We begin with Matthew and the first words of Jesus are found in chapter 3, verse 15. I found it fascinating that the first words spoken by Jesus as recorded in the Bible were related to the law -- "it is right for us to meet all the Law's demands - let it be so now." This is when Jesus was insisting that he be baptized by John the Baptist. We first see Jesus as the fulfillment of the laws -- of all of the OT in the books before. I think that is so cool and I have never really thought about that before.
Some other things that struck me as I went through these first few chapters were the following concepts:
- Following Jesus's baptism, he begins his 40 days of fasting and tempting by the devil. The words Jesus speaks here -- all in rebuke to the words of the devil - are quotes of scripture. The words of God are his defense and get him through this trial.
- Jesus begins his preaching ministry following his temptation and the first words recorded here are, "You must change your hearts -- for the kingdom of Heaven has arrived." Wow! The kingdom of Heaven is now on earth. What must we do? Change our hearts.
- Jesus says to his first recruits, "Follow me and I will teach you to catch men."
- Next comes the Sermon on the Mount which turns everything upside down. Praised by Jesus is being humble, knowing sorrow, claiming nothing, hunger and thirst for goodness, merciful, sincere, peacemakers, persecuted for the cause. And the rewards for these things are the kingdom of Heaven, courage, comfort, the whole earth, satisfaction, mercy, seeing God, sons of God, magnificent rewards in Heaven.
- We are the earth's salt - don't let it become saltless
- We are the world's light - don't hide it; let it shine
- Let people see the good things we do...why? to praise God
- In chapter 5 Jesus again refers to the law, reinforcing that he did not come to abolish the law, but to complete it.
I want to look at 5:17-20 more closely...
5:17-20 - "You must not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to complete them. Indeed, I assure you that, while Heaven and earth last, the Law will not lose a single dot or comma until its purpose is complete. This means that whoever now relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men to do the same will himself be called least in Heaven. But whoever teaches and practises them will be called great in the kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that your goodness must be a far better thing then the goodness of the scribes and Pharisees before you can set foot in the kingdom of Heaven at all!
Jesus says in this version he came to "complete the law." Then he says "the law will not lose a single dot or comma until its purpose is complete. This means that whoever now relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men to do the same will himself be called least in Heaven. But whoever teaches and practices them will be called great in the kingdom of Heaven." This is pretty clear on sticking to the commandments -- all of them. But it also says that this will be so until its purpose is complete. And by Jesus coming as our final and perfect sacrifice and savior, he has made it complete. Through Jesus the purpose of the law was completed. We are free from the law thanks to the completion of it by Jesus.
A few other items of note from the remainder of these chapters:
- It is not just murder that is wrong...it is being angry with a brother. In this version it also says "anyone who looks on his brother as a lost soul is himself heading straight for the fire of destruction." We are all lost souls without Jesus.
- Make peace with your brother before offering anything at the alter. Relationships are more important than sacrifices or offerings.
- Resolve issues quickly among yourselves...don't leave it to a judge where a worse outcome may occur.
- It is not just adultery that is wrong -- it is looking lustfully at another
- These things matter. They matter so much that it is better to lose a figurative eye or hand than to have them lead you astray.
- Divorce - except on the grounds of unfaithfulness - makes the other an adulteress. Marrying someone divorced also commits adultery.
- Don't only swear/use an oath falsely, don't use one at all. Let your yes be yes and no be no -- anything more has a taint of evil.
- Turn the other cheek, go the extra mile if forced to go one, dont' turn away from the man who wants to borrow, give to the man who asks.
- Love your neighbor, but also love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you. Everyone can love only those that love them -- it is no credit to you.
- You are to be perfect, like your Heavenly Father.
Okay. There is a lot in these first few chapters. Imagine reading this for the first time without any commentary or cultural interpretations. It is very direct and it is very much against how we act on the most part. We don't give freely, especially to those who aren't lovely to us. Our heart matters so much more than any outward activity, including sacrifices required by the law. Jesus is already starting to become the completeness of the law and changing how we see and do things.