Tuesday, September 14, 2010

NT75 Day 2: Matthew 5-7 (and Testament Tuesday)

This portion of the Scripture is famously called the Sermon on the Mount.  When you read its contents, you will recognize ethical imperatives that have held people captive (in discussion, if not behavior) since Jesus spoke it.  I actually preached through this masterpiece a few years ago, taking 37 weeks to do it.  It really is that good!

A few things struck me as I re-read it this morning.

First, the comprehensive nature of this teaching is stunning.  Jesus deals with some of the big questions of philosophy which have been asked for millennia.  What is actually real?  That which is called the Kingdom of God, His reign.  Who is well off?  Those who are in that Kingdom.  Who is a good person?  The one who has internal righteousness, not just external acts of righteousness.  On and on we could go, but suffice it to say Jesus is God, and He's smart too.

Second, the passage ends with the crowd being stunned.  They'd never heard someone teach like this.  They might have heard snippets or pointers, but never anything like this.  This is how biblical teaching is supposed to be:  with authority and awe.

Third, the assumption of my participation in the spiritual disciplines.  Never did Jesus say, "If you give...if you pray...if you fast."  He assumed we would:  "When you give...when you pray...when you fast."  If Jesus assumed it would be true, then He certainly knows that giving, praying and fasting is a better way to live than not giving, not praying and not fasting.

Lastly, there is a foreign righteousness that comes to us from outside of us.  The most important verse in Matthew 5, maybe in the whole book of Matthew, is v.20.  Unless our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, we don't get the Kingdom.  That righteousness cannot be bound up in rules and appearances as it was with the Pharisees.  It is ours through trust in Jesus, resulting in authenticity and transformation.

Last comment:  my wife (blog here) has started this thing called Testament Tuesday.  This is my testimony about this particular portion of Scripture.  Once it began to unfold in my life, the message of Jesus and indeed the whole NT has opened to me in a way that I've never been able to get over.  I'm grateful for these three chapters and a book called The Divine Conspiracy which shaped my thinking on it.  I don't buy every jot and tittle of the book, but its thrust has changed my life to be more like Jesus.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

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