Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 5:13-30

bibleLast week we looked at the introduction to Jesus’ sermon on the mount, the portion generally known as the Beatitudes. This week we will start digging into the meat of this sermon. The Sermon on the mount is rich with theology and clarity of the Law. Jesus is preaching repentance here, and He is preaching the Law to convict those present (and us) of our sins. That is the purpose of the Law. Jesus IS the Gospel, He is the Messiah, the Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world. Jesus preaches the Law and presents Himself as the remedy, for He will lay His life down to bear the wrath of God in our place, so that by His Blood we might be saved. This sermon is going to take a few weeks for us to work through.

Matthew 5:13-30 (ESV)

Matthew 5:13 (ESV) | Salt

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV) | Light

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

In our culture, we generally hear “experts” telling us that we consume too much salt and how it’s not good for you. That is because we are an over-indulgent society. We would be remiss to view this passage from our secular perspective on salt. Salt is vital for our survival. Check out the intro to this website discussing the History of Salt:

As far back as 6050 BC, salt has been an important and integral part of the world’s history, as it has been interwoven into the daily lives of countless historic civilizations. Used as a part of Egyptian religious offerings and valuable trade between the Phoenicians and their Mediterranean empire, salt and history have been inextricably intertwined for millennia, with great importance placed on salt by many different races and cultures of people. Even today, the history of salt touches our daily lives. The word “salary” was derived from the word “salt.” Salt was highly valued and its production was legally restricted in ancient times, so it was historically used as a method of trade and currency. The word “salad” also originated from “salt,” and began with the early Romans salting their leafy greens and vegetables. Undeniably, the history of salt is both broad ranging and unique, leaving its indelible mark in cultures across the globe.

There is no mistaking salt. Saltiness is one of the 5 flavors or tastes (salt, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami) our tongues were designed to identify. The value of Salt isn’t in its taste; rather, it is in its preservative and medicinal qualities. Salt that has lost its taste isn’t salt… it’s remaining impurities. If you went out to a salt bed (like the Dead Sea) and scooped up a bunch of it in a bucket and filled it with water to overflowing… the salt would dissolve and run out and whatever was left behind wouldn’t be salt. It would be whatever else you scooped up with the salt. It would have no purpose other than being thrown out and trampled under foot. What is it that makes us Salt of the Earth? Faith. For the Jews hearing this sermon, it would have been Faith in the Word of God (Hebrews 11), in His Promise. Israel… Jerusalem… had lost its saltiness. Jesus, we’ll see throughout the Gospel Accounts, holds the Religious leaders, the Chief Priests, Scribes, and Lawyers accountable for their poor stewardship over God’s Chosen Ones, Israel. Now they have a problem… Jesus asked the question, “how shall its saltiness be restored”? There is nothing that the salt can do to regain its own saltiness. There is nothing man can do to make himself right with God. Praise be to Our Lord and Savior that Jesus came to do just that on our behalf… make a way, the only way, for us to be made right with God.

Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV) | Light

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Here, Jesus is declaring that His audience is the light of the world. As such, they cannot be hidden. The world will see them. Jesus is charging them to shine before others that they might see their good works and in so seeing give glory to God (Soli Deo Gloria). Two things I’d like to highlight here… the first being that good works are to point others to God, not us. Our good works are not of us or by us nor for us; rather, they are by Him, working in us, for His Glory. The second is that similar to the salt analogy, a lamp doesn’t light itself. It required oil and a flame. God provides both. We don’t do anything to make ourselves valuable salt, nor do we light our lamps. To God be the Glory.

Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV) | Christ Came to Fulfill the Law

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Just when the people listening might have expected Jesus to drop the good news (Gospel, Evangel) of why He came, He derails that thought here in verse 17. Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law. Prophecy pointed to a son of David who would usher in a New Kingdom and a New Covenant. Jesus did all of that, but He didn’t do it by abolishing the Law or the Prophets. He fulfilled them… all of them. So great, God fulfilled God’s law, how is that good news? He laid down His life to bear the full wrath of God as punishment for our sin. He doesn’t get there yet, but that’s where He is headed… it is what the Law requires and what the Prophets recorded of Him. Praise God. Don’t let verse 20 trip you up. Jesus is not indicating that the Pharisees were righteous. They weren’t. They were dead in their sin and trespasses… and they were completely unaware of how desperately they were in need of a Savior. I think it is important to jump ahead a bit to Matthew 23:1-3 (ESV) for some clarity here:

Matthew 23 (ESV) | Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice…

Here, in Matthew 5, Jesus sets up His teaching of the Law by absolutely destroying what had become a false measure of righteousness. The Pharisees, the scribes, the chief priests, they had all set themselves up as the epitome, the standard of what it means to keep the Law of Moses. They expected the Messiah to arrive and congratulate them for their righteousness… they didn’t expect the rebuke, nor did they humble themselves to repent of their sin… for they did not recognize their sin. Jesus is about to preach the Law in a way that had once been preached long ago… but had not been taught for some time. I’m referring to Deuteronomy 6, the chapter following the reiteration of the 10 Commandments of the Law, where God makes perfectly clear what it the Greatest commandment.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV) 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

From the time Israel was given the Law, it was to be written on their hearts. It wasn’t only to be physically obeyed/observed, but Israel was to love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, and might. The Pharisees had lost sight of this, and under their blinded guidance had led Israel astray. Sure they had large phylacteries a literally bound the law on their foreheads and hands… but inside they were dead, as were we all before the Grace of God stirred our hearts to saving Faith in Christ Jesus. Jesus wasn’t calling His hearers to greater outward works than the Pharisees… He was calling them to a righteousness they couldn’t do on their own, a righteousness that will only come by His blood. Let us look at how this plays out in the first 2 Laws Jesus preaches.

Matthew 5:21-26 (ESV) | Anger

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

Jesus first tackles anger and the commandment, “You shall not murder”. Clearly, the act of murder is a crime (liable to judgement), but Jesus takes it further to indicate that anger with a brother is also liable to judgement. Our society tries to make some murders even more odious by labeling it a “hate crime”. Interestingly enough, what Jesus is doing here is making Anger a Murderous crime… the sin is in the heart of man, not just in his actions. Jesus also makes it a point for us to make things right with our brothers before presenting ourselves before God. This last portion causes my mind to leap forward to the Lord’s Prayer (forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors) but it also ties back to the Salt and Light introduction we read previously, as well as the beatitude of “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matt 5:9)“.

Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV) | Lust

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

There is harm in looking, for lust is the sin of adultery in the heart. Idolatry (idol worship) is also the sin of adultery. Following through with the physical sin was punishable by death… just as murders was, and Jesus here is saying that those who look upon a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery, is equally guilty of the sin by reason of the heart. Quite the blow to those hearing this teaching. Take every sin of sexual immorality listed in Deuteronomy 22:13-30 and apply what Jesus is teaching to them. The sin of lustful intent in the mere looking carries the same weight as the act. Who then is righteous? None but Christ. The Law is hard, and its purpose is to reveal our sinfulness and unrighteousness… how unworthy we are of God.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (ESV)
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Why did Jesus begin with these 2? Jesus will work through all of the major areas of the Law so the “why” of which ones are recorded first here in the Gospel According to Matthew may not be a major issue. However, I do find it interesting that the first account of sin after the Fall is that of Cain murdering Abel, Genesis 4. Notice also, that in the account, Cain’s anger is highlighted and God addresses Cain regarding his anger, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. (Gen 4:6-7 ESV)” Cain goes on to murder his brother, Abel. The “doing well” wasn’t in “not committing murder”, it was in offering an acceptable sacrifice to God.

After this account we get a list of the generations from Adam to Noah in Chapter 5, and in Chapter 6 notice how we are introduced to the wickedness of man.

Genesis 6:1-5 (ESV) | Increasing Corruption on Earth
1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. 5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

There was lust and lawlessness, and every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The heart of sinful, fallen man is wicked and it is from there that we sin. This is a very hard teaching… the Law kills. That’s its purpose. It is to break us, our will, our self-righteousness so that we might humble ourselves and repent from sin and turn to Christ’s finished work on the cross for our forgiveness, so that His righteousness will be extended toward us in Jesus’ Name.

Until next week…

We will pick up in verse 31 and work through Jesus’ expansion of the social laws. Having decimated our picture of man’s righteousness, Jesus is going to work through how God intends for us to conduct our lives in accordance with the Law, knowing full well that apart from God’s Grace we’d all be liable to judgement and destruction.

Romans 15:5-6 (ESV) 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

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