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In the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29) the Lord Jesus depicts the character of the kingdom of heaven and those who have part in it. He also reveals the Father’s Name. He teaches the characteristics of the kingdom because He loves those characteristics. He Himself is seen in them and finds His joy in exhibiting these characteristics and recognizing them in others.
The sermon on the mount describes how the true disciples of the kingdom of heaven should behave in that kingdom. This kingdom was announced by the Old Testament prophets. It is the kingdom under the kingship of God’s Messiah. The throne of the Messiah stands then in Jerusalem from where He rules over Israel and from there over the whole world (Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:13-2 Chronicles :).
But the prophets also teach that the King will be born in humility. We find this in the Gospels. He is a King, but in the Gospels He is still without subjects because His kingdom has not yet been established. Nevertheless, the kingdom is present, and that, in the person of the King (Luke 17:21).
Then He calls His disciples. A disciple is someone who follows the King in everything that He commands. Whoever follows Him, He teaches (Matthew 5:2). The sermon on the mount is the doctrine of the Lord for His disciples who not only want to learn from Him, but also want to be like Him in His attitude (Matthew 10:24-Lamentations :). He teaches to believing followers, not to those who have no relationship with Him. First of all, one must become a disciple in the way that John the baptist indicated: through repentance and conversion with baptism as proof. Before the teaching of the sermon on the mount can be put into practice, an inner change is necessary.
The sermon on the mount is not a political program for the government, but is full of rules of conduct for the personal life of the disciple and for the relations between the disciples themselves. For the disciple, the sermon on the mount contains instruction in connection with the kingdom to which he must be obedient. The Teacher speaks with authority to every believer. He is the Lord of every believer. Therefore those who are His disciples must follow Him.
The heart of the disciple is focused on the heavenly part of the kingdom. The kingdom is called the kingdom of heaven because it is governed by the standards that apply to heaven and because it is governed by a heavenly King.
There is always talk about the kingdom of heaven in a future sense, that is, as a kingdom yet to come. John the baptist and the Lord Jesus announced it as ‘at hand’ because the King presents Himself. But because the King is rejected, it is not then established on earth. Its public establishment has been postponed.
The kingdom of heaven has begun, but in a hidden way and after the Lord Jesus has returned to heaven. There He is the King, invisible to the world, Who rules over all who in faith have subjected themselves to Him. When He returns from heaven to earth, the kingdom of heaven will be established visibly on earth.
Subdivision of the sermon on the mountain:
1. Matthew 5:3-12 Beatitudes
2. Matthew 5:13-16 Salt and light
3. Matthew 5:17-48 The authority of the law and examples of it
4. Matthew 6:1-18 Practical righteousness
5. Matthew 6:19-34 Store up treasures and worries
6. Matthew 7:1-12 Principles of the government of God
7. Matthew 7:13-27 False and true disciples
On the Mountain
When the Lord sees the crowds, He goes up the mountain. He goes up the mountain – not to receive the law as Moses once did, but – to explain and deepen the law. When He sits down, His disciples come to Him. In this attitude of peace He is going to teach them. The teaching He gives His disciples is meant for them. If they take this to heart, their behavior will be to the honor of their Master and also to the well-being of the crowds.
‘Blessed’ – First Group
First the Lord speaks of what kind of people enter the kingdom of heaven. To be successful in man’s kingdom it is about a lot of self-confidence and perseverance. In the kingdom of heaven, which is not yet established in power and majesty, it is the opposite. It must have been a shock for the disciples to hear about suffering and persecution and sorrow. For their thought is that the Messiah will lead them to victory over all that is rebelling against Him.
The first group that the Lord calls blessed, is formed by people who are characterized by a certain outward behavior toward the world that surrounds them. In a word, they are characterized by righteousness.
1. “The poor in spirit” are those who are broken and contrite of heart and spirit, who no longer expect anything from themselves (Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:2). Theirs is the kingdom of heaven, not heaven. It is the earth under the rule of heaven. The Lord Jesus is the true ‘Poor in spirit’. He never sought to be anything Himself.
2. “Those who mourn” do so about the things they see around them in the world in which they live. The comfort that will be their portion comes when the consequences of sin are gone. Someone who is mourning is more acutely aware of the state of the things around him. The Lord Jesus is the “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). The division in Christianity is also a cause of mourning.
3. “The gentle” are those who, in a hostile world, prefer to suffer injustice rather than stand up for their right. Later they will reign with Christ over the earth where they are now being tried and suffer so much injustice. The Lord Jesus is the Gentle par excellence. He presents Himself in this way after He sighed in the spirit (Matthew 11:20-Amos :). The gentle do not get irritated by the evil they witness, but they take refuge in God, the Lord of heaven and earth. With this they say that God has everything in His hand.
4. “Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” have an intense longing for that world that does not yet exist, but where righteousness will reign when the Lord Jesus reigns in righteousness. Righteousness in this world is yet to come, and that is what He desires, even more so than they do. “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see [it and] be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11).
‘Blessed’ – Second Group
The second group is formed of people who are characterized by a certain inner state. It is about the attitude that is revealed by the character traits that someone exhibits. In a word, they are characterized by grace.
1. “The merciful” have something of what God Himself is. God loves to see that those who are disciples of His Son show His mercy. By this the sinner is brought to God. Whoever proves this in the world will experience the preciousness of it anew. The Lord Jesus is the true merciful One.
2. “The pure in heart” respond to God’s holiness. Only God is perfectly pure. This is visible in the life of the Lord Jesus and He is the life of His disciples. A person has a pure heart when there are no wrong motives in it. It is the absence of anything that would exclude God. Therefore they see God, they live in fellowship with Him.
3. “The peacemakers” resemble God Who is the great Peacemaker. The Lord Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Here again is the active side, just like with the first group this last one mentioned is also active. Peacemakers are committed to peace. They show the features of Him from Whom they were born and by Whom they were accepted as sons. Being called “sons of God” means being recognized as sons in their relationship to God. The Lord Jesus as the Son also brings peace. Being called a son also means that it is someone who shows the features of his father. A good son resembles his father.
Summary of Group 1 and Group 2
Matthew 5:10 summarizes the first group of Matthew 5:3-Joshua :, which is about righteousness. The Lord points out to His disciples that they should not look at who persecutes them, but at the reason of persecution and that is doing righteousness. Just as He does not lose the kingdom through persecution for the sake of righteousness, neither do His disciples. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
The Matthew 5:11-2 Kings : summarize the second group of Matthew 5:7-1 Samuel :, where it is about the inner features of Christ. Exhibiting His characteristics is to show a grace that goes out to others. Where these features are present, suffering for His sake is the result. Here the disciples are addressed directly themselves, “blessed are you”, and the blessing is made a personal matter and not a general one. The reward in this case is not connected with the kingdom of heaven, but with heaven itself.
The reproach for the sake of Christ Himself has a higher reward than the suffering for the sake of righteousness. God takes away those who suffer because of Christ from the earthly scene to be with Him in heaven.
Salt and Light
After the characteristics of the disciples, the Lord speaks of their place in the world, in which they are placed by God. He calls them “the salt of the earth”. The earth is the creation of God that He maintains despite the fall. Disciples of the Lord are responsible for showing what He meant by this in all earthly relationships that God has established. This concerns matters like marriage, family and work. In connection with this, the disciple should be the salt.
The characteristic feature of salt is that it prevents spoilage. For the disciple this means that he does not give in to worldly influences. When Christians are no longer salt, nothing remains visible of God’s original intentions. If the Christians are gone from the earth, everything will become normless.
The Lord also calls the disciples “the light of the world”. While the disciples do participate in earthly relations, they have no part in the world, they do not belong to it. They are in it, but then as light. The light stands opposite the world and shines in it. It must not be hidden.
Salt prevents something, light shows something. The danger of salt is that it loses its taste. The danger for light is that it is extinguished by a basket, that is to say that there is no testimony in the world because one is too busy with earthly things.
We let light shine, not so much through what we say, but through what we do. The “good works” here are not works of charity for others, but upright, honorable works. It is not about the effect of the works, but their nature. These good works have their source in the Father in heaven. They spread light and glorify Him. When people see these good works they will instead of saying “what a good person” glorify the Father of that person.
The Law and the Prophets
What the Lord Jesus proclaims does not mean that the old is set aside. The Lord accomplishes in His own Person all that is written. He has fulfilled every requirement of the law. But He has done more. He has also shown the true meaning of everything written in the law and the prophets. He is the fulfilment of all this, for everything in it points to Him. Everything that is written will really happen. Respect for what God has said is expressed by doing what God has said. After that, what God has said can also be taught to others. But he who explains the smallest precept of God as of no significance and then teaches that to others, will not be counted in the kingdom.
“Your righteousness” is the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. It is their own righteousness, for which they already receive the reward in the form of appreciation by people. But their righteousness is not sufficient to enter the kingdom of heaven. The righteousness of the Pharisees, which consists of going to the temple every day, doing long prayers and the like, has no substance for God. With all this outward display there is no sense of sin before God. And the latter is necessary to enter the kingdom of heaven.
The “surpassing” righteousness is the recognition of God’s righteous judgment on sins. Whoever acknowledges that God is righteous when He would exercise this judgment upon him, takes his true place as a convinced sinner before God. Such a person may enter the kingdom of heaven.
Murder and Anger
The Lord is going to explain the deeper, actual meaning of the law. He does so through five examples. Three of them are about the nature of sin: violence (Matthew 5:21-Ezekiel :), lusts (Matthew 5:27-Jonah :), and lies (Matthew 5:33-Haggai :). The other two are about the nature of God: love (Matthew 5:38-Galatians :). In these examples the Lord demonstrates the depth of the law and shows that the law of the ten commandments blends into a higher law. He indicates what the law does not allow and also what the higher law is. Thus He contrasts the negative commandment not to kill to the positive doing good to others. Finally, He shows what the Pharisees have added. When He says “but I say to you”, it indicates a deepening, a refining or a refutation.
The Lord begins with the sixth commandment which God has given “you shall not commit murder” with the addition of men “whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court”. With this addition, murder is turned into a case that a local court can deal with. The Lord Jesus contrasts the levity of the Pharisees with a more serious view of the law. In His teaching He applies the murder of someone to cursing. In cursing, the state of the heart is revealed. As the cursing becomes more intense, He attaches heavier penalties to it.
Christ makes it clear that it is not only about the public act, but just as much about the condition of the heart. Therefore, He places in the same category of murder every kind of violence, feeling and expression, all contempt and hatred that expresses the evil mind of the heart.
After these manifestations that reveal the attitude of the heart, He speaks of presenting an offering. God can only accept an offering from someone who lives in peace with his neighbor. But if he has done something to his neighbor or said something to his neighbor that makes his neighbor have something against him, he must first be reconciled to his neighbor. Only after the reconciliation can he approach God and God can accept his offering. It is important to be reconciled quickly with the other party. If reconciliation is not important to someone, that attitude will later lead to his fall.
The Lord Jesus also speaks prophetically about what awaits the people when they are not friends with Him. He is their opponent, for they treat Him with utter disrespect. They will not accept Him and will even reject and kill Him. They will not escape their punishment, nor will they receive relief from it, but they will have to undergo it fully.
Adultery and Divorce
The second commandment that the Lord cites and elaborates is the seventh commandment of the law, “you shall not commit adultery”. He makes it clear that someone is guilty not only by the act of adultery, but already by looking at a woman with lust for her. With this He shows the germ and that is the wicked, adulterous heart.
In order to escape the judgment of hell which is the penalty for such acts, He points to the need for radical self-judgment. No sacrifice can be too great when it serves the deliverance from hell that awaits at the end of an evil path. We must not bring ourselves into temptation or expose ourselves to danger that would cause us to sin and fall. Anything that can be a reason for sin must be removed from our lives or our homes without excuse. The eye is symbolic of what we see, the hand of what we do. We must absolutely avoid looking at things that lead us to sinful thoughts. It is also imperative that we avoid situations that could lead us to wrong conduct.
With the words “it was said” (Matthew 5:31), the Lord introduces a saying added to the law by men. The law does mention a certificate of divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-Numbers :). The point there is that in the case such a certificate of divorce is handed over, there is no way back. The intention is that someone thinks twice before giving such a certificate of divorce. The Israelites, however, had changed it in: ‘You can divorce as long as you give a certificate of divorce.’ This implies a weakening of marriage as instituted by God.
In contrast to this saying added by men, the Lord places His “but I say to you”. Through this recurring “but I say to you” He shows that the ordinances given by Moses do not express the whole will of God. What He says is not a contradiction of Moses. He does not take away what Moses said, but augments it and gives it its full meaning. Thus He states that it is impossible to divorce. Whoever divorces encourages adultery. This applies both to the woman who is sent away when she marries again and to the man who marries a woman who is sent away. For God, marriage is an unbreakable covenant. He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).
The only situation in which it is permissible for someone to send away his wife is in the case of unchastity in other words when she has committed fornication. Please note, this is not: because of adultery, but: out of cause of fornication. The situation the Lord means here is a situation as we found with Joseph and Mary (Matthew 1:18-Psalms :). Joseph and Mary were betrothed (Matthew 1:18). No official wedding ceremony had yet taken place. Yet the Holy Spirit speaks about Joseph as the husband of Mary (Matthew 1:19) and the angel of the Lord speaks to Joseph about Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:20).
This indicates that the status of being betrothed is almost equal to that of a marriage. If, when betrothed, one of the two has sexual intercourse with a third person, it is not adultery, but fornication. In that case, the Lord here gives the opportunity to divorce his wife. Joseph wanted to do the same with Mary (Matthew 1:19). He is not being reproved for this by the angel in the Name of God. When Joseph hears what really happened, he takes Mary as his wife.
The oath to which the Lord Jesus refers here relates to the communication between people in everyday life. Many have the habit of reinforcing their words by swearing an oath when their honesty is questioned. It may also involve the ratification of a promise.
However, people sometimes say more than they mean or can live up to. A false oath is an oath that is not kept consciously or unconsciously. A false oath is an overconfidently pronounced oath that reveals a great lack of self-knowledge. Much pomp and ceremony is used to announce intentions, but in practice nothing is done about them. One’s own possibilities are overestimated or hypocritically advertised and others experience the adverse impact of this. The Lord shows how misplaced every form of self-confidence is.
This is not about an oath in front of the government. Taking such an oath is nothing more than the recognition of God’s authority to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth before Him and with His help. The Lord Jesus is silent on all accusations made by the High Priest. But when he adjures Him by the living God he responds.
Introduced with “but I say to you”, the Lord impresses upon the heart of His disciples that it is better not to make an oath at all and thus refrain from using swear words. When the Jews make an oath, they invoke all kinds of higher things. With this they claim that a higher authority stands behind their words and they can therefore be trusted in what they say. But such a claim is extremely misplaced and misleading. We must not lower God and everything connected to Him to our level. He expects us to be reliable. If we say ‘yes’, we also mean ‘yes’ and act accordingly. The same applies to saying ‘no’.
A person who endorses almost every statement with an oath cannot be trusted in his ordinary statements. If you are reliable, you don’t have to emphasize what you say with all kinds of power terms. Such emphasizes do not come from God, but are out of the evil one, that is satan.
What the law demands is always just. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. [It should be noted that this must be applied by the competent court. It does not apply to the sphere of personal retaliation.] That is what they heard. But grace goes much further. The Lord points this out when He says “but I say unto you”. In what He says, He demonstrates the spirit in which His disciples should act, as He does perfectly.
It means that we do not defend ourselves against an angry neighbor and that we allow ourselves to be humiliated not just a little, but deeply. Nor do we insist on our rights, but we give up more than is required of us. We go further than the distance we are forced to go. We are ready to give and to lend when that is asked of us.
Just as the Lord Jesus has revealed the character of violence and corruption in the previous verses, so He shows here the appeal made to the mind of the Christian’s heart. It must be about real need and not about granting a request that meets worldly desires. The Christian ought to go further than he is obliged and not be known as someone who always tries to get as much out of a case as possible.
Love Your Enemies
The first part of what they have heard, “you shall love your neighbor”, is written in the law (Leviticus 19:18). For the Pharisees this means in practice that they only love their party members, because only them they see as their neighbors. Also disciples of the Lord are in danger of limiting love of neighbor to those with whom they agree. The second part, “hate your enemy”, is a self-made addition.
Introduced with the familiar words “but I say to you” the Lord goes deeper into what has been said. Then He gives it its true meaning and content. He shows that ‘your enemy’ is also a neighbor who we should love. In the parable of the good Samaritan He Himself is the example in it (Luke 10:29-Haggai :). Where there is need, the heart of the Lord goes out to it no matter how they treated Him before. All the ungratefulness He receives, even rejection and death, cannot stop Him from acting according to His nature of perfect love and giving goodness. He does this because the Father is like that. And He wants to glorify Him. Especially towards one’s neighbor there is a reflection of the Father by acting in dignity as sons of the Father.
God is not presented here as a Lawgiver, but as a Father. Thus God is seen in a new light. God as Father dominates the teaching of the Lord here. We should prove ourselves in a practical way as sons of our heavenly Father. A son is perfect when he is like his father. Then it is not a question of how the other looks at me (does he love me?) or who the other is for me (is he my brother?). That’s how people in the world view these things. It is about showing all people, even our enemies, who our heavenly Father is. The whole behavior of the disciples must point to their Father in heaven.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Matthew 5". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter