Lent for Everyone – February 23rd, 2015

Matthew 5:1-48 – King James Version (KJV)

The Beatitudes

1And seeing the multitudes, he [Jesus] went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
3Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed [are] they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5Blessed [are] the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6Blessed [are] they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7Blessed [are] the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8Blessed [are] the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9Blessed [are] the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Salt and Light

13Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

The Law and the Prophets

17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Concerning Anger

21Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
23Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
24Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
25Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
26Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Concerning Adultery

27Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
29And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell.
30And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Concerning Divorce

31It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Concerning Oaths

33Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
34But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:
35Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
36Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
37But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Concerning Retaliation

38Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have [thy] cloke also.
41And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Love for Enemies

43Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more [than others]? do not even the publicans so?
48Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

WEEK ONE MONDAY

The worst mistake we can make about this famous and stunning passage is to see it as a list of rules (you’ve got to try hard to be poor in spirit, to mourn, to be meek, and so on). It isn’t. It’s a royal announcement that God is turning the world upside down — or, rather, the right way up.

Come with me into the crowd that has followed Jesus away from the villages and up onto the hillside. What are we hearing? What does it mean to us?

We’ve been longing for this moment, you see, but we didn’t know what it was going to be like. For generations we’ve all been taught that one day our God, the maker of heaven and earth, would come back to us and set everything right. But as time has gone on it’s looked more and more as though he’s forgotten us. Arrogant foreign soldiers have pushed their way into our land. Other nations, with their strange and lurid cultures, have taken over some of our towns and changed them into places where decent people wouldn’t want to go. And the taxes they make us pay! Anyone would think we were still slaves, instead of God’s free people.

But nobody quite knew what it would look like when God came back to us. Some people have said it would be like a great pillar of cloud and fire. Some have said he’d come riding at the head of a great army to defeat the horrible people who are making our lives miserable. Some have even said that we’d better not wait any longer, that perhaps God wants us to act first and then he’ll come and help us.

So when we heard about this prophet who was going round the villages healing people and saying that the sovereign rule of heaven was now on the way, we were really excited. What’s his plan? What’s he saying is going to happen?

And now he’s telling us that God is indeed on the move — and that people like us are going to come out on top! We’ve had our spirits crushed all right; we’ve been sorrowful, we’ve been longing for God’s way to triumph. It’s been a hunger eating away at us inside. And now he’s saying that the poor in spirit will inherit heaven’s kingdom, that the sorrowful will be comforted, that the hungry will be satisfied. All right! This is what we’ve been waiting for! But how will it hap- pen? What do we have to do? What are his plans for making it happen?

Well, he’s saying some other things, too. He’s saying that it’s the meek who will inherit the earth — not the rich, the powerful, the violent or the pushy. Some people in the crowd don’t like that. It sounds like a cop-out to them. And he’s saying that the merciful and the peacemakers are the ones who will receive God’s mercy, who will be called God’s children (we think all the people of Israel are God’s children; it sounds as though he’s saying that God is reshaping Israel itself!). That’s not going to please those who want to fight and kill to make God’s will happen.

And then he’s saying that it’s going to be tough. People are going to hate us and persecute us. Well, we’ve had plenty of that already, so what’s new? It sounds as though he’s saying that God is doing a new thing — and that like the ancient prophets many of our own people won’t like it. He wants us to follow him, even though it’s going to be unpopular.

I don’t know where this is leading. But I’ve never heard any- one speaking like this before. It’s a whole new way of being God’s people. It’s a whole new way of being human. Well, we’ve tried everything else. Maybe, after all, this is what it’s going to look like when God comes back to rescue us. I’m ready to sign up. What about you?

TODAY

Lord Jesus, help us to hear your voice, to accept your challenge, and to follow you in the way of your kingdom.

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