Matthew 5 Sermon on the Mount part 2               Part 3

This week we continued our study of chapter 5 of Matthew, and in particular verses 38 - 48 which deals with retaliation and loving your enemy. During the preceding week we had been thinking of the statement about turning the other cheek, and what the meaning of this interesting statement might be. Is it simply the mark of a noble and good person? Is it the true mark of a "christian" if you can turn the other cheek? What about the fact that you can become just a doormat in that way? What about fairness and justice? We also had the thought of "heaping burning coals" on the other person's head which comes from Romans 12, and that that could be the purpose of "turning the other cheek". Interestingly, we find that the political activist Ghandi, held to this very same rule, and is well known for his campaign of turning the other cheek or "passive resistance" against the British in India.

But how does what Ghandi did, differ from what our Lord Jesus is teaching in Matthew 5? What are the behind-the-scenes dynamics of this teaching?

To start with, we have to see the sermon on the mount against the backdrop of salvation. The backdrop is not a campaign to make good people out of us. In fact, if that was true, why on earth did Jesus have to suffer what he did and die? He could as well just have preached and taught and written some self-help books to fulfill that purpose. No, he came to set us free. He came to conquer the power of satan and sin. He came to literally redeem us and reconcile us to the Father. Redeem us from whom? from the very hand of satan, the arch-enemy of God. It is against this backdrop that we have to read this passage.

In Jesus' walk to the cross, we see the reality of our passage being played out. This from 1 Peter 2: 23 - 24  "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed".

This was very interesting. We see Jesus doing exactly what he taught here in our passage in Matthew 5! and it goes even further with the statement "Instead, He entrusted Himself to him who judges justly."  We then went to the Psalms and saw a striking similarity between Jesus' actions described here in 1 Peter 2, and the life of David. In numerous Psalms we saw that David, when he was reviled, persued by his enemies, he poured his heart out to God and in prayer, handed his enemies over to God. Note that he did NOT take matters into his own hands, but entrusted himself and his cause, to God...

This gave us our first clear picture of what lies behind this teaching of turning the other cheek. As humans, we are unable to judge justly, because we cannot, as God can, see into the hearts of men. (we will study this in more detail in Matthew 7) Therefore, to turn the other cheek is to show forbearance, and leave the judging to God...Beautiful is it not?

We then moved on to a second reason why it is so important for us to turn the other cheek. Our clue was found in Ephesians 4: 26-27 "In your anger do not sin, Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.."  We saw something similar with Cain in Genesis 4:4 - 7: "The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it

In both these instances, we see that Satan gains entry into our hearts through anger, through retaliation. All satan wants us to do, is to hit back, to get revenge, and then he can enter and do his destructive work in our hearts and lives. This reveals a second behind-the-scenes dynamic behind Jesus' teaching. He himself was completely impervious to satan's onslaught as we saw in 1 Peter 2, and in the end, satan could get no hold on him, and so Jesus descended into hell, but was raised again to life for no sin was found in Him...

lastly, we looked at a very important passsage in this regard from James 4: 7 " Submit yourselves then to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" This same submission we see in David's life as regards his enemies. Laying aside the "right" to retalliate and exact revenge, defuses satan's operation...

Rebecca and Jenny both gave testimonies which illustrated the reality of what Jesus is teaching here and also the fact that it is indeed only Christ in us, which makes it possible at all.
Next week we will move on to Chapter 6 of Matthew, verses 1 -15, for those who want to do a bit of preparation.

 © 2011 Werner Schreiber

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