Keith Hunt - Bible Story, NT - Chapter Thirteen: The Great Sermon on the Mount (part one)   Restitution of All Things
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New Testament Bible
Story

Chapter Thirteen:

The Great Sermon on the Mount (part one)


JESUS' CHOICE OF THE TWELVE

     The time had come for Jesus to call and start a special
group of disciples from within His larger body of followers. This
was something new and different from what John the baptist had
done with his disciples and indeed different from what Jesus had
done so far in His ministry. He was about to choose a special 12
disciples, and as they were going to be chosen for some different
work and gospel commissions for the then present and into the
future, from what the other disciples would do, it was very
important that He chose the twelve with much thought and prayer.
     Jesus went up into the hills alone to pray as He often did
at other times. He continued all night in prayer. This decision
of which twelve to pick for His inner circle of close disciples
called for all night prayer and meditation. Jesus set us an
example in all things He did. There could well be times in our
life when confronted with serious and large decisions that we
must make, that all night prayer and meditation is needed to
ensure we make the correct decision. When other Elders in the
Church are to commend and ordain other men to the ministry, a
very serious undertaking and commission to be given to others, it
should be done under prayer and fasting, which could be for more
than a day, maybe for a number of days over a period of time
(Acts 14: 21-23).

     Jesus took time to pray about the choosing of these twelve
disciples, even praying all night long. When it was daybreak, He
called all His disciples to Himself and from them He chose this
special twelve. He named them "apostles" which means "ones sent
forth." Here was also a new name given to a new formed section
within the New Testament Church of God. The function then of
apostles was brought into being by Jesus. This newly created
position by Jesus shows us that it is not wrong for new functions
to be created within the body of Christ, the Church of Christ,
when and if certain functions are needed for doing the work of
God. 
     Why did Jesus choose twelve at this time?  There was indeed
a very important reason for calling twelve. Jesus was not just
looking at the present, but way into the future when the Kingdom
of God would come to be established on the earth, when it
would rule all nations, when all the prophecies of the Old
Testament concerning the literal government of God ruling the
entire earth, would come to pass. Many prophecies in the
prophetic books of the Old Testament tell us that when Jesus
returns in glory to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, then
the literal people of Israel and Judah will be again united as
one people, or 12 tribes united under one banner so to speak.
They are to return to the land area we call the Middle East
today, where the city of Jerusalem is located (Ezekiel 37;
Jeremiah 30, 31, 33; Isa.11). Jesus promised that the twelve
disciples would each sit upon a throne of authority governing a
tribe of Israel (Mat.19: 27, 28). And so for the plan of God to
contain this governing structure for the people of Israel
during the 1,000 year reign of God's Kingdom on earth, Jesus knew
there needed to be a special twelve called out from among His
many disciples who would each be given rule over one of the
twelve tribes of Israel, in that coming Kingdom age.

     The names of these twelve specially called out disciples
were:

     Simon, whom Jesus named Peter.
     Andrew, who was Peter's brother.
     James and John.
     Philip and Bartholomew.
     Matthew and Thomas.
     James the son of Alphaeus.
     Simon who was called the Zealot.
     Judas the son of James.
     Judas Iscariot, who became the traitor (Luke 6: 12-19).

     After Jesus had chosen the twelve He came with all His
disciples down from the hills and stood on a large flat area of
land. Soon a huge multitude of people came to Him from all Judea
and Jerusalem and even from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon. They
came to hear Him speak and to be healed of their diseases. Those
who were troubled with evil spirits were also cured. Such was the
power that came from Him all the people clambered to get close
enough to touch Him and so be healed of their sicknesses and
demons.

THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

     Many have thought that Jesus gave this famous so-called
sermon on the mount to all the crowd of people that came to Him
from Judea and Jerusalem and the sea coast. But the Gospel writer
Matthew shows us that this was not the case at all. After Jesus
had spent some time with the crowds that came to Him, He wanted
once more to get away, they were pressing in on Him all wanting
to touch Him as we have seen. Jesus again retreated into the
mountains. He sat down and it was His disciples that came to Him.
It was His disciples not the vast crowds that He taught. The
words of Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7 were given to them, not the
general population (Matthew 5: 3).
     Much of what I record Jesus as saying in His sermon on the
mount is my paraphrasing.

     And Jesus opened His mouth and taught them saying:

     "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom
     of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be
     comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit
     the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after
     righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the
     merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure
     in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the
     peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
     Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness'
     sake, for their is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you
     when men shall revile you and persecute you and utter all
     kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and
     be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men
     persecuted the prophets who were before you"
     (Mat.5: 3-12).

     Here in a few verses Jesus gives the heart and the core, the
foundation of what is a true Christian, a true son and daughter
of God the Father.
     The poor in spirit are those who have put away pride and
human vanity. They have been willing to see themselves in the
light of God's word, in the light of the Holiness of God Himself.
They have humbled themselves to acknowledge their sins and wrong
ways and words and thoughts. They have repented of being a human
sinner, repented of breaking in one way or another the holy laws,
commandments, statutes, and precepts, of God. They see they are
nothing compared to a Holy God. They have cried out for His
mercy, for His grace, for His love. They have put themselves into
the spirit of mind that they will love the Lord their God with
all their heart, with all their life, with all their mind.
They are willing to serve Him, to do His will not their own, to
love and obey His commandments. They stand in respectful awe of
the entire word of God. 
     It is to this person with this attitude of mind that God
will look and take note of and call His child (Isa. 66: 2). To
such a person Jesus promised that the Kingdom of heaven would be
theirs, that they would be a part of it, that they would live
forever in the very Kingdom family of God. 

     Those who mourn and shall be comforted are those who first
of all mourn within themselves as they see the sins and faults
and errors they have done in their lives. As they see where they
have missed the mark in what the heavenly Father would have them
do, think, and speak, they are deeply sorry. This gives them a
repentant mindset and places them in the position to receive
God's loving forgiveness and so be comforted with His salvation.
     Those who mourn are those who also go on after being
comforted with personal salvation, to mourn for the evil and sins
they see around them in the world from day to day. The child of
God at times really gets upset, mourns and sometimes literally
cries (Jesus shed tears at times over the sins of Jerusalem and
the people around Him) when they see or hear about certain evils
that happen in the world or in their local town or city.
Such children of God often cry out for His Kingdom to soon come
to earth that all the pain, sorrow, and evil, the world contains
will be a thing of the past. One day, as the heavenly Father has
promised, His children who now mourn at times will be
everlastingly comforted when His Kingdom is set up on this earth.

     The meek are those who do not think of themselves above what
they should. They are not full of vain bigheaded thoughts about
themselves or their talents or abilities. They realize all they
have is from God.  They realize all they can be is from God. They
are willing to be corrected, to learn, to be shown and led into
the ways and truths of the Lord.
They are humble enough to want to serve and do the commandments
of God. They know that meekness is not the same as "weakness."
They understand that people like Moses was meek, yes, even said
of him that he was the meekest man of his time. But they know
that Moses was not "weak." But strong in and for the Lord. Being
meek is really being strong in the ways and life of how God wants
you to live.
     Meekness is being righteous and Jesus was probably thinking
about Psalm 37 when He uttered these words. For in that Psalm it
is the righteous (those who do and live in a right way with God)
who shall it is said, inherit the earth. Yes, the children of God
are to live forever on this earth. They are to inherit the
Kingdom of God or heaven, but that Kingdom is to come to this
earth as Revelations 19 through to 22 fully explains and shows
us.  So to inherit the Kingdom of heaven is indeed to also
inherit forever this earth.

     Jesus said it was blessed to hunger and thirst after
righteousness. Now one Bible definition for righteousness is
found in Psalm 119: 172. There we see that all of God's
commandments are righteousness. Many today want you to believe it
is not important to seek after God's commandments. Many today
want you to believe God has "done away with" His holy law of the
ten commandments and just about all of His other commandments
also. Many today say if you seek after the commandments of God
you are trying to gain salvation by human works. 
     Well, many today have many ideas as to why you should not
hunger and thirst after the righteous commandments of God. But
for Jesus, as far as He was concerned, if you did hunger and
thirst after them, you would not only be filled and satisfied,
but you would be also very blessed.

     Jesus went on to say that it was also a blessing to be a
merciful person, to show kindness, a loving and forgiving
attitude towards others.
     There will be many times in life, many situations will come
our way, when people will do us harm, do us dirt as they say. 
People at times will say nasty things about us, talk behind our
back, call us names, tell bad stories about us that are not true.
They may plot to harm us in different ways. They may get jealous
of us for whatever reason and become our enemy. They may try to
take revenge on us for something they consider we have done to
them. 
     There will be plenty of opportunity in life to act and to
think in a merciful manner towards others, to not pay back in
kind as others have done to us. There will be times when some
people will come to us and acknowledge they have acted badly
towards us and ask us to forgive them. Jesus said it was a
blessing to be merciful towards others. For by being merciful you
would also obtain mercy. He was no doubt especially thinking
of the mercy that the Father in heaven would show towards you,
for you showing mercy towards your fellow man.

     The pure in heart were also a blessed people, so blessed
Jesus said, that they would see God. The clear inference is that
those who did not have a pure heart would not see God. All of the
children of God will one day see the very face of their heavenly
Father (Revelation 21 tells us that). If you do not see God the
Father, it means you will not be living. It means you will not
have had a pure heart, for it is the pure in heart that shall see
God.
     The heart of man is a mixture of good and evil. Without the
nature and Spirit of the Lord coming into the heart to wash it,
to cleanse it, to fill it with the love of God, to purify it from
its natural carnal fleshly ways and thoughts, it is then
spiritually impure. Such a natural heart without the Spirit of
God does not belong to Him. God is Holy. The natural heart
without God in it is unholy. Only when the heart is purified by
the indwelling of the Spirit of God is it classified by God as
pure, and as belonging to Him. Only then can that person to
considered by God as His child. All this is what the apostle Paul
was telling us in Romans chapter 8.
     When the heart is made pure by the presence of God through
His Spirit dwelling in it, then we are His. And we receive the
Spirit of God through repentance and baptism (Acts 2: 38). Our
sins are forgiven by the blood of Christ on an on going daily
basis (John explained it more for us in I John chapter 1 and the
first part of chapter 2). Hence we are in the sight of God one
with a pure and clean heart. 
     With a pure heart Jesus said people would indeed see God.
They would one day inherit eternal life and see God's face as is
promised in the book of Revelation (chapter 22).

     If you want to be a son (or daughter) of God, Jesus said you
would have to be blessed by being a peacemaker. What does it mean
to be a peacemaker? Does it mean you are a doormat for people to
walk all over? No, surely not, for the people of God in the Bible
stood strong and firm for their faith. Many of those who were
called to proclaim the truths of God to others and to nations,
were bold and courageous, not backing down even in the face of
the threat of death.  Does it mean you must be timid and
consoling to other religious leaders that oppose the word of God?
Hardly! For Jesus and the apostles as we can see from the New
Testament did not back down against those who would debate or
corner them on theological issues. There are times when the
people of God must also act as Jesus acted towards false
religious leaders (we will come to Matthew 23 and the strong
words Jesus used against false religionists later in the Gospel
story).
     I think it best to try to understand what being a peacemaker
is, by looking at it from the opposite side of the coin. A
peacemaker is one who is generally as a way of life, trying to be
at peace with everyone, even when and while living a dedicated
Christian life, and also when trying to proclaim the good news of
the salvation and truths of God's word.
He or she is not out looking for trouble, not out to deliberately
cause a fight or disturbance (though such may arise when teaching
and/or living the way of the Lord. The first century apostles
certainly encountered less than peaceful persons, out to harm
them, as they lived and taught the Gospel). A peaceful person is
trying to act and live and speak as Jesus told them to do, "Be
you as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves." 
     A peaceful individual has a basic good natured attitude and
disposition about them. They are not nasty in words, not bad
tempered, not grouchy, always seeing the negative side of things,
not forever complaining about everyone and everything. They are
not out to pick a fight over the least bad thing that others do
to them. They often let the evil of others coming their way, pass
them by with no thoughts of revenge or how they can get back at
them. They want if at all possible to be at peace with people as
they live and practice and proclaim the love of God through Jesus
Christ.
     Peaceable people are basically upbeat, happy, friendly,
smiling people. Their conversations are mainly positive and not
bitter, sarcastic, negative, filled with put-downs of others.
They exhibit a lot of patience in all they do and with all people
they meet.
Peaceable people are persons that others like to be around and
enjoy having as neighbors and working co-workers. Peaceable
people find that small children are drawn to them, for small
children can sense persons who are peaceable and easy to feel
comfortable and happy with. Children had no problem in coming
close to Jesus and letting Him pick them up to bless them.
     Such is the nature of persons who are peacemakers.  For such
is the foundation of the nature and character of God, hence those
with His nature in them will be peacemakers and so will also be
called "sons of God."

     To emphasize that the righteousness of God is for all
peoples of all ages to seek after, Jesus went on to say that
those who were persecuted for the sake of righteousness, because
they were practicing righteousness as a way of life, were
blessed. The commandments of God which are righteousness are
forever (Psalm 111) and though some would encounter words and
actions of persecution from those who did not like the
laws of God or who thought the New Testament abolished them,
Jesus said the ones receiving the persecution for serving
righteousness would have the Kingdom of God, they would inherit
it and be a part of it.

     Then Jesus finished this part of His sermon and teaching by
letting His disciples know that in choosing to follow Him, it
would not always be an easy road to walk. It would not
necessarily be a bed of sweet smelling roses, or sitting in some
beautiful park on a warm and sunny day enjoying a large chocolate
dipped ice-cream.  
     Sometimes, to not only accept Jesus as your personal savior,
but to believe what He said and to obey Him, to follow His
example in all your conduct of life, will anger various people,
even ones who call themselves "religious" and claim they are
"Christian." These people will often say false things against
you, lie about you, and try to bring all manner of harm to you,
mentally, emotionally, and even physically.
     Jesus has told us beforehand that such may come our way
because we follow Him in everything. He said we would eventually
be blessed and have a great reward for remaining loyal to Him. He
reminds us that it has been no different for other who lived
before us. All down through the centuries, yes, even as we read
through the Old Testament, we can see that many of the prophets
of God were reviled and persecuted for standing firm to the word
and truth of the Father in heaven.

     In Luke's account we have Jesus as saying, "But woe to you
that are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you
that are full now, for you shall hunger. Woe to you that laugh
now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you, when all men speak
well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets"
(Luke 6:24-26).

     Is it wrong or somehow "not quite Christian" to be rich in a
physical way, or to be fully satisfied with food, or to laugh? We
should not take Jesus' words here out of context from the whole
Bible. As we read the whole of God's word we can see that some of
His people were physically blessed with material riches. And many
were fully satisfied and provided with food, as well as enjoying
themselves with laughter and song. It is clear that God does not
think such things per se are wrong or not proper to have if you
are His child.
     What Jesus here in the sermon on the mount is saying is that
those who disregard God's way, His truths, and His commandments,
those who just simply "live it up" as we say, who want to fill
their minds and life with only the material things that can be
obtained in this life time, who put all their energies into being
rich, full of everything physical, and want to "party all the
time," while ignoring the way of God, will one day have to answer
for this mind-set. They will finally come to the point of
realizing that putting the physical things first (and God second,
or God never at all) is not the way to eternal life. They will
indeed mourn and weep.
     
     Jesus also said, "Woe to you, when all men speak well of
you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets."
     Another fact contained in the Bible, when you read it all
from start to finish, is the fact that those who taught and
preached the Word and Commandments of God, were never popular
with the masses of the people or with most of the leaders of the
various nations. And they were not popular with the masses of
other religious leaders.
     Jesus gives here a pretty constant and overall rule of
thumb, if you are liked and spoken well about from the large mass
of people and world leaders, then you propbably are NOT speaking
the Word and Truths of the Almighty God, certainly not in the way
you should be teaching and preaching them.
     Those who are popular as "religious teachers and preachers,"
who are spoken well about from the large majority of people, are
more than likely, according to Jesus, false prophets and false
religious teachers.
     That verse in Luke is well worth remembering when you start
to look at all those out there who claim they are the religious
ministers of God. 
      
     Jesus continued:

     "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its
     taste, how can its saltness be restored? It is then no
     longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden
     under by the foot of men. You are the light of the world. A
     city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men
     light a lamp and put it under a cover, but put it on a
     stand, that it may give light to all that be in the house.
     Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your
     good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

     We should be able to say with the apostle Paul, "I am not
ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto
salvation..."  We should not be trying to hide what we believe or
stand for. But this does not mean we are to be preaching
constantly to all whom we come into contact with. You will notice
the two examples Jesus gave. He did not say we are to be like the
blast of a trumpet sounding out a war alarm. He did not say we
are to be like a loud radio filling the air waves with its sound,
nor like a fog horn sounding the danger to those nearby.
     There maybe times when we can do personal evangelism, and
teach people the way and salvation of the Lord, but by and large
we are to live as a Christian like the shining light set on a
stand, in all we say, and do, showing forth the good
works that are part and parcel of being a child of God. By so
living many will glorify and thank the Father who is in heaven.

     Jesus went on to say:

     "Think not that I am come to abolish the law and the
     prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil
     them. For truly, I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass
     away, not one iota, nor a dot, will pass from the law until
     all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least
     of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called
     least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and
     teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
     For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of
     the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom
     of heaven."

     The first part of the above has been often twisted all out
of proportion and people have tried to make it say that when
Jesus ended His life and had fulfilled all that was written about
him, then all things were fulfilled and so the law and the
commandments were then abolished. But Jesus clearly talked about
all being in effect until heaven and earth passed away, not then
the time of His death. Heaven and earth are still here. Hence so
is the law and the prophets and the small and great commandments
of the Lord.
     The last part of what Jesus said makes it crystal clear
exactly what He was meaning. Anyone coming along who would relax
or diminish even the least commandment would be looked upon as
least by the kingdom of heaven, but he who obeyed and taught them
would have great favor in the eyes of that kingdom.
     Jesus further went on to nail down exactly what He was
meaning, so none would or should ever misunderstand.  The scribes
and Pharisees were ardent law observers. They tried to be super
righteous in following all the laws of God contained in the Old
Testament. But they often interpreted them incorrectly,
misapplied them, blew some of them way out of proportion,
sometimes added their own ideas to them (such as the 600
or more laws they invented for Sabbath observance), or worst yet
set up their traditions in place of the commandments of God. All
of this we shall see expounded by the Gospel writers as we
proceed further into the life and ministry of Christ.
     Of course the scribes and Pharisees thought they were very
righteous. It was a false self-righteousness that they had and
not the righteousness that came from God. Jesus said His
followers needed to have the true righteousness that is founded
upon the truth of God. But that truth most assuredly held that
the laws of God were in force and effect until heaven and earth
passed away. And those who obeyed them and taught them would be
called great in the kingdom of God.

     Now Jesus goes on to amplify and enlarge and make more
binding some of the laws of God:

     "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You
     shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to
     judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with
     his brother without cause, shall be liable to judgment; 
     Whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council,
     and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of
     fire."

     Jesus here starts to answer some of the Jewish
interpretations of the laws of God.
Notice, He does not say, "It is written" but "you have heard it
said to the men of old."  Now, sometimes the interpretation of
the literal letter of the law was basically correct, at other
times it was not so correct. Jesus was not only going to give the
true understanding of what the letter of the law was meaning but
He would take it a step further. He would enlarge it to bring in
the heart and intent of the spirit of the law. He had the
authority from the Father to do this very thing, and so make the
laws of God much fuller and broader under the New Testament. It
had been prophesied centuries earlier that one of the acts
the Messiah would do when He came was to not only make the law
honorable but also to magnify it, enlarge it, to include the
spirit of the law as well as the letter of the law (see Isaiah
42: 21).

     With the help of the Albert Barnes Bible Commentary we can
better understand what Jesus was teaching in the passage just
quoted.
     Intentional killing, with planned forethought, of another
person, would indeed bring the one who so killed into judgment.
The law of God did teach and state that judgment was to be passed
on those who intentionally killed another person. Actually such
murderers would be put to death under the letter of the law of
the Old Testament (Lev.24: 21; Num. 35: 16). The law did not sate
by whom this judgment should be done, and it was left to the
Israelites to organize courts to have authority over such crimes
(Deut. 16: 18). But Jesus here goes a step further. He says that
anyone who is "angry" (a state of heart and mind) with his
brother without cause shall be liable to judgment.
     The judgment court of the Jews was a court that sat in each
city or town and commonly had seven members. It was the lowest
court among the Jews and from such a court an appeal might be
taken to the Sanhedrin, or the highest court in the land, the
supreme court of the Jews which sat in the city of Jerusalem.

     We notice Jesus said "without cause" for there is a time to
be angry. The Bible teaches there is a righteous and justifiable
anger, a holy anger if you will.  At times Jesus looked upon the
hypocritical Pharisees with anger (Mark 3: 5). And Paul was
inspired to say, "Be you angry and sin not" (Eph. 4: 26).
     What Jesus addresses here is being angry without cause; that
is, unjustly, rashly, hastily, where no offense has been given or
intended. In that case Jesus was saying it would be evil anger.
It would be an evil hated that would break the spirit of the 6th
commandment. The apostle John was later inspired to write that
"he who hates his brother is a murderer" (1 John 3: 15). As
interpreted later in the Gospels by Jesus, a brother is anyone of
the human race.

     Jesus went on to say that whoever says to his brother "Raca"
(Jesus used this Syriac word originally and it means speaking
with great contempt, coming from a verb that means to be "empty"
- "vain" - denoting "senseless, stupid, shallow-brains"), shall
be in danger of the council. The original word for "council" here
is "Sanhedrin" the highest of the Jewish courts, the supreme
court of the land, just as most nations today have a supreme
court, to which appeals from lower courts can be taken for a
final and unalterable decision. 
     This Sanhedrin court was instituted in the time of the
Maccabees (a Jewish family group) about 200 years before the time
of Christ. It was composed of 72 judges. The high priest was the
president of the court. The 72 members were made up of the chief
priests, elders of the people, and the scribes. The chief priests
were the ones who had discharged at one time, the office of high
priest, and those who were the heads of the 24 classes of priests
(as arranged under the reign of king David) and were called in an
honorary way "high" or "chief" priests. The "elders" were the
princes of the tribes, or heads of the family associations. Not
all (for there would far too many) elders sat in the Sanhedrin
but only those chosen or elected.The "scribes" were the learned
men (like our lawyers of today) of the laws of Israel, elected to
this Sanhedrin court. This court usually sat in Jerusalem in a
room near the Temple.

     Jesus was saying that those with a "raca" mindset towards
their brothers were indeed in danger of coming under the judgment
of the highest court, which in spiritual terms would mean the
court of heaven itself. 

     Still, there was another step further into real danger for
those who had a wrong attitude towards their brothers and
sisters. If you were in the mindset of saying "You fool"
to your brother, it stood for the attitude of and expression of
the highest guilt, and had been used as an expression for
"idolaters" (Deut. 22: 21) and also one who was guilty
of great crimes (Josh. 7: 15; Psalm 14: 1). 
     Such an attitude of mind placed one in the danger of "hell
fire." The original language in which Jesus spoke it says, "the
Gehenna of fire."  The word Gehenna is made up of two Hebrew
words that signifies the "Valley of Hinnom."  We need to take a
little time and understand this Valley of Hinnom for it came to
be the example Jesus would often use to picture the fire of the
second death for the destruction of the unrepented wicked at the
end of the 1,000 year reign as foretold in the 20th chapter of
Revelation.
     Quoting from the Albert Barnes Bible Commentary:

     "...This was formerly a pleasant valley, near to Jerusalem,
on the south side (or south east). A small brook or torrent
usually ran through this valley, and partly encompassed the city.
This valley the idolatrous Israelites devoted formerly to the
horrid worship of Moloch (2 Kings 16: 3; 2 Chron. 28: 3). In that
worship the ancient Jewish writers inform us that the idol of
Moloch was of brass, adorned with a royal crown, having the head
of a calf, and his arms extended, as if to embrace anyone. When
they offered children to him, they heated the statue within by a
great fire; and when it was burning hot, they put the miserable
children into his arms, where it was soon consumed by the heat.
And in order that the cries of the child might not be heard, they
made a great noise with drums and other instruments about the
idol. These drums were called "Toph" and hence a common name of
the place was "Tophet" (Jer. 7: 31, 32). After the return of the
Jews from captivity, this place was held in such abhorrence,
that, by the example of Josiah (2 Kings 13: 10), it was made the
place where to throw all the dead carcases and filth of the
city; and was not infrequently the place of executions. It
became, therefore, extremely offensive; the sight was terrific;
the air was polluted and pestilential; and to preserve it in
any manner pure, it was necessary to keep fires continually
burning there. The extreme loathsomeness of the place; the filth
and the putrefaction; the corruption of the atmosphere, and the
lurid fires blazing by day and night, made it one of the most
appalling and terrific objects with which a Jew was
acquainted...."

     We can conclude from all this that what Jesus was saying was
that he who has the ultimate in hateful murderous attitude
towards a fellow human being, an evil and unrepentant mindset of
contempt and disdain for another person, has already in the
spirit and intent of the law against murder, broken that
commandment (though they may not have literally in the letter of
the law physically killed that person), and so with that
murderous spirit of mind they stand in judgment of the heavenly
court, which may pass judgment on them unless they repent, to be
burnt up in the final fire of the second death, represented by
the fires of the valley of Hinnom.

     Because of all this, Jesus further went on to say:

     "So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there
     remember that your brother has something against you, leave
     your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled
     to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make
     friends 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; truly
     I say unto you, you will never get out until you have paid
     the last penny."

     The whole sense here is that Jesus was teaching His
followers that they needed to have an attitude of reconciliation,
of wanting to be at peace and reconciled with all people. Not to
be harbouring malice, resentment, hostility, revenge towards our
fellow man. We must make the effort to be reconciled. It is not
good enough to wait for the other to come to us, but we need to
go and meet with those whom we have difficulties with, and as
much as we can do, as much as it is within our power, to try and
be at peace with our fellow man. 
     The altar was the place where under the Old Testament they
offered their sacrifice to God. It was then the outward
expression of a religious service towards God, showing
you were devoted to the way and service of the Lord, that you
wanted to worship Him. Jesus was saying then, that to worship
God, and for God to accept you in worship towards Him, it would
be useless to partake in worship with God unless you had first
made the effort to be at peace with those who were not at peace
with you for whatever reason, be it your fault or their fault.
     It should be the Christian's attitude of mind that they also
do not want to go to court with anyone, and if they do find
themselves in a "court" situation (because the accuser has 
brought about court action) they should try to what we today call
"settle out of court" and so reconcile some peace with their
accuser.  It may mean you bite the bullet, take some heat or not
get all the justice that you think you should get, but the
follower of Christ does not want to battle with people, they are
not vindictive, hard nosed people, who must always have their
pound of flesh and win the fights they sometimes get into (be it
their fault or the other persons fault). God's people are
basically none trouble makers, who want peace not war and will go
the extra mile to make peace.
     Then, Jesus also gave some practical wisdom to the
Christian. You maybe in the "court situation" because you have
been unwise or careless or just in plain error in what
you have done. You may be fully to blame! So, better acknowledge
it, seek reconciliation and peace with the accuser who may have
the right to accuse you, and settle the matter before getting to
court. If you do not, then you may find yourself in deeper
trouble from the punishment the court imposes on you.
     
     The main point is. God wants and expects you to be a peace
loving and peace seeking person that holds no animosity towards
another person. God wants you to do your part in being at peace
with all mankind. This, Jesus was saying is the heart and core
of the 6th commandment, not just the letter of the law of not
murdering another person. And if you do not seek after the whole
meaning of that law to live it in mind as well as action, then
the judgment of the court of heaven will come upon you and there
will be no way out once it has been enacted in the fires of the
second death.

     Jesus went on to expound on another commandment:

     "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit
     adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a
     woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in
     his heart.
     If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw
     it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than
     that your whole body be thrown into Gehenna fire. And if
     your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it
     away; it is better that you lose one of your members than
     that your whole body go into Gehenna fire."

     Oh, yes it was taught by the religious leaders of Israel
that people were not to commit adultery, for that was one of the
ten commandments of God, but they probably never taught the
"spirit of the law" which would mean people could "lust" after
the opposite sex all they liked, and indeed there was no
punishment in the courts of Israel for so lusting. But Jesus here
magnifies the this law to include the thoughts and desires of the
mind, if they are dwelt upon. The dwelling upon the thoughts
bring sin, to see and acknowledge the good form of the outward
appearance of a man or woman is not wrong, but if you continue
with a lustful dwelling upon their outward form, then sin is
born. This is what God inspired James to tell us in the book that
bears his name, chapter one and verses 14 and 15. 
     King David of ancient Israel saw the woman Bathsheba bathing
herself. He looked and dwelt upon her beauty, desire and lust
flared up in his heart, and he went on to commit adultery with
her. The whole story of the sins of David with Bathsheba and the
punishment God delivered to him is recorded in 2 Samuel chapters
11 and 12.
     Concerning the words about Jesus saying to cast away your
right eye and right hand if they cause you to sin, must not be
taken literally. First, God designed the human body. The apostle
Paul said the human body was holy if God dwelt in it, that it was
His holy temple, and we should not defile it. He even said that
God would not be pleased if we defile it (see 1 Cor. 3: 16, 17).
Then secondly, is it really the eye or the hand that sins? It is
not the mind where sin is conceived and formed? If sin was
conceived in the eye or hand and Jesus literally meant us to cut
them off, then all of us would soon have no eyes, no hands,
probably no arms and no other bodily parts as well, including our
head, for sin can be in the mind.

     "The Hebrews, like others, were accustomed to represent the
affections of the mind by the members or parts of the body
(Rom.7: 23; 6: 13). Thus, the 'bowels' denoted compassion; the
'heart,' affection or feeling; the 'reins,' understanding, secret
purpose. An 'evil eye' denoted sometimes envy (Mat.20: 15 ),
sometimes an evil passion, or sin in general We read in Mark 7:
21, 22, 'Out of the heart proceedeth an evil eye.' In this
place, as in 2 Peter 2: 14, it is used to denote strong
adulterous passion, unlawful desire and inclination. The right
eye and hand are mentioned, because they are of most use to
us, and denote that, however strong the passion may be or
difficult to part with, yet that we should do it. 'Shall offend
thee.' The noun from which the verb 'offend,' in the
original, is derived, commonly means a 'stumbling-block, or a
'stone' placed in the way, over which one might fall. It also
means a 'net,' or a certain part of a net, against which,
if a bird strikes, it springs the net, and is taken.  It comes to
signify, therefore, anything by which we fall, or are ensnared;
and applied to 'morals,' means anything by which we fall into
sin, or by which we are ensnared" (Albert Barnes Bible
Commentary).

     Sometimes in life we find we cannot partake in a certain job
employments (that may pay us very good wages, or that we are
especially skilled in) because the job would violate a
commandment of God or violates the observance of the 4th
commandment, the keeping of the Sabbath.  To follow Christ we may
at times have to give up keeping company with some people we were
very close to, because we have changed the way we live and their
way of life and attitude would only pull us down from the high
calling we now have in Christ Jesus. Later in the ministry of
Jesus we shall see where he told people that to follow Him would
sometimes mean giving up a close friend, a brother or sister, a
child, or even a wife or husband. Some hobbies we once had we may
have to part with because they are too reckless and dangerous,
putting our physical body in the path of major destruction or
even death. For the Christian, God teaches that our bodies
are the temple of His Holy Spirit and we are not to defile them
in unnecessary dangerous games or thrills that may give us a
momentary rush or pleasurable adrenalin surge up the spine. 
     It could mean that certain types of "movies" or "music" that
we were wildly into before becoming a Christian, we may have to
"cut off" and cast away, because we now realize they are far from
what a Christian should expose themselves to.
     Many things that we once held dear and close to us, that
were a part of our daily life, our very being, that we thought we
could not live without, will have to be "put away" when we become
a child of the heavenly Father. Yes, sometimes we must cast to
one side things once held precious to us, we must do it, if they
are things not pleasing to God. If we do not then we cannot have
enteral life in His Kingdom, but we shall be cast one day into
the Gehenna of fire and be forever no more.

     Jesus went on with commenting on another of the laws of old:

     "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give
     her a certificate of divorce.' But I say unto you that every
     one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of
     unchastity, makes her an adulterous; and whoever marries a
     divorced woman commits adultery."

     Deuteronomy 23: 1, 2 allowed for a man to divorce his wife.
There were two main theological schools of the Pharisees (the
most popular religious group among the Jews of that time). The
most famous and the most popular of these schools taught that the
law in Deuteronomy allowed for divorce for any trivial reason.
Hence, most believed and practiced this understanding of divorce,
and the reasons some men divorced their wives were over such
matters as not liking her looks any more, or burning the toast
for breakfast one time too many (the first example was the case,
the second I give as a kind of the trivial reasons Jewish men
divorced their wives, it could have been over something as
trivial as burning the toast).
     It was probably true that divorce under the Old Testament
was given and allowed on a broad and wide range, from serious
issues to much less than serious ones. Later, Jesus told the
Pharisees that divorce under Moses was allowed, but only because
of the "hardness of the heart." Most people were so out of tune
with God, so fleshly minded, so wanting to do their pleasures as
the whim of time and mind took them, God allowed divorce on a
pretty loose scale (Mat.19).
     But now it was the New Testament time, and Jesus had come to
make the law of God honorable and to magnify it, as we have seen.
The original intent of God from the beginning was to not have
divorce on any where near the loose and large scale He allowed it
under the age of Moses. Jesus would now restore the original
intent, divorce would be tightened up, not allowed for anywhere
near the trivial reasons as before. Jesus did say divorce would
be allowed for "unchastity."  A study of the Greek word used here
for "unchastity" as it is used throughout the New Testament,
shows it is a word that covers any sexual immorality. For married
couples it would cover the act of adultery, a husband or wife
going to bed and sleeping with another man or woman.

     Another law, the law of "swearing" Jesus would now change
and bring under the enlarged "spirit of the law" for New
Testament times:

     "Again, you have heard that it was said by them of old time,
     'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform unto the
     Lord thine oaths." But I say unto you, swear not at all;
     neither by heaven; for it is God's throne; nor by earth; for
     it is His footstool; neither by Jerusalem; for it is the
     city of the great King. Neither shall you swear by your
     head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But
     let your words be, Yes, yes, No, no, for what is more than
     this comes from evil."

     The law respecting "oaths" is found in Lev. 19: 12 and Deut.
23: 23. An oath is a solum affirmation, or declaration, made with
an appeal to God for the truth of what is affirmed, and implies 
you ask for His vengeance, renouncing His favor, if what is
affirmed is false. A false oath is called "perjury" in our courts
of law today.
     The Jews it would seem had gone beyond declaring oaths
before God, swearing using the name of Jehovah. They now had
introduced oath swearing by all manner of other names. And
probably did not think thus swearing by these other names that
important (compared to swearing by the name of God) if they
observed the oaths or if they broke them. Their swearing also
took on a flippant, mundane, conversation language, much like
many today in our society do. "I swear by all the tea in China,
it happened that way" some may exclaim today when wanting people
to really believe what they are saying is the truth. It may not
be the truth, or it may be part of the truth, or way over
exaggerated, but they want you to really believe it was exactly
as they told it, and swearing by the tea in China, is supposed to
somehow  make it so.
     Remembering again that most of the people under the Old
Testament age were carnal, then "oath" swearing probably had its
place. Indeed, it was probably needed for God gave it as laws to
govern certain parts of the life of the Israelites. But for the
New Testament Christian Jesus magnified this law in abolishing it
outright. No swearing, no oath swearing of any kind, by the name
of God or by the name of anything else, was needed for those who
were the children of God from now on out. 
     The Christian should be telling the truth at all times, and
needed not to call upon God to establish what they had to say (so
God could punish them if they spoke falsely) as being true, for
they would have a mindset of always telling the truth.
     Some will say Jesus was only speaking about mundane
conversational swearing, and not about "legal court" oath
swearing ( i.e. "Place your hand on the Bible and swear
after me" as done for witnesses in courts of law).  But through
the apostle James, God made it abundantly clear that oath
swearing period was out for the true Christian. James
wrote, "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by
heaven, neither by the earth, neither by ANY OTHER OATH: but let
your yes be yes and your no, be no; lest you fall into
condemnation (Greek is 'hypocrisy')."
     The courts of law in our land allow for Christians to NOT
put their hand on the Bible and to "affirm" that what they say
will be the truth, instead of oath swearing on the Bible.
     Also, a Christian can only tell as to what their memory will
allow them to remember for any specific recall of an event.
Sometimes the mind forgets things, or misplaces the order of
things. Hence they try to say what they think or remember to the
best of their present ability. They do not want to convey the
idea that God is speaking, and hence be found to be a hypocrite
or play actor, if they should be proved to be inaccurate over
some point.

     Jesus continued:

     "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye or an eye, and a
     tooth or a tooth.' But I say unto you, that you resist not
     evil; but whoever smites you on the right cheek, turn to him
     the other also. And if any man will sue you by taking you to
     the law courts, and takes away your coat, let him have your
     cloak also. And whoever compels you to go a mile, go with
     him for two miles. Give to him that asks of you, and from
     him that would borrow from you, do not turn away."

     The command for "an eye for an eye" is found in Exodus 21:
24; Leviticus 24: 20; and Deuteronomy 19: 21. In these places it
was given as a rule to regulate the decisions of judges.  It is
one of those parts of the Old Testament that has been greatly
misunderstood. Many have thought that because of such laws all
kinds of people in ancient Israel were walking about with only
one hand, one eye, one leg, a huge black eye (till it healed),
broken legs, bloody noses or broken noses, with this or that
broken bone etc. The literal application of this law would indeed
over time produce a nation with countless deformed and crippled
people.
     What should have been done when trying to understand this
section of the laws of Moses, would have been to have gone to the
Jews themselves, their scholars and their ancient writings. If
this is done you will soon find that throughout the whole history
of Israel, this law of "an eye for an eye" was never taken as
something that should be done in a literal manner. It was never a
practice in Israel to cripple people. Can you imagine a court
that had a room wherein people were taken and had their eye
plucked out, or hand chopped of, or a leg smashed and broken with
some kind of baseball bat type instrument. The thought is quite
horribly gruesome to think about such ever taking place in any
country let alone Israel.
     The truth of the matter is that the Jews have always known
this section of the laws of Moses were for the court "magistrates
or judges" only, and that it was a figure or manner of speech
that told them they had to metre out "just" and "fair"
compensation (usually in monetary or physical goods) to those who
had been disfigured in some way by the intent or the accident of
others. Ancient Israel was never a wholesale chopping block for
human dismemberment of the body.

     By the time of Christ the Jews had extending it from the
magistrate or judge to the "private person" and private conduct,
and made it the rule by which to take "revenge." They considered
themselves justified, by this rule, to inflict the same injury on
others that they had received.
     Jesus was against any such idea. He declared that the law
had no reference to private revenge; that it was given to only
regulate the magistrate; and that their private conduct was to be
regulated by different principles than a personal vendetta of
physical punishment upon those who had done them or their loved
ones physical harm and pain.

     But we need to keep all this in balance with all the rest of
the Bible, and with everything that God taught and allowed and
gave in other laws He prescribed. Jesus was not intending to
teach that we should sit by passively and see our families
murdered, or to be casually murdered ourselves, by thugs or
robbers, or the crazy "drugie" from the streets, or by people
hired to murder us. Jesus was not  teaching that we should coldly
and without feeling sit by and watch our wife or daughters raped,
or our children beaten up, and not try to stop such brutality.
     Natural instinct, the law of nature, the law of right and
wrong and all human decency, under such situations of violent
surprise, as well as the very law of God, allows for self-defence
in such circumstances. God actually gave laws to ancient Israel
that allowed for self-defence in some situations of life.
     Jesus is not dealing with large life and death, huge
traumatic cases like that of rape, but with much smaller
situations like that of someone slapping us across the face
with their hand.  with such He wanted His disciples to be willing
to take the wrong instead of entering into strife and law suits.
This does not mean we cannot remonstrate firmly, yet mildly, on
the injustice being done to us, and insist proper justice we
should have. Jesus Himself gave us an example of this in His own
life, John 18: 23.
     
     The second example of Jesus' is that of being sued in courts
of law. Again, one can plead for justice to be done, but if the
man is so full of hate, animosity, and determined to take all
advantage that the law can give him, going to the expense of
costly law suits etc. Then Jesus taught we should not imitate him
- rather than to contend with a revengeful spirit in courts of
justice, and to perpetuate the broil, we should take a trifling
injury, and yield, even if our cloak is also taken. 
     Jesus I think used this example to show He was talking about
smaller issues of life. Our coat and even our cloak, may be
somewhat important to us (especially on cold, hot, or rainy day)
but they are relatively easy to replace. He did not give the
example of someone trying to take our house of our business away
from us (which could be very important to us and our families who
are under our care). Paul, at one time in his life, when being
taken to the Jewish law courts (an smaller Roman courts) by some
who were against him, appealed to the high court of Rome, for
justice. As a Roman citizen Paul had every right to so appeal to
the high court of Rome. In this case it was sufficiently a large
matter (his life in certain ways being at stake) to warrant his
stand for justice. This was not a small matter of some Jews
wanting to have his coat because they liked the silk it was made
from (see Acts 23: 12 through to the end of chapter 28).

     It may be of interest to the reader here, that we talk about
the "coat" and the "cloak"  that Jewish man wore in those days.

     The Jews wore two principle garments. An interior garment,
and an exterior garment.  The "interior" here called the "coat,"
was made commonly of linen, and encircled the whole body,
extending down to the knees. Sometimes beneath this garment,
as in the case of the priests, there was another garment,
corresponding to our undergarments. The "coat" was extended to
the neck, and had long or short sleeves. OVER this garment, was
commonly worn an upper or outer garment called the "cloak"
or mantle. It was commonly nearly square, five or six cubits (a
cubit being about 16 to 18 inches in length) in length and just
as wide.It was wrapped around the body and thrown off when doing
heavy labor work.

     The next New Testament instruction of Jesus' - about going a
mile with those compelling you, has also not been understood very
well by many. We shall quote from the Albert Barnes Bible
Commentary once more, and so see what Jesus was explaining
as should be an attitude for Christians.

     " The word translated "shall compel" is of PERSIAN origin.
Post-offices were then unknown. In order that the royal commands
might be delivered with safety and despatch in different parts of
the empire, Cyrus (the great king of Persia) stationed horsemen
at proper intervals on all the great public highways. One of
those delivering the message to another, and intelligence was
thus rapidly and safely communicated. These heralds were
permitted to COMPEL any person, or to press any horse, boat,
ship, or other vehicle that they might need, for the quick
transmission of the king's commands. It was to THIS CUSTOM that
our savior refers. Rather, says He, than RESIST a public
authority, requiring your attention and aid for a certain
distance, go peaceably twice the distance...."

     Ah, we see here than that Jesus was referring to certain
authorities in public office who had authority from governments
to ask you to co-operate with them, and that New Testament
Christians should be more than willing to co-operate, even going
beyond the letter of the law. Jesus was teaching that His
followers should have respect for other government authorities
and their duties, even if they were not a part of the Church of
God and did not believe in God's word the Bible. It really has
nothing to do with any "blow Joe" demanding you help them. Giving
help to such, and going beyond the call of duty, would for them
come under a whole set of other considerations, such as time,
money expended (if it was going to involve money), family
responsibilities, regular work responsibilities, danger
involvement etc. etc.
     No common man has the right or authority to demand you be
their slave for whatever task their whim takes them into, and
makes them think they must compel you to work with them in their
undertaking.

     The last part of this section of Jesus' teaching can also be
misunderstood if you do not take into account the whole teachings
of the New Testament.
     Albert Barnes says it very correctly I think in his
commentary:

     "....It is good to give something to an undeserving person,
than to turn away one who really needs it. It is good to be in
the HABIT of giving. At the same time, the rule must be
interpreted as to be consistent with our duty to our families (1
Tim. 5: 8) and with other objects of justice and charity. It is
seldom, perhaps never, good to give to a man that is able to work
(2 Thes. 3: 10). To give to such is to encourage laziness, and to
support the idle at the expense of the industrious. If such a man
is indeed hungry, feed him; if he wants anything further, give
him employment. If a widow, an orphan, a man of misfortune, or a
man infirm, lame, or sick, is at your door, never send them away
empty. See Heb. 13: 2; Mat. 25: 35-45. So of a poor and needy
friend who wishes to borrow. We are not to turn away or deny him.
This deserves, however, some limitation. It must be
done in consistency with other duties. To lend to every worthless
man, would be to throw away our property, encourage laziness and
crime, and ruin our families. It should be done consistently, and
of this every man is to be the judge. Perhaps our savior meant to
teach that where there was a DESERVING friend or brother in want,
we should LEND to him, without usury, and standing much about the
security."

     Here Albert Barnes says correctly that we must follow this
instruction of Christ's by taking into account the rest of the
Bible and our families well being, as well as decerning the
worthiness of the individual asking for the lending hand, and not
just giving to perpetuate their laziness or predetermined mindset
to "live off other people."
     Some of Albert Barnes' last words are old English. He was
saying that to lend to a worthy friend or brother should be done
without charging money, or demanding some security such as
telling them to leave with you something like their "CD player"
till they returned to you what you are lending them.

     Jesus further comments on a popular teaching of His day:

     "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your
     neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say unto you, Love your
     enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may
     be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes the
     sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on
     the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love
     you, what reward have you? Do not even the corrupt tax
     collectors do the same? And if you are kind to only your
     friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans
     do that. But you are to become perfect, fully mature, even
     as your Father in heaven is perfect and fully mature."

     Here we find a classic example of Jewish teachers
misunderstanding, misapplying, and reading into verses of the Old
Testament things that God never intended at all. It is an example
as well of picking out certain verses, misapplying them, while at
the same time overlooking verses that would teach the exact
opposite from the theology you have invented from the misapplied
verses.
     The command to love your neighbor was indeed a law of God
(Lev.19: 18). God never said that you were to hate your enemy.
The Jewish teachers had "assumed" that with God saying to love
your "neighbor" He was meaning love your Israelite neighbor
only, and hence you could dislike your enemy (anyone outside of
Israel). Then to further complicate and mess up their minds on
this point, the Jewish religious leaders had seen where God in
His word as given through Moses, stated that the Israelites
should not marry their sons and daughters to those outside of the
nation of Israel (Deut.7: 1-3). They stopped reading it would
seem with verse three. And as God was going to deliver them into
their hand and utterly cast them out and give Israel the holy
promised land, then surely God hated everyone outside of His
chosen people Israel and so they too should hate, despise, and
esteem as nothing, all people but their Israelite neighbor. 
     What they failed to see and do was to read Deuteronomy
chapter 7 and verse 4. God did not want the Israelites to marry
those from outside of israel because of one very basic and
important reason - they were unconverted, their minds were not in
tune with the Eternal God and His way of life. By marrying such
people it would mainly be the Israelites who would be drawn away
from the pathway of the true God, and not the other way around
(the heathen coming to serve the God of Israel). Such is the way
of the human heart, much easier to leave off serving God than to
accept him and follow His ways.
     The instruction of the Lord had nothing to do with "hating"
all who were not your Israelite neighbor, and had nothing to do
with not being kind and helpful to those outside your "church" or
"nation." Many verses were overlooked that taught kindness to all
peoples (see Exodus 22: 21; 12: 49; Numbers 15: 15-16).
     Then adding to all this false idea of hating your enemies
was the well known passage  of Deuteronomy 23: 3-6. Here God
forbade the Ammonite or Moabite to enter the congregation of the
Lord for ten generations (that part was probably overlooked - ten
generations) because they did evil towards Israel (verses 4 and
5). Israel was to not seek their peace nor their prosperity
(verse 6). This was all for some specific reasons as stated, and
it was a punishment from God towards these people, for a certain
time period.
     The Jewish leaders had misapplied this and the one in
Numbers (concerning marrying outside Israel) to believe God
"hated" the enemies of Israel, and to them anyone outside of the
nation of Israel was an enemy. They thought God wanted them to
never seek the peace with anyone who was not of Israel, hence
this false teaching of "love your neighbor but hate your enemy"
was a common sentence to pronounce and to live by for the Jewish
community of Jesus' day.

     Here are some fine comments on this passage by Albert
Barnes:

     ".....LOVE YOUR ENEMIES.  There are two kinds of love,
involving the same general meaning, or springing from the same
fountain of goodwill to all mankind.....The one is that feeling
by which we APPROVE OF THE CONDUCT of another, commonly called
THE LOVE OF COMPLACENCY; the other, by which we wish well to the
PERSON of another, though we cannot approve HIS CONDUCT. This is
THE LOVE OF BENEVOLENCE; and this love we are to bear towards our
enemies. It is impossible to love the CONDUCT of a man that
curses and reviles us, and injures our person or property, or
that violates all the laws of God; but though we may hate his
conduct, and feel deeply that we are affected by it, yet we may
still wish well to the PERSON; we may pity his madness and folly;
we may speak kindly OF him, and TO him; we may not return
evil for evil; we may aid him in the time of trial; and seek to
do him good here, and to promote his eternal welfare hereafter,
Rom.12: 17-20.....
     " BLESS THEM THAT CURSE YOU. The word BLESS here means to
SPEAK WELL OF or TO.  Not to curse again, or to slander, but to
speak of those things which we can COMMEND in an enemy; or if
there is nothing that we can commend, to say nothing about
him.....
     " DESPITEFULLY USE YOU. The word thus translated means,
first, to injure by prosecution in law; then, wantonly and
unjustly to accuse, and to injure in any way......
     " THAT YOU MAY BE THE CHILDREN OF YOUR FATHER.....In this
passage, the word is used because, in doing good to enemies, they
RESEMBLE God. HE makes his sun to rise on the evil and good, and
sends rain, without distinction, on the just and unjust. So his
people should show that they IMITATE or resemble him, or posses
his spirit of doing good in a similar way.
     " WHAT REWARD HAVE YOU?.....If you only love those that love
you, you are selfish.....it is not genuine love for the
CHARACTER, but love for the BENEFIT; and you deserve no
commendation. The very PUBLICANS would do the same.
     " THE PUBLICANS. The publicans were taxgatherers. Judea was
a province of the Roman empire. The Jews bore this foreign yoke
with great impatience, and paid their taxes with great
reluctance. It happened therefore, that those who were appointed
to collect taxes were objects of great detestation. They were,
besides, men who would be supposed to execute their office at all
hazards; men who were willing to engage in an odious and hated
employment; men often of abandoned character, oppressive in their
exactions, and dissolute in their lives. By the Jews they were
associated in character with thieves, and adulterers, and those
who were profane and dissolute. Christ says that even these
wretched men would love their benefactors.
     " AND IF YOU SALUTE YOUR BRETHREN, etc. The word SALUTE here
means to show the customary tokens of civility, or to treat with
the common marks of friendship.....He says that the WORST men,
the very publicans, would do this.  Christians should do more;
they should show that they had a different spirit; they should
treat their ENEMIES as well as wicked men did THEIR FRIENDS. This
should be done, (1) because it is RIGHT; it is the only really
amiable spirit; and, (2) we should show that religion is not
SELFISH, and is superior to all other principles of action.
     " BE YOU THEREFORE PERFECT. He concludes this part of the
discourse by commanding his disciples to be PERFECT. This word
commonly means finished, complete, pure, holy. Originally it is
applied to a piece of mechanism, as a machine that is complete in
its parts.  Applied to men, it refers to completeness of parts,
or PERFECTION, where no part is defective or wanting. Thus Job
(1: 1) is said to be perfect; that is, not holy as God, or
SINLESS - for fault is afterwards found with him (Job 9: 20; 42:
6), but his piety was PROPORTIONATE - had a completeness of parts
- was consistent and regular. He exhibited his religion as a
prince, a father, an individual, a benefactor of the poor. He was
not merely a pious man in one place, but uniformly. He was
consistent everywhere. This is the meaning in Matthew. Be not
religious merely in loving your friends and neighbors, but let
your piety be shown in loving your enemies; be perfect; imiate
God; let the piety be COMPLETE, and PROPORTIONAL, and REGULAR.
This every Christian MAY BE; this every Christian MUST BE. "

     End of quotes from Albert Barnes' Bible Commentary. 
Capitalization for emphasis was ours whereas Albert Barnes used
italics for emphasis.

     Luke, in his Gospel, chapter 6:27-36, gives us further words
and teaching on this overall matter of loving your enemy and
doing good to those who may not be your friends, or who may be
taking advantage of your Christian charity. 

     Jesus was setting here a new standard in verses 30 to 36.
Under the New Covenant age it was no longer good enough to help
and serve your friends, those who would serve and help you when
you needed help.
      We must take the whole context of these verses if we are to
understand the foundational truth Jesus was teaching. He was not
looking at or talking about people who would use your kindness
and wipe their feet on it, walk all over you, take advantage of
your charity. He was not trying to say that His disciples should
be a "soft touch" - an easy target for what people could get from
them, or that His followers should be a "push over" for selfish
people, tricksters, and con-artists.
     Other teachings of Jesus show that is it correct and proper
for Christians to be "worldly wise" and to be good stewards of
all that God gives them. A number of parables Jesus taught show
this truth of what I've just stated.
     But there is another side to being a true Christian in all
of this material world and how you handle what God has given you
to handle. And this is the side Jesus wanted to give emphasis to
at this point among His teachings to His disciples.

     A Christian should have a basic attitude of doing good to
those who are not your friends, who may even dislike you, and who
want to be your enemies. There is not much credit, no gold stars
on your report card, if you only do good to those who you know
will do good back to you. As Jesus said, even the gravest sinners
can do that to each other. And if you lend anything or give
anything to only those who you know will give and lend back to
you, what credit or honor is that to you, even the wildest
sinners can do that to each other. 
     The attitude Jesus wanted from His disciples was the
attitude that the Most High God has....being kind to the
ungrateful and the selfish. 
     There are times when you should serve, give, lend, do good,
to those who cannot or will not return the kindness you have
shown to them. 
     Jesus said that in doing and living that kind of life, the
Father would reward His child, in fact their reward "will be
great." The reward may not always come in this life time, but it
will come.
     There are many times in our Christian walk that we are to be
merciful, even as our Father in heaven is merciful.

     So, we come to the end of Matthew chapter five. We shall
continue reading and expounding Jesus' famous sermon on
the mount, in the next chapter of the New Testament Bible Story.

                  .........................

Written August 2002


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