Matthew Chapter 5
Jesus begins to teach. This section encompasses so much that a lifetime could be devoted to its study and yet more would still remain to be discovered. But a lifetime of study would miss the point of it because Jesus’ teachings are about actions. Real actions in a real world require real attitudes. Study leads to understanding, which is important, but can often lead to legalism, the Law. A life lived in these words of Jesus, leads to compassion and acts of righteousness. This section is all about a transformed heart which allows the Law to be lived as it should be, through compassion, not legalism.
Jesus begins with the beatitudes. Attitudes to hold in life. Attitudes which will bring blessings. These attitudes will end in persecution, just as they persecuted the prophets, and in time, Jesus. How can persecution be a blessing? The blessings are earthly possessions but rather the ability to handle life in a peaceful and godly manner. Persecution comes because we are the salt and the light, which is too much for the world to handle. The world is used to a bland, dark world. To challenge it with salt and light invites persecution.
The Law had been turned into a legal system bent on control. Jesus is going to free the Law and therefore the people, from legalism. The Law starts in the heart. Actions start in the heart. Without a heart set on God, transformed in the spirit, the best it can do is legalism. And the worst it can do is evil. But a transformed heart makes sense of the Law through compassion, mercy and peace. The spirit of the Law which moves a transformed heart is an attitude of mercy, hope, forgiveness and compassion. It is going beyond the expected, the strict confines of what is required to the openness of a tender heart intent on right actions. Righteousness and legalism may look similar in actions but are worlds apart in intention. Righteousness is only possible through an open and transformed heart intent on God through the spirit.