Filling the World with God’s Love (Matthew 5:21-48)
October 17, 2021 to November 14, 2021
Matthew begins chapter five leading into the Sermon on the Mount by saying that Jesus “…went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him and he began to teach them saying…” For readers who are aware that the Bible is a unified narrative leading to Jesus, all sorts of bells and whistles start to go off at this point. Why? Because what Jesus is doing is radical, dangerous, and hopeful, all at once.
Where else in the Bible is there a story about a prophet who goes up a mountain and then teaches the people what God requires of them? Exodus, right? Moses, right? The giving of the Law—the covenant between Yahweh and the people of Israel.
When the ancient Israelites came out of Egypt, God called them into a covenant. They were to be his people, a nation of priests, which means that they were to reflect and communicate God’s character to the other nations, especially his love. They were to fill the world with God’s love (among other things). To sum up 600 years of history in one statement, they failed miserably.
Now Jesus, who has been going “…throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people…” walks up a mountainside and sits down. His fame is growing. Crowds are following. Who is this man, they think. Is he the one who was to come? Is he a prophet? Is he Messiah?
Then, he teaches. First, he blesses. Next, he identifies the people as salt and light. Then he tells them what he’s come to do—fulfill the Law. Then, six times he says, “You have heard…but I tell you…” Six times he takes Moses’ teaching (or a paraphrase of it) and pushes beyond. He doesn’t disagree with Moses but he seems here to take parts of the covenant further—like it wasn’t enough, like there’s more. Like he is going to clarify things. Like their religious leaders had gotten it wrong. Interpretations were off, motives were wrong, and right relationships were not found. Which is why Jesus had just said, “…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Later in the book of Matthew, when asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus replies: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor. In doing that, we fill the world with God's love. Join us for this series to dig deeper.