Shabbat, February 7, 2015
The Sermon on the Mount is Yeshua’s elucidation of the mitzvot (commandments) from Moses.
In keeping with my recent “absolutes” series, let us be absolutely clear: Yeshua did not come to abolish the Torah or the prophets, but to fulfill them. That’s what He said. V’eemru? (And let us say?)
Let’s also be absolutely clear: Yeshua’s goal was not just to fulfill them Himself (been there, done that!) but to fulfill them in us—His disciples, gathered around Him, starting now. Moreover, Yeshua does not intend us to fulfill these commandments superficially, but perfectly—the way He fulfilled them —for these commandments were, are and ever shall be mitzvot for the heart…. V’eemru?
How many you know about the connections between Yeshua’s famous Sermon—found in Matthew 5—and the Ten Commandments of Moses? Just as in Sh’mot (Exodus) chapter 19, all Israel gathered at Mount Sinai, so Matthew 5:1 records that when Yeshua saw the crowds, He went up on “the mountain” (or for short, the Mount). Just as in Sh’mot (Exodus) 20:1, HaShem “spoke all these words,” so in Matthew 5:2, Yeshua “opened His mouth and began to teach them.” (Some sources say, Messiah spoke to them on Sinai.) Just as through Moses, HaShem promised blessings upon Israel if they kept His commandments, so Yeshua promised blessings (the Beatitudes) to those who pursued the kingdom of heaven, even if people insult, persecute you, or false say evil things against you, “because of Me” (Matthew 5:11). Just as Moses gave Israel Aseret HaDevarim (the Ten Words), so Yeshua elucidated their deeper intent.
In Matthew 5:17, Yeshua introduces His teaching on the Ten Commandments with these words, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” Yet somehow, many Christian and Jewish commentators conclude that Yeshua came to abolish! Many Christian commentators say: since Yeshua fulfilled the law (by dying on the cross), we don’t have to keep those Old Testament laws.
Though Yeshua did fulfill many prophecies in His coming, so that His disciples were fully convinced that He is the Messiah who has made atonement for our sins and rose as the first fruits of the dead, nevertheless, in Acts 1:6 the disciples did ask Him, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” There’s still the rest of the story: the Second Coming, with many more prophecies to fulfill. V’eemru?
So in Matthew 5:18, Yeshua says, “Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass.”
All things come to pass would include the Isaiah 2:4 prophecy of the nations “hammering their swords into plowshares”—has that happened yet? If so, somebody needs to send a memo to Hamas & ISIS! Though Isaiah’s prophecy is the goal of the United Nations, IMHO, only the Messiah will fulfill it, and only when the Father sees that we’re ready for the Messiah to come back. V’eemru?
The Greek word for “smallest letter” is iota. It comes from the Hebrew letter yud—far be it for a yud to pass away, because that’s the first letter in the ineffaceable Name, YHVH, and Yeshua! In Matthew 5:19, Yeshua says, “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever keeps and teaches them, this one shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Does that sound like the Master is abolishing the mitzvot to you? Therefore I propose that Messiah’s disciples teach each other these commandments—as He teaches us. V’eemru?
In Matthew 5:20, Yeshua says, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and Torah scholars, you shall never enter the kingdom of heaven!” In the ears of the Jewish crowds around the Mount, these words were astonishing—Pharisees and Torah scholars are the best we got! Who could be more righteous than these pious guardians of the Torah?
It’s similar to when Yeshua announced in Matt 19:24, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Verse 25 reports, “When the disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’”
One thing we must bear in mind when listening to Yeshua, especially in the Gospel of Matthew, is that He often uses hyperbole or exaggerated speech to provoke us—so we should dig a little deeper! Go through the eye of a needle?! 27, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Your righteousness of the Pharisees and Torah scholars?! They may be best you’ve got, but Yeshua the Messiah is aiming at a higher standard—indeed, He is the higher standard—and also the way to achieve it!
Matthew 5:29, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away!” But then, even if you did gouge it out, would that stop your mind from lusting? Does putting burkas on women prevent Muslim men from lusting or committing adultery?
Matthew 5:44 says, “Love your enemies”—many would say, that’s absurd—should we love Hitler?
Yet if that seems impossible, could Jews consider loving a good Samaritan, or a good Palestinian?
Or is there someone who has offended you whom you could forgive, as Yeshua & His Father have forgiven you?
Speaking of the Father, Matt. 5:48 says, “Therefore be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” OK, how many are up for that? On the other hand, how many of you are saying, that’s impossible?
Maybe that’s the point of the hyperbole? Matthew 19:27, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” What you cannot do by yourself, Yeshua can fulfill in you. V’eemru? That would be the kingdom of heaven in operation. That would be hammering swords of personal vengeance into plowshares for sowing God’s word. V’eemru?
So Yeshua opened His sermon, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” When we admit our spiritual poverty, then the Spirit of Messiah can begin to operate in us. When we let Yeshua conform us to His image and His character—the image and character of God—then He can fulfill His commandments in us—not superficially, but from the heart.
Again and again, Yeshua shifts our focus from external compliance to inward love. So in Matthew 5:21-22, “You have heard it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever commits murder shall be subject to judgment.’ I tell you now that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be subject to judgment.” Committing murder is external and enforceable in human courts. If you aren’t caught, you might think you got away with it. On the other hand, unforgiving anger and grudges are internal—enforceable only in the court of heaven—because only God knows our hearts—and He does! But if hatred isn’t resolved, it leads to bitterness of soul or even murder—grudges defile your heart.
1 Corinthians 13 says, “Love … is not easily provoked and keeps no record of wrongs.” V’eemru?
The test of God’s love in your heart is when you can love your enemies and pray for them, like Yeshua. Some Jewish commentators argue that’s going too far…. Yet consider the 10th commandment—“You shall not covet.” How many of you have ever coveted what is your neighbor’s? How many have gone to jail for committing this crime? That’s because it’s a mitzvah for the heart. Yet coveting what is your neighbor’s leads to stealing & coveting your neighbor’s wife leads to adultery. So the court of heaven judges coveting—and the court of heaven has already convened—in your own conscience. V’eemru? Messiah Yeshua aims to fulfill the Torah… by transforming our hearts.
“Blessed are the pure in heart,” Yeshua promises, “for they shall see God.” OK, how many of you can honestly say, “I am pure in heart”? How many of you would like to be able to say, “I am pure in heart”? Lord, help us!
That seems to be in the same category as “Be perfect, , just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Yet Hebrews 10:22 woos us, “So let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and bodies washed with pure water.”
How do you get a pure heart? Not by wallowing in guilt. That’s for pigs, not the children of God. Rather, you get a pure heart by drawing near to Yeshua in full assurance of faith—and letting Him sprinkle clean water on your conscience. V’eemru?
The purity of Yeshua is the only way to have a pure heart … We see God through Messiah. V’eemru?
Purity is the seed that Messiah sows in your heart—if you confessed Yeshua as your Savior and Lord. Then He made you a new creation—with a new heart, no longer a heart of stone but a heart of flesh, and He also gave you the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is pure and perfect. V’eemru?
Moreover, purity is the goal—and He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it in the day of Messiah. V’eemru? Today, Yeshua wants us to have integrity—let your yes be yes, no no.
Can you do it? Yes, in Messiah! When you fall short, Messiah has come to fulfill the Torah in you. Yeshua knows what He teaches is impossible for me and you! Then let us cry out to Him for help! Because Yeshua has atoned for our failures, because He has given us His Ruach to comfort & guide us, He can begin the good work of making us pure and perfect in the Father’s sight.
I am a work in progress—yet I am pressing on toward the goal to which Messiah Yeshua has called me. How about you? Time for some breakout discussion….
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Questions for breakout sessions
What are some parallels between Moses giving the Torah and Yeshua giving the Sermon on the Mount?
When Yeshua said he didn’t come to abolish the Torah but to fulfill, what didn’t He mean? Why not?
What are some examples of Yeshua using hyperbole? Why does Yeshua use hyperbole?
Did Yeshua really mean it’s impossible for a rich man to be saved?
Did Yeshua mean that it’s easy to surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees or Torah teachers?
Why does unresolved anger put us in danger of Judgment?
Would gouging out one’s eye keep a man from lusting?
Does putting parkas on women prevent Muslim men from lusting or committing adultery?
Are the eyes of women safe? (So why did Yeshua pick on the guys?)
How do you respond when Yeshua says, “Therefore be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect”?
What’s the deeper point of this hyperbole?
What is the 10th commandment? How does this one set up Yeshua’s teaching about all of God’s mitzvot?
Do any of you struggle with impurity? What about honesty & integrity? Is your yes yes, and your no no?
Can you get a pure heart by wallowing in your guilt? (Is that what you do sometimes?)
Why is a pure heart desirable? Do you desire a pure heart?
Can you make your own heart pure? So how do you get a pure heart?
How could inner healing or deliverance help purify your heart?
How could obedience of God’s mitzvot help? How could the Ruach Kodesh help you obey?
Will you obey God’s mitzvot for the heart—with the help of the Ruach Kodesh?