Matthew 5–7: Façade & Reality

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 3: Saturday

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
Matthew 5:1–6 LSB

Today’s Bible reading is Matthew 5–7. These three chapters record the teaching of Jesus known as “The Sermon on the Mount,” because of the location mentioned in 5:1.

Each section of Matthew ends with a teaching discourse by Jesus. Matthew 7: 28a states, Now it happened that when Jesus had finished these words. You’ll also find the phrase in 11:1a, 13:53, 19:1, and 26:1; they mark the end of each set of teachings. Matthew will close his Gospel with Jesus’ final charge to His disciples, words known as The Great Commission. R. E. Nixon writes:

“It is evident that there are five discourses in the Gospel ( [1] 5:1–7:27, ‘The Sermon on the Mount’; [2] 10:1–42, the mission charge to the Twelve; [3] 13:1–52, the parables of the kingdom; [4] 18:1–35, relationships in the kingdom; [5] 24:1–25:46, the second coming). Each of these is followed by a note stating that when Jesus had finished this teaching He went on to further action.

“…The first discourse is basically ethical, the second missionary, the third kerygmatic [proclamation of the Gospel], the fourth ecclesiastical and the fifth eschatological. It is probable that ch. 23 (the denunciation of the religious leaders) should be taken as part of the final discourse.”1

The word radical means, arising from or going to a root or source. It aptly describes Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount because He goes beyond an outward conformity to God’s Law to the inward heart of obedience to God.

Jesus’ teaching is convicting. The Sermon on the Mount shows how much we need God’s grace, and how as Christians we are totally dependent on the Holy Spirit to encourage us and enable us to obey God from the heart. (In God’s providence, tomorrow’s reading is Romans 7–8, which will be so helpful after reading these chapters in Matthew).

5:3–12 is about character. These verses are called the Beatitudes because Jesus begins each description by saying blessed are those who have this trait. Notice Jesus not only describes the person who is blessed, but He explains why that person is blessed. Blessed is a translation of the Greek word, makarios. R. T. France writes,

“Beatitudes (statements of the form “Happy is/are…”) occur in both pagan and Judeo-Christian literature…Such “macarisms” are normally single statements, and there is no close parallet to Matthew’s carefully structured set of eight beatitudes…

“Macarisms” are essentially commendations, congratulations, state­ments to the effect that a person is in a good situation, sometimes even expressons of envy. The Hebrew equivalent of makarios is ‘ašrê rather than the more theologically loaded bārûk, “blessed (by God).” The traditional English rendering “blessed” thus has too theological a connotation in modern usage…The sense of congratulations and commendation is perhaps better conveyed by “happy,” but this term generally has too psychological a connotation: makarios does not state that a person feels happy (“Happy are those who mourn” is a particularly inappropriate translation if the word is understood that way), but that they are in a “happy” situation, one which other people ought also to wish to share. “Fortunate” gets closer to the sense, but has inappropriate connotations of luck. “Congratulations to…” would convey much of the impact of a “macarism,” but perhaps sounds too colloquial. The Australian idiom “Good on yer” is perhaps as close as any to the sense, but would not communicate in the rest of the English-speaking world! My favorite translation of makarios is the traditional Welsh rendering of the Beatitudes, Gwyn eu byd, literally “White is their world,” an evocative idiom for those for whom everything is good. Beatitudes are descriptions, and commendations, of the good life.”2

5:13–20 is about lifestyle: being salt and light in the world to bring glory to God and keeping and teaching God’s law. Jesus ends this section with the admonition that only those who have a righteousness surpassing that of the scribes and the Pharisees will be able to enter the kingdom of heaven.

5:21–48 is about the Law and the heart. Jesus exposes those who follow only the letter of the Law by teaching what it means to obey the Law from the heart.

6:1–18 is about religious show. Jesus warns against trying to impress people by giving publicity to your piety by good works or by prayers. He warns against trying to make an impression on God by use of meaningless repetition of words and gives an example on how to pray. He warns against not forgiving others. This section finishes with another warning against impressing people with public piety—this time against fasting.

6:19–24 is about money. Jesus flatly says, “You cannot serve God and wealth.” Years late the Apostle Paul will write in his first letter to Timothy,

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evils, and some by aspiring to it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
1 Timothy 6:10 LSB

There are two verses in this section about the eye. R. T. France has this explanation:

This enigmatic saying is included here to reinforce the message of both vv. 19–21 and v. 24, the call for undivided loyalty to God.3

6:25–34 is about anxiety. Jesus exhorts His disciples to trust God and to seek first His kingdom and righteousness.

7:1–6 is about judgment and discernment. Jesus teaches not to set yourself up as someone’s judge, rather examine yourself; however, be discerning about who others are in your dealings with them.

7:7–11 is about perseverance in prayer. Jesus teaches that if even parents who are sinners give their children good things, how much more will God our Father give what is good to those who ask.

7:12 is The Golden Rule, containing just a few words. Amazingly, Jesus states, “…this is the Law and the Prophets.”

7:13–14 is about two gates. Jesus warns to choose the narrow gate; the broad gate leads to destruction—this is chosen by many. The narrow gate leads to life—this is chosen by few.

7:15–23 is about deception. Jesus warns about words that are not matched by deeds. Some deceive others: the false prophets who are wolves in sheep’s clothing—look at their fruit. Some deceive themselves or hope to deceive God—their lawless deeds belie their words.

7:24–27 is Jesus’ final authoritative warning about hearing His words and acting on them.

Do you see why Jesus’ teaching was radical in the truest sense of the word? The Sermon on the Mount is about true righteousness—not a façade that looks good, but reality. Jesus’ teachings expose the heart. It’s why the Pharisees and religious leaders hated Him so. His words and deeds constantly exposed them as hypocrites without true obedience to God or love for God. Their reactions to Him revealed who they were.

Jesus’ closing words provide warning and assurance:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and does them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain descended, and the rivers came, and the winds blew and fell against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. And everyone hearing these words of Mine and not doing them, may be compared to a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell⁠—and great was its fall.”
Matthew 7:24–27 LSB

Matthew 7 ends with this commentary:

Now it happened that when Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were astonished at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
Matthew 7:28–29 LSB

What are your reactions to Jesus’ words?

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Waves crashing over The North Pier, Tynemouth: (Site has been deleted).
1R. E. Nixon, “Matthew,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 813.
2R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI: 2007) 159–161.
3R. T. France, Matthew (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI: 1985) 138.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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