Sermon on the Mount Part II – The New Law

New Law Mathew 5:17-28

In this part of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasts the old Law of Moses with the new laws of his own which was more appropriate to his time. However He made it clear that he did not come to abolish what was already there but to fulfil – giving us his new laws to supplement those already in existence. The principles of his new Laws, if scrutinised very closely, will be seen to be applicable and relevant to us today and till end of times.

It is surprising that many of us are so resistant to change despite Jesus asking us to do so. We prefer to cling onto old laws that have become obsolete. It is time for us to look into the new laws of Jesus more closely and adopt them in our own lives in the world today.

A brief summary of the new laws of Jesus as contained in this part of his Sermon on the Mount is as follows.

Old Laws of Moses

New laws of Jesus

New and old Law

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Murder

You have heard that the ancients were told, "You shall not commit murder" and "Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court."

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, "You good-for-nothing," shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, "You fool," shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

Reconcile your differences

Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

Adultery

You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery."

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart

If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

Divorce

It was said, "Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce."

But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Making false wows

Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, "You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfil your vows to the Lord."

But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.

Go the extra mile

You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth."

But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you

Love your neighbor/enemies

You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy."

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


The New and old lawLaw (Mathew 5: 17-28)

New law and old law

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

A scribe refers to a teacher of religious law whereas a Pharisee is a person who thinks he is very religious, but who does not care about others. By saying that we must be more righteous than a scribe and Pharisee to enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus has once again given so much importance to moral integrity and abhors the hypocrite who only pretends to be holy. He specifically refers to the Pharisee, reminding us that we cannot be truly religious if we do not care for others.

This is what is happening in our society today where we continue to adhere strictly to set rules and rituals that are seen as holy but doing little to care for others. How can rituals by themselves make us holy if they do not touch the hearts of those around us? The parable of the Good Samaritan clearly illustrates what is to be really holy. Are we really holy as Jesus described or are we just hypocrites pretending to be so? Let’s examine ourselves to see how righteous and sincere we are in our lives. Let us examine our hearts to see how willing we to care for others.


Murder

You have heard that the ancients were told, "You shall not commit murder" and "Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court."
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, "You good-for-nothing," shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, "You fool," shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

In this commandment Jesus clearly states that there is no need to commit murder to be guilty of the crime but to be angry with someone and passing remarks of ill-intent itself is guilty of such an offense. Most us may not murder or cause physical harm to anybody but we all at some time or other have reacted with anger and wished that some misfortune may befall on those who harm us which itself is wrong by the standards set by Jesus.

Reconcile your differences

Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.

This law is one of the basic tenets of His teachings which we all tend to ignore. We go to church, offer prayers, hymns and money, participate actively in all the ministries but are not willing to reconcile with those who have hurt us. Jesus was absolutely clear that if we do not reconcile with those who are against us, it is meaningless to proceed with our worship.

It is timely to examine ourselves to see who we have hurt and who holds grudges against us for some reason or another and take steps to mend those ill-feelings. We all know that reconciliation is not as easy as it sounds. It can be a very humbling experience approaching someone to seek forgiveness, especially when we feel we are not in the wrong. When we approach him after finally gaining the courage he snubs us by ignoring us or even insult us further.

Jesus has told us to reconcile our differences but what are we to do if the person whom we approach for reconciliation rudely snubs us? Well Jesus assures that if we can take those insults with humility and sincerity ours will be the Kingdom of Heaven.

Adultery

You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

Adultery is sex between a married man or woman and someone who is not their wife or husband and is forbidden by all religions. As Catholics we were all taught that such an act is mortal sin that will land us in Hell. However despite knowing that it is a grievous sin it is not frowned at as it used to be. At a time when adultery is so rampant even among Christians, Jesus teaching that even looking at a woman with lust is already like committing adultery may seem so absurd and irrational. Where do we stand on this issue of morality today where adultery, which was once looked down with great contempt, is being accepted as a norm? Is Jesus crazy and outdated by our modern standards of sophistication?

The problem is that illicit sex including adultery has been taken so lightly these days. We all succumb to our weaknesses but that does not make such acts morally right. As parents, teachers and even religious leaders we have all lost our moral integrity to lead the young. We have stopped our strong stand against such immoral activities for fear of our own guilt. It is timely for us to take the lead in stop indulging in such immoral activates and become role models for our children.

Divorce

It was said, "Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce."
But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

If Jesus is considered crazy for speaking strongly on adultery, what will he be seen as for forbidding divorce which has become so acceptable in societies all over the world. Divorce is so common today even among Catholics who are staunch followers of the Church. When our parents could stay together for life, tolerating and respecting their differences why we can’t? What has gone wrong?

What are we doing to reduce divorce among us? We organise pre-marital courses, marriage encounters sessions and even marriage counselling for those in trouble but yet the divorce rate keeps escalating. It looks as though the church is becoming irrelevant in the lives of people. Why is it so and how can we arrest its declining influence of its members?


Making false vows

Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, "You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfil your vows to the Lord."
But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
But let your statement be, "Yes, yes" or "No, no." Anything beyond these is of evil.


Go the extra mile

You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth."
But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

Believe it or not Jesus tells us not to resist the demands of an evil person but give him more than what he wants from us. To our minds this is the most impractical command in a world driven by egoism and greed for materialism. We are still holding onto the old teaching of "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. Mahatma Gandhi saw the essence of this teaching and adopted it into his peaceful resistance against injustice saying said that an eye for an eye will make the world blind. Well we may not see the logic of the commandment but Jesus cannot be wrong. In fact He has demonstrated how to live by this commandment by his own passion and unjust death on the cross.

We have to in our own lives live up to this commandment whether we like it or not. Whenever we can we must go the extra mile to give what we have to those who need our assistance even without them asking. We may lose some money, some time or some of our energy that cause us some inconvenience but be reassured that our sacrifices will never be in vain as they will all be rewarded by God at the right time, right place and in a right way. By giving freely to those in need we may appear losers in the eyes of men but winner in the eyes of God as Jesus was the ultimate victor despite being unjustly sentenced to be crucified not for crimes he committed but for upholding the truth.


Love your neighbour

You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy."
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This is another crazy commandment where Jesus asks us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. To love our neighbour who does no harm is already not that easy but to love someone who plots to harm us is almost impossible. However it is what Jesus commands us to do if we want to follow him. We can never be perfect like Jesus but that is what we should all try to if we call ourselves his followers.

Conclusion

All these commandments are very difficult ones and may seem inappropriate in our society today which has become so competitive and materialistic. Many will say it must be crazy to adhere to such obsolete commandments and if we do so others may ridicule and laugh at us. We may even be considered stupid not knowing how to survive and so on.

We are all guilty of breaking these commandments from time to time; we may not murder but we curse others with anger, we refuse to reconcile with those whom we dispute, we succumb to lust, quick to divorce and commit adultery and justify the reasons for doing so, we make false promises and refuse to share what we have with others for fear they will take advantage of our goodness and of course there is no way we are going to love our enemies.

So where do we stand as Christians? We say we are the followers of Christ but refuse to follower His commandments to the fullest. We say we are Christians because we strictly observe all the man-made rituals of the church which Jesus did not ask but refuse to follow those he truly commanded. Let us seriously ask ourselves whether we are really his followers or just opportunists who pick and choose what we what to follow for our own benefits and convenience.

These commandments come from none other than Jesus himself and as Christians we have no option but try to follow them to the fullest. We may be ridiculed and persecuted in the process but we must persevere in what we do as He himself told us Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great”

Next: Part III – The Lord’s Prayer

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