? What do I get out of this transaction?”

Just be generous.

Now, I know this raises all kinds of questions. I was up late last night writing this message because I kept asking all of those questions all day long.

And Christians have debated how this plays out for two thousand years.

Some have taken Jesus’ words very literally.

And that has born some really good fruit.

And also created some difficult situations.

I don’t think that we’re supposed to use these as a new law to follow as if we can give just one more cheek and then insult back, or one set of clothes and then say no more, or one more mile but never two, or always always give to something to taker.

These aren’t absolutes but a direction.

Jesus is pointing us in a direction.

He is aimed at our hearts.

And instead of having hearts that are bitter and angry and vengeful and bent on getting our vindication, Jesus wants us to have super-generous hearts that go above and beyond what is necessary.

Because that’s the kind of heart He has!

So this isn’t saying that we can’t take evasive or defensive action.
This isn’t calling anyone to submit to physical abuse.
This isn’t saying that we don’t get the authorities involved if there is threat or a crime.
This isn’t saying that we don’t exercise discernment in whom we would give gifts or loans to. Jesus doesn’t just do whatever anybody asks. He knows how to say, “No.” And Paul told the church to not just give money to people who wouldn’t work.

[These qualifications are helpfully suggested in greater detail in Charles Quarles’ discussion in his excellent book on the Sermon on the Mount.]

Jesus isn't saying any of that.

But don’t use those qualifications as loopholes to get out of obeying Jesus. Don’t be a Pharisee now with Jesus’ teachings either!

Jesus wants us to be super generous.

Even to people who don’t deserve it.

He wants us to trust in God’s justice and not go grab justice on our own.

I had two fears in preaching this passage. One is that some of you would feel convicted when you shouldn’t. And the other is that some of you wouldn’t feel convicted when you should.

What is your heart saying today?

Some of your hearts are saying, “I don’t get mad. I get even.”

But some of your hearts are saying, “I want to give, even to the takers.”

I don’t want to do it wrong. I don’t want to give to someone in a way that would be bad for them. And I do want justice! I do want things to be as they should be. I want  things to be made right again. And what has been taken from me hurts. Truly and rightly it hurts.

But I don’t want to be bitter. I want to be bigger.”

And I want to be gracious. Because that’s how Jesus is.

And I want to love...my enemy.”  V.43 Last one.

“You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'”

Where is that in your Bible?

Well, “Love your neighbor” is Leviticus 19:18.

But where does it say, “Hate your enemy?” Where is that command?

It ain’t in there.

It’s natural.
It feels good.
It feels right.

But it’s not a command in the Bible.

They had added that one.

“Love your neighbor [only!]” they assumed.

And what did the Pharisees say? “Check! We’ve got that down. We love our Israelite neighbors. We love our families. We are so friendly.”

But those Romans? [Spit!]

Now, of course, they didn’t really love their neighbors, did they?

“Who is my neighbor? I mean, how far do I have to take this?” v.44

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons 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.”

#2. LOVE YOUR HATERS.

The Messiah who is the point of the Law says, “But I tell you: love your enemies.”

It’s not good enough to just coexist.

It’s certainly not good enough to just hate those hate you.

But it’s also not good enough to just coexist with them.

You and I are called to love them. To love those who hate us.

I think that’s the hardest thing Jesus asks us to do. Ethically.

He’s saved the hardest one for last.

We are called to love our enemies, our opponents, our adversaries.

Those who are out to get us.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we will always like them.

In fact, it doesn’t mean that we will always act the same way towards all of them at all times.

We are still supposed to be wary of our enemies! We are to be shrewd as serpents around them. But also harmless as doves.

We are called to wholeheartedly seek the good of those who want bad for us.

That’s what it means to love someone.

It means to be for them. To actively seek what’s best for them.

That doesn’t mean to always give them what they want.

But it does mean to seek what’s best for them.

To do 1 Corinthians 13 to them.

Even if they don’t do it to you!

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

That’s really really hard! But look at what it does. V.45 so “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

It doesn’t make you a child of God, but it shows that you are because you bear the family resemblance. This is how God treats His enemies. V.45

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

I love it that He says, “HIS sun.” The sun belongs to God!

And in this time, while He’s being patient with us, He causes it to shine on the evil as well as the good. Same thing with His lifegiving rain.

We call that common grace. God is loving in many ways even to those who are not His children.

He’s show us the way every day.

And He wants more out of us. V.46

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? [The extortionists who work for Rome and then shake you down for even more. They love those who love them. Other tax collectors and their mom’s at least!] And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

See how He’s going for the greater righteousness?

He’s telling the Pharisees that their righteousness is at the same level as the most notorious sinners in their town.

And Jesus is calling His followers to love more. To love deeper. To love those who hate them.

And not just in words, but in actions. Like prayer and greetings and a whole host of other things.

How are you doing at this?

Who are your enemies and are you loving them appropriately?

Let me apply this to politics today.

Some of you think that President Trump is an enemy. He is against you and you are against Him. I’ve read your social media.

Others of you think that the Democrats are your enemies. The word “liberal” is a bad word to you. You are against them and they are against you. I’ve read your social media.

And both kinds of you are in our congregation, and I’m glad.

I love that the church of Jesus Christ can transcend human politics!

I’m not going to argue with either of you today. About who is the true enemy. If either. And I’m not going to try to get either of you to politically support the other.

I’m just going to ask if you are praying for your enemy.

Whomever you consider them to be.

They might hate us, but we Christians do not have the option of hating back.

We are called to love our haters.

And that goes way beyond politics.

In goes into every area of life.

Who are you enemies and are you praying for them?

Because we are supposed to be the image of our loving heavenly father. V.48

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

And that really is the punchline of all of these. All 6 of the “But I Tell Yous.”

The Lord has set the standard for us. And it is perfection.

#3. BE PERFECT LIKE YOUR FATHER.

This is a play on the phrase from Leviticus, “Be holy for I, the LORD, am holy.”

But here Jesus used the word “perfect” which means “whole” or “complete.”
He’s driving at that inside-out thing again.

Jesus wants us to be the same on the inside as the outside. Not like the Pharisees.

Loving on the inside.
Pure on the inside.
Faithful on the inside.
Generous on the inside.
Gracious on the inside.

So much so that it spills out to our outsides and to all of our relationships.

How do we do that?

By looking at the Father. Our heavenly Father. What a phrase!

And by looking at Jesus Himself.

Because He lived all of this out perfectly.

Jesus was struck on the cheek. And so much more.

Jesus had his clothes taken from Him.

Jesus was forced to carry something for the Romans.

Jesus was asked to give something to those who didn’t deserve it.

Jesus had enemies. O, did they hate Him!

But what did He do back?

He practiced what He preached in His Sermon the Mount.

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

If you want to know how to love your enemies, look no further than your own Lord.


***

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
12. But I Tell You

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