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Jesus saw the crowds. Luke (ch. 6) implies Jesus had spent the night in prayer on this hill, and that in the morning he formally chose and set apart the twelve. Coming down he finds the crowds standing on a level place, and teaches them. The hill is thought to be the “Horns of Hattin,” about seven miles south of Capernaum, near Lake Galilee. His disciples. Not only the twelve, but all who wished to learn. Disciple means learner.
And he began to teach them. Compare Luke 6:20-49. This wonderful section of three chapters is to the Christian era what the Law given on Mount Sinai was to the Mosaic of Jewish era. The Law was the moral code of Judaism. This is the moral code of Christianity. The Law was given from the “Mountain which could not be touched,” this from the “Mount of Blessing” (Hebrews 12:18-24).
Happy. This word is used many times. It is the happiness which God gives. [Our English language does not have a word to accurately give this the full force of the original MAKARIOS. Extreme happiness, blessed, worthy, fortunate, etc., all rolled up into one.] Spiritually poor. Not arrogant, but humble, teachable. Belongs to them. Christ would set up a spiritual Kingdom with such as these. The spiritually proud and arrogant are disqualified.
Happy are those who mourn. There is a worldly sadness that causes death (2 Corinthians 7:10). This is the sadness God uses to make men turn to him (2 Corinthians 7-11). God will comfort them. Through hope (see John 16:20; 2 Corinthians 1:7).
Happy are the meek. Jesus was meek, yet he firmly stood up to the Pharisees. To be meek is to be kind, gentle, humble, teachable. The Jewish Zealots expected a kingdom in which the harsh and the cruel would succeed (see note on Mark 15:7). They will receive. Those who avoid bitterness and revenge follow the example of Christ on the cross. In Jesus, they will receive every promise!
Happy . . . to do what God requires. This implies a deep sense of spiritual need (compare Matthew 5:3-4), a desire to stand before God cleansed of sin (see Luke 15:17). God will satisfy them fully. See Romans 5:15-19.
Happy are those who are merciful. Those who are merciful tend to receive mercy in this life. God will do to you what you do to others. See Matthew 7:1-2.
Happy are the pure in heart. Those who listened to the Pharisees looked carefully at externals, but ignored the internal. Jesus demands that the heart be kept clean. See 1 Peter 4:1-6. They will see God. By faith now, and in Eternity. The Lord lives in the pure heart (see John 14:23 : Ephesians 2:22).
Happy . . . who work for peace. Not soldiers of a “Warrior-Messiah” as the Jews expected, but those who WORK for peace in the name of Jesus. God will call them his sons! God blesses those who carry out his will.
Happy are those who are persecuted. Because they do what God requires. The Jews expected to rule the world. (see Acts 1:6).Christ blesses those who suffer [for him], and promises them the Kingdom. These words have cheered martyrs.
Happy are you when men insult you. A personal application of Matthew 5:10.
Be glad and happy. There is great happiness and joy in God’s warfare! The hope of the great reward was very strong in the early church. This is how. An example from former times. See Hebrews 11:32-40.
You are like salt. Meat was salted to keep it from spoiling. The followers of Christ preserve the world. Ten men who worshipped God would have saved the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:32). But if salt loses its taste. Rock salt was used at that time. If the saltiness had been lost, it had no value. Likewise the Christian who does not obey God has no preserving value (see Revelation 3:16).
You are like light. Light is symbolic of truth. Christians are to spread truth to destroy ignorance. A city. Ancient cities were built on hills for defence, and were clearly visible. So should Christians be clearly recognizable.
To put it under a bowl. The very purpose of lighting a lamp would make it foolish to conceal its light. Just so would it be absurd to conceal truth.
Your light must shine. Christians allow their light to shine by doing good things which honor God in the eyes of people. People are more impressed by what you do, than by what you say.
Do not think that I have come to do away. The things Jesus had taught in these verses so differed from the teaching of the Jews [teachers of the Law and Pharisees] that some might think he was a destroyer of the Law. His purpose was to fulfill—to make its teachings come true. The Law completed its purpose in Christ (see Galatians 3:21-29).
Remember this. The spirit and substance of the Law will last forever [love to God and love to fellow man (Matthew 22:34-40)]. However, the Law as a system of symbolic pictures will cease to be needed (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 8:13; Romans 8:1-4).
Whoever disobeys. The Jews taught that some commands were more important, and that some were “small” and unimportant. They also taught that if you kept one commandment perfectly, you would be given credit for all the rest. James 2:10 shows this to be false. Christ shows that all commands are equally important [God’s commands]. Will be least. He may be allowed to enter the Kingdom, but he will not receive honor.
Only if you are more faithful. The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees claimed to do what God requires, but they were not faithful. See Matthew 3:7-12.
You have heard. Jesus now restates the Ten Commandments and gives them new form and meaning in his Kingdom. [He does not restate the law of the Sabbath.] Do not murder. One of the Ten Commandments. Before the Judge. A civil court. The Law provided a court of seven judges in every city, who could pass the death penalty (see Deuteronomy 16:18).
But now I tell you. Christ has the authority to amend the Law spoken by Jehovah. Whoever is angry with his brother. Jesus deals with motive, forbidding the anger and the harsh words which produce murder. You good-for-nothing. A strong insult. A worthless fool. These seemingly mild words were the supreme insult to a Jew. It meant one eternally cut off from God and doomed forever. Three degrees of guilt are shown here: murderous anger; verbal insult; solemn curse. The Canaanites burned human sacrifices to Moloch in Gehenna [valley of Hinnom] south of Jerusalem. This was symbolic of eternal punishment.
So if you are about to offer your gift. One who stands guilty of sin against his brother cannot worship God acceptably. This is an application of Matthew 5:22.
Leave your gift. Go solve the problem first. Then you can be free from guilt, and worship God.
If a man brings a lawsuit. A creditor could bring suit, and the debtor be put in jail for a just debt. It makes sense to be friendly and settle out of court, and avoid the penalty. The same is true with anger. Put a stop to it before it gets you into trouble.
Do not commit adultery. One of the Ten Commandments.
Anyone who looks. The Jews taught that there was no guilt, unless the act was performed. Some of them were “voyers” (see 2 Peter 2:14). Wants to possess her. Not a casual look, but an obsessive desire.
Take it out . . . Cut it off. Symbolic. It would not solve the problem to take out your eye or cut off your hand. The sin springs from the desire of the heart. Jesus says it would be a good trade to sacrifice part of your body if by doing so you could save the rest of it. He is emphasizing the seriousness of the problem.
Anyone who divorces his wife. The laws of divorce were very lax among the Jews. Moses had given a law on it (Deuteronomy 24:1-4), but they believed no cause was really necessary.
But now I tell you. Jesus forbids divorce except for unfaithfulness. A divorce for any other cause is not valid, making those who remarry guilty of bigamy and therefore adultery. See notes on Matthew 19:1-12.
Do not break your promise. The Law said that solemn promises must be kept (Leviticus 19:12). The Jews taught that some promises could be broken without penalty.
Do not use any vow. Vow: a strong declaration, or promise, usually made while calling upon God to punish the speaker if the promise is not true or the promise is not kept. Jesus is saying that such things are not necessary. Our present civil law allows those who will not take a “judicial oath” to “affirm” the truthfulness of their statement, Heaven. The Jews held it sin to swear a vow by the name of God, but that it was all right to swear by heaven, by earth, and by Jerusalem.
By your head. A meaningless vow. We are told the people of the Eastern world still swear vows by the head, the beard, the heart, the temple, the church, etc.
Just say yes or no. Let your “yes” or “no” in word be the same in action. Our present sin of profanity grew out of the habit of swearing vows. Note Peter’s sin in Matthew 26:74.
An eye for an eye. The old Law permitted equal revenge. (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:18-20). The Jews took advantage of this to excuse their evil ways.
Do not take revenge. He does not mean civil law and its penalties. He speaks of personal vengeance. Let him slap your left cheek too. This must be the spirit of the Christian. It will prevent the sin of anger (Matthew 5:22). See examples in John 18:22-23; Acts 23:2-3,
And if someone takes you to court. A creditor could not take your coat (Exodus 20:26), but let him take it also, and avoid the lawsuit. All this come under Jesus’ statement: “Do not take revenge.”
And if one of the occupation troops. In an age when transportation was primitive, Roman soldiers had the right to force people to carry their equipment and baggage, but only for one mile. Jesus says to go an extra mile. This is a spiritual principle (Romans 12:17-20).
When someone asks you. Many who were blind, crippled, and lepers roamed Palestine. They live on what charity was given to them. Jesus does not mean that we must give to everyone, nor loan to everyone, for this would not be right. But, he does say that we must willingly do so when it is right. “When you give to the poor it is like lending to the Lord, because the Lord will pay you back” (Proverbs 19:17).
You have heard. The Law said to love your fellow man (Leviticus 19:18). The teachers of the Law said to hate your enemies, basing this on a misunderstanding of Deuteronomy 23:6.
But now I tell you. Christ presents God’s Truth. Love is the basic law of Christ’s Kingdom. See the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). The kind of love which Jesus commands is a deliberate act, rather than an emotion. For this reason, we are able to “love” those whom we do not “like,” even enemies. This is the kind of love which God shows us (Romans 5:6-11). See the “New Commandment” (John 13:34-35).
Even the tax collectors do that. Those who collected taxes for the occupation government were hated by the Jews, and shunned as traitors. Yet, Jesus reminds them, even they love those who love them.
Speak only to your friends. The Jews (that is, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees and Sadducees) avoided other generally, and spoke only to those of their own group. Even the pagans had this much love. The Jews operated on this same level. Those who follow Christ must do much better.
You must be perfect. To fully carry out this great law of love would raise man to the Divine ideal. Followers of Christ are to reach up to this, even though human nature stands in their way. There is strong tension in the Christian life. See Romans 7:14-25; 1 John 1:5-10. But in the final sense, we can only be “perfect” through God’s act in Jesus Christ.
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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 5". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent