THE GOSPELS 37
BUT I SAY UNTO YOU…
In our last essay we pointed out the fact that Jesus, as God’s Son, knew the mind of God. Now we are about to examine His explanation of what that mind intended by each part of the Law. We will find that, in each instance, the revelation is that God is looking into the mind and heart of each of us. There are many good people who can say that they have not violated any of the commandments. Behaviorally they are perfect. Paul
thought the same thing until he came to “Thou shalt not covet”, and that left behavior and struck at the heart and motivation within. No one can say they have never sinned in their secret heart to want or desire something forbidden, or wished something which was not like Jesus Christ, or even, as Paul knew, coveted some object or position or privilege which another possessed.
So to say Jesus knew the mind of God is to say we need to be conscious that God is always with us, and that He reads our minds, no matter what our hands are doing. That
is why Jesus followed every statement, which men saw as a command to govern behavior, with “but I say” and gave the version which reflected what the mind of God wanted of us.
When Jesus said not one jot nor tittle would pass from the law until all was fulfilled, He was not talking about the Scribal law to which the Pharisee so meticulously adhered. He broke that law regularly, especially by healing on the Sabbath Day. The Scribes took the original Law and said that it implied certain things about worship and behavior. As a result they invented things which they said were implied in the Law. When these things were finally put in printed form, the Jerusalem version of the commentary, called the Talmud, filled twelve volumes. This was the law Jesus condemned as did Paul. It was for violating this law that the Pharisees condemned Jesus to the Cross.
Here, in the next part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives the true meaning of the Law in serious detail. Each point of the Law was based on a great principle, and when
Jesus said, “but I say”, He proceeded to develop that principle as the Father meant for it to be observed. Jesus summed it all up in “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself”. Love, here, is not romantic or even a warm liking. No one can like some of the more obnoxious people they encounter. But this love means to respect everyone as a creature of God, whom the Father would like to dwell in Heaven with Him. With that in mind we should interpret each of these commands as the principle of “respect” (to use the word Barclay uses for it). I must respect my parents, human life, other people’s possessions and wives, their reputation, and my own integrity. This determines the motivation behind the way I behave and how I treat others.
In the first of these interpretations of the law, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, to the people of old, thou shalt not kill, but I say….” Here Jesus does not dismiss the law against killing, but goes deeper and condemns anger and contempt, by telling them to eliminate hate, and even disparaging words, which insult and hurt another.
As Jesus made His great dissertation on the Law, which the Pharisee kept meticulously, He said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. The righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees was a righteousness based on obeying the law in strict detail. To them, pleasing God meant doing thousands of little specific things which were implied in the Law. I mention this, for it is one of the most prevalent beliefs of thousands of people today. Going to church and keeping the rules, while not breaking any of the moral commandments, satisfies them that they are being Christian, and are pleasing to God. In this sermon, Jesus is trying to make men see that this is not what God wants. Of course, He wants us to obey His will. However, the behavioral restrictions of His will are far exceeded by the demands of love. You can satisfy the Law, but never completely fulfill the demands of love. Only as you strive to love, or respect and care about your fellowman, does your righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees. I am afraid there are too many Pharisees who are faithful members and even teachers in the church today. Otherwise there would be more concern for the lost and less conflict and division within the Christian world.