Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Sermon on the Mount

Here is the schedule for June 20 through July 16, going through the Synoptics, possibly the most memorable part, often memorized.

Jun 20 Mt 5:1-2 (cf. Lk 6:20)

Jun 21 Mt 5:3-12 (cf. Lk 6:20-6)

Jun 22 review

Jun 23 Mt 5:13-16 (cf. Mk 9:50; 4:21; Lk 14:34; 8:16; 11:33)

Jun 24 Mt 5:17-20

Jun 25 Mt 5:21-26

Jun 26 review

Jun 27 Mt 5:27-32

Jun 28 Mt 5:33-37

Jun 29 Mt 5:38-42 (cf. Lk 6:29-30)

Jun 30 review

Jul 1 Mt 5:43-48 (cf. Lk 6:27-8; 32-6)

Jul 2 Mt 6:1

Jul 3 Mt 6:2-4

Jul 4 review

Jul 5 Mt 6:5-15

Jul 6 Mt 6:16-18

Jul 7 Mt 6:19-34 (cf. Lk 11:34-6; 12:22-34; 16:13)

Jul 8 review

Jul 9 Mt 7:1-5 (cf. Mk 4:24; Lk 6:37-8, 41-2)

Jul 10 Mt 7:6

Jul 11 Mt 7:7-12 (cf. Lk 11:9-13; 6:31; Jn 15:7; 16:24)

Jul 12 review

Jul 13 Mt 7:13-14 (cf. Lk 13:23-4)

Jul 14 Mt 7:15-27 (cf. Mt 12:33-5; Lk 6:43-9; 13:26-7)

Jul 15 Mt 7:28-29 (cf. Mk 1:21-2; Lk 7:1; 4:31-2)

Jul 16 review


Anonymous said...

Jun 20 Mt 5:1-2

Was the Lord distancing Himself from the crowds, wanting to exclude some? It would be possible to read this passage that way, but for the conclusion to the sermon, Mt 7:28-9.

Anonymous said...

Jun 21 Mt 5:3-12

These blessings, as evidenced by the turn to "you" in vv. 11-12, and the punctiliar nature of 5:10 and 5:11-2, are prounounced upon real people upon the occasion of the blessing.

Now, if you understand the above sentence, you will see that I'm saying that questions like "are you gentle?" should be understood here as "were you gentle?" and "have you been gentle?"

Consider the possibility of recovering the beautitudes from being indefinitely postponed by a lifetime of self-examination. How so? consider the possibility that Jesus did not defer this blessing, but meant it for those to whom it applied, that very day.

Anonymous said...

Jun 23 Mt 5:13-16

The "who are you people?" question is answered in this passage. The identity of these people is, at this stage in the ministry, quite a shock!

It is God, only God, who can give this great identity, salt of the earth, and light of the world. Yet Jesus does not discount what this group's choices must be.

Anonymous said...

On Mt 5:13-16: what had they done? what greatness could be attributed to them yet? At a distance of almost 2000 years, we can be anacronistic and say "hospitals, schools, orphanages, charities," and the world will nod. But at this point ... it is totally in the "who" they are, rather in the "what."

So why is it that they are the light of the world and salt of the earth? It's obvious we can't change the text to "can be" or "should be." The EBC doesn't touch the issue. Leon Morris, in his commentary on Matthew, uses the term "followers." That seems to not overstep the text. Followers of Christ -- by nature point to and reflect Christ the Light (p. 105) -- and by nature act as a preservative, and as enemy of the decay of, and give taste to (p. 104), that which is of the earth.

Anonymous said...

Jun 24 Mt 5:17-20

The plain meaning of Jesus coming not to abolish but to fulfill, He explains Himself: regarding not abolishing the Law, His answer is the double "until" of 5:18; regarding the prophets, regarding fulfilling them, His answer is, incredibly, a) that the kingdom of God is now present; b) that His own announcements about are determinative of entering it and of one's status within it.

5:19 ties together the non-abolishment and the fulfillment, because it speaks of both the commandments and the kingdom of God. What time period does this verse envision? Not some remote future, but the time then present, when He spoke it! That was a time in which both the Law and the Kingdom were present and in effect. "Shall be called least" and "shall be called great" are pronouncements of a king regarding His subjects! Think of an oriental kingship and and honoring event like Esther 6:9, or a being called least event like Esther 1:19.

Anonymous said...

Jun 25 Mt 5:21-26

One hears the strictness and the stringency of the Lord's standards for our lives, and the urgency of the imperative to deal with our failures.

The two go together. The higher the standard, the more necessary is our need to deal with failure.

The universality and unconditionality of the pronouncement of 5:26 shows its authority and the authority of the one who announces these things. The presence of the King in His kingdom is strongly felt in these verses.

Anonymous said...

Jun 27 Mt 5:27-32

On vv. 29-30: an aspect of these exhortations is often overlooked, which is the metaphor of stumbling itself. It is in the process of walking that one stumbles, just as it is in the process of being "with him on the way" (5:25) that you should make friends with your opponent at law.

As you are traveling, whereas you would think that stumbling is not very serious, it is so serious that to cut off your hand or pluck out your eye is "better for you" than to (morally) stumble.

How can that be? Stay with the image: how can it be better when traveling to pluck out one's eye or cut off one's right hand, than to merely "stumble"? A stumble doesn't alter the course you've set to travel upon, does it?

It wouldn't, you would think. But on that journey we meet God, to whom stumbling (morally) matters very much, such that even to say 'you fool' to one's brother is to be guilty enough "to go into the fiery hell" (5:22).

Compare the two possibilites for how the story of your journey ends: one, that "one of the parts of your body be lost," (vv. 29, 30, lit.), and the other, "for your whole body to be thrown into hell" (5:29), and "for your whole body to go to hell" (5:30). Moral "stumbling" is of extreme urgency to deal with on the journey. This is the same lesson as with vv. 23-26, the extreme imperative to deal with sin, even what we consider the very smallest stumbles. The "smallest" stumbles incur great guilt, enough guilt to be thrown into hell.

Anonymous said...

Jun 28 Mt 5:33-37

Behind the making of oaths is the assumption that you can by them effect consequences upon your actions, either by invoking consequences upon your own head (5:36), or by invoking the consequences that God would bring (5:34-5). But "you cannot make one hair white or black! (5:36)!"

That aspect of an oath or vow is possibly the "or else" part, such as "or else, may ...." Why is that "of evil" (5:37)?

The traditional answer is that "yes" and "no" should be enough, and that "I vow yes" and "I vow no" make the regular yes's and no's suspect. And what if they have been? You must deal with that mess, not ignore it with another layer on top of that failure, that hides it.

counterpoint said...

continuing the suggestion in the previous post, the reason not to make an oath by your head that the Lord gives, "for you cannot make one hair white or black," may lead to the thought that we are not, like God, in command of invoking a future upon our own heads, much less invoking anything more supernatural like the action of God the Creator. This is particularly the province of evil, the attempt to invoke a future by some means, by our own power, or as if we could use God as a means.

Anonymous said...

Jun 29 Mt 5:38-42

Just as the Lord does not say anything to this point that "annuls one of the least of these commandments" (5:19) or "abolish the Law and the Prophets" (5:17), neither does He here.

Both "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" are in force, and the sayings of 5:39-42! The "but I say to you" is not contradiction. It is what He talks about in 5:20, righteousness surpassing that of the scribes and Pharisees.

For the Pharisees, a personal, one-to-one ethic was derived from the social, society-wide ethic of the law about an eye for an eye. Revenge could be taken up by the individual. The Lord states here, in contrast to that assumption, that revenge could not be taken up by the individual.

Anonymous said...

Jul 1 Mt 5:43-48

This portion of teaching invites you to directly compare yourself to others! It is a comparison of what we should be doing vs. what others are doing. Do you notice what the two groups are that the Lord places as extremes not to be imitated? Tax collectors, and Gentiles! Yet these are among the very ones He ministers to explicitly.

Anonymous said...

Jul 2 Mt 6:1

This section has a much-needed contemporary practical application; we should not ignore 6:3 and 6:6 in the name of "only the motive is important" thinking. 6:3 and 6:6 implement, if you will, 6:1.

"otherwise you have no reward" -- in that instance. Volumes could be written about how we universalize things that the Bible meant to apply to a particular instance. Consider James 2:14 in the light of this!

Anonymous said...

Jul 3 Mt 6:2-4

What were the hypocrites in the synagogues and in the streets really doing? They weren't literally sounding a trumpet before themselves. However, they might as well have been.

In other words, when they gave to the poor, it was completely clear to everyone that they did so. It was broadcast like a loud trumpet call in the street, like a loud trumpet call even in the synagogues.

Not only that, but it was completely clear that it was they themselves who were doing so. It was to "sound a trumpet before you." The trumpet called attention to the person, not only the deed.

The contrasting behavior, instead of broadcasting the knowledge of the deed, makes the deed (and its doer) secret -- unknown -- even to oneself. If the left hand doesn't even know what the right hand is doing, it certainly doesn't know that the right hand is doing it.

Secret giving takes care of the motive, whereas giving in ways that the deed or the doer are known requires extra work and must deal with the motive. But not only does secret giving take care of the motive, but to it is promised a reward from God.

Anonymous said...

Jul 5 Mt 6:5-15

The simplest way to understand the verses that have many questioning the permanence of a once-granted salvation based on the conditions of 6:14-15 is not to presuppose the Lord was speaking about the nature of salvation here. That presupposition would be an example of the proverbial mountain of Mishnah built on a bean-hill of Torah.

An analogous task might help to show this. It should not be presupposed that Jesus was speaking of eternal hell in an earlier passage about punishment, Mt 5:25-26. That presupposition would be a similar example of the Mishnah/Torah disparity above.

In the first case, you get a negation of the safety of our salvation, because of thoughts that its permanence is destroyed by our lack of forgiveness, which can often be a daily occurence. In the second case, you get a denial of the duration of the punishment of hell, because of thoughts that the verse teaches that its payment is a finite payment.

Mt 6:14-15, like other ethical statements of the Lord, shuns the armchair of speculation in favor of dealing with the present in a punctiliar way. (cf. Lk 13:23-24). Forgive today, and God's forgiveness will attend you today. If you do not forgive today, you are warned that God's forgiveness will not attend you. Such is the nature of God's participation in our ethical actions.

Anonymous said...

Jul 6 Mt 6:16-18

This is surely completely against the concepts of the times (in the secular West). The idea that God would be moved at all by a fast -- the world says that's ludicrous and mean-spirited of Him ... "does He truly have anything that He gives only in response to such behavior? Why would He not give it apart from that behavior?" the reasoning goes.

The insolence of the question would not be lost to the Middle Eastern mind. It is God's prerogative to reward according to whatever He wants. Yet these words of Jesus are not to make that point either. They are squarely within the assumption that you understand and assent to the practice of fasting, but they confront the person doing so with the question of audience: fasting is for an audience of God only.

Hypocrites play their fasting to the crowd. This introduces the third party of the four in the description: 1) you; 2) people who may see you if you don't take steps to hide your fasting from them; 3) hypocrites who take steps not to hide their fasting from them; and finally, 4) God, your Father, who sees what is done in secret.

The exhortation, addressed to someone to whom God is Father, to not be "like the hypocrites" is very realistic, and shows that Jesus does not discount that possibility. Let not God's children be like the hypocrites here.