This is a fairly long piece for today’s bible study, but having given it some considerable thought I didn’t really want to break up the Sermon on the Mount.
Chapter 6 starts with Jesus attitudes to the Sabbath. His disciples are seen walking through a field helping themselves to corn. It is not the theft that we see which is a problem rather for the Pharisees, it is that they are breaking Sabbath rules:
They are reaping – plucking the ears
They are threshing – rubbing in their hands
Winnowing – throwing the husk away
Preparation – an implied necessary task before eating.
Jesus has a problem not with the Sabbath, but with the way the Sabbath has been developed and organised. Essentially it favours those with means. The poor would be unable to stockpile enough food in order to avoid preparing food for a whole day. They would suffer hunger or be unable to keep the Sabbath rules leaving them at risk of being considered ritually unclean and therefore excluded from worship – which meant excluded from meeting with people.
He then elects to heal a man in a synagogue. It could have waited until the following day. Jesus could have met this man in private. However it seems that Jesus is determined to make a point. For Jesus, doing nothing about a problem is not an option. Doing nothing is seen as essentially the same as doing harm.
He chooses the Twelve
First thing to say is the list of the twelve apostles seem to vary in the synoptic Gospels. Houston, do we have a problem? It seems that Thaddeus may be Judas, the son of James. Luke quotes Judas again in Acts so at least he is being constant. Perhaps Matthew and Mark are unwilling to use the name Judas more than they have to, who knows. The main point is that this is the only piece of administration that Jesus performs, and the relevance of the twelve is that they represent the 12 tribes of Israel. It is a symbol. Another piece of theatre so that the people he meets will understand what is happening. Luke has Jesus echoing Moses in going up to the mountain to pray and then coming down with the new leadership. A new Israel. He then addresses his disciples, followers both male and female. He heals those with diseases; although the word used for diseases is “Mastis”, a greek word which also means scourging. Luke uses “Mastis” in 18:33 to describe Jesus’ scourging at the hands of the soldiers. Mark uses “Nosos” for diseases in an extremely similar scene to 6:17 in Mark 1:34. What if Jesus was healing those scourged by the Herodian Authorities? It may explain why Mark has the Pharisees seeking an alliance with the Herodians after the Sabbath healing.
The Sermon on the mount
Let’s be straight about this. It wasn’t a sermon, forget King of Kings, Jesus of Nazareth or the rest of the movies. Forget the Life of Brian.
It was a discussion with his followers (male and female).
Jesus would have been sat down, he is setting out his Kingdom Manifesto. Think of a party political broadcast, just more interesting, and more honest!
This is Jesus setting out his Kingdom. It is the upside down economy of Grace. Happiness is not dependant on status, or riches. It is dependant on being in a real, lifelong relationship with God. Dependant on God and not on our own self sufficiency – because we can never be fully self sufficient. The idea that we can is just a fallacy.
Those looked down on by Society, when the Kingdom of heaven comes, their lot will improve because righteousness and justice will prevail. Remember the words of Luke 1:46 The Magnificat: He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.
Those who have kept riches to themselves, those who have obtained power by manipulation (think of off shore tax accounting) will feel threatened and at risk. All of which leads to v 22; being a follower of Jesus is to invite opposition and the threat of violence. The current kingdom will not move over without a fight.
How are we to fight?
Love our enemies
Pray for those who abuse us
The word for cheek in greek is “siagon” which actually means Jaw. Jesus is speaking of a punch to the jaw, not a slap to the face. It is about not seeking revenge. It is love and mercy that Jesus is seeking.
It is love and mercy that is at the heart of the Kingdom of God.
Grace is the economics of the Kingdom of God, where we offer undeserved forgiveness. It’s costly but God promises a repayment in full, in fact in overflowing abundance. This is NOT the Gospel of prosperity. The overflowing abundance is about the presence of God, the Holy Spirit transforming us into an image of God; the person we were really meant to be.
We need to open our eyes and see before we lead others, otherwise we will be like the blind leading the blind.
Before judging someone else, we should examine ourselves. Are we as squeaky clean as we like to think we are. Those in relationship with God will produce fruit of God. If someone is not in relationship with God, then how can they produce fruit of God.
People who are not Christian are not bad, but what are they missing?
Finally, it is not good enough to pay lip service, just prattle off the bible without application. As disciples we are called to live out the way of the Kingdom. We need in essence to walk the walk and not talk the talk.
Luke L Morris
The Wrong Messiah N Page
Oxford Bible Commentary Barton & Muddiman
Simply Jesus T Wright