Saturday, February 10, 2024

2024.02.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Matthew 5:38–42

 Read Matthew 5:38–42

Questions from the Scripture text: What did they hear (Matthew 5:38)? What was said (cf. Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21)? Who now says different (Matthew 5:39)? What does He say not to do? What does this imply the scribes and Pharisees had taught from those texts? To what sort of incident does Jesus now refer? On what cheek? What does He say for the disciple to do in response? What might someone want to do in Matthew 5:40? To take away what? What does Jesus say to do in that case? And who might compel the believer to do what in Matthew 5:41? And what does Jesus say for the disciple to do in that case? What does He say for a disciple to do when someone begs from him (Matthew 5:42)? What does He say not to do, when someone asks to borrow?

How does a Christian respond to mistreatment? Matthew 5:38–42 prepares us for the morning sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Christians respond to mistreatment not in the fleshly resentment of the scribe but in the strength and freedom of resting upon Christ.

This passage requires entrusting our honor, our rights, our liberty, and our prosperity to the Lord. It frees us to enjoy the strength and honor of belonging to Christ and serving Christ as His subjects.

Entrusting our honor to Christ, Matthew 5:38-39. Jesus continues to show how necessary it is for His subjects’ righteousness to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. They had taken passages applying to the judicial system that God gave to the nation of Israel and used it to justify personal revenge. These laws actually prohibited personal revenge by putting retribution in the hands not of the individual but of the nation corporately. But the scribes’ interpretation did not teach people to entrust themselves to God Who judges justly (cf. 1 Peter 2:20–23). Instead, it reinforced the fleshly impulse for retaliation.

But Christ’s subjects do not need to retaliate. They are actually blessed when abused (cf. Matthew 5:10–12), and now Jesus teaches them to add the blessedness of meekness. Matthew 5:39 refers to a backhand to the face, an even greater insult in their culture than in our own. But imagine the horror of the persecutor, when the Christian is completely unfazed by this. The insult and attack have failed to take his dignity or intimidate him. Here he is ready to receive another blow, just as steady as before. In a meekness that is sure of the greatness of Christ, and Christ being worth suffering any abuse, there is a strength that the world has no category for.

Entrusting our rights to ChristMatthew 5:40. Men using the courts to steal from others is not new or unique to our culture. But if we are entrusting ourselves to the Lord, we needn’t be resentful or bitter against such a wicked thief or abuser. We may be sure that God will execute justice, and this frees us to love our enemy (cf. Matthew 5:44–45). When Jesus tells us to give the cloak as well, He makes it plain that He is not prescribing specific procedure but addressing the attitude of the heart (or else this disciple would end up, literally, naked). 

Jesus did not insist on His rights (cf. Philippians 2:6), and we are to have His same mind in us (cf. Philippians 2:5). Being sued by another threatens to stir up resentment. But if we hold loosely to our rights, if only we might glorify Christ, we will find it no great loss to endure injustice that is momentary and light by comparison.

Entrusting our liberty to ChristMatthew 5:41. This verse addresses a peculiarity of life in the empire. A Roman soldier could require anyone to carry a burden for a thousand paces (this would later happen with Simon the Cyrene and the cross). In this hypothetical case, the soldier is surprised by this Christian who keeps going past a thousand, eleven hundred, twelve hundred. The Christian, rather than being offended at being forced to serve, surprises his captor by cheerful, extra service. 

And it is in the extra service, in the second mile, that he has most opportunity to give an answer for the hope that is in him (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). Christians are free in all circumstances, whatever the earthly oppression. For two millennia, masters and captors have discovered that it is impossible to take away the freedom of a heart that cheerfully serves Christ (cf. Ephesians 6:5–8). If we are robbed of earthly liberty, we need not be bitter of heart but rather enjoy that we continue to be free to serve our Kind in heaven.

Entrusting our prosperity to ChristMatthew 5:42. It is difficult, in the prosperity of our culture, to conceive of a society in which almost everyone had to labor just to subsist. The slightest economic or health setback could put them into a hole they couldn’t work out of. The poor depended on kindness, whether by giving or lending, but this kindness was unreliable. Having someone who gave you his attention, instead of turning away, was a rarity that would stir up hope (cf. Acts 3:4–5). 

When a believer has an immediate occasion to help, he should not be wary of taking a financial hit but eager to seize the opportunity to give. The Lord, Who has blessed him to be able to do this, is able to supply all of our needs. We must live as those who are more attached to Him, and His goodness to us, and His glory in/through us, rather than as those who are attached to our possessions. 

It is important to note that all of these instructions are for ourselves. For my brother’s honor, or rights, or liberty, or prosperity, we ought to care and speak and act more than for our own. But this, too, comes not out of a retaliatory or bitter or selfish spirit, but out of love. And knowing the Lord’s own love to us frees us, from self-interest, to love others. 

How steady, and forgiving, and serving, and generous a believer ought to be! This was the point of the just society that God gave to Israel; and, enabling believers to be so is one of the great purposes of building a just society now. But even if our society is not just, yet under Christ, we may still be steady, and forgiving, and serving, and generous!

When have you been insulted? How may your dignity in Christ spare you from being intimidated or shaken by this? Who has infringed upon, or threatened to infringe upon, your rights? How does a readiness to lose even more free you from bitterness and enable you to love your enemy? In what situations have you been compelled into serving? What would it look like for you to serve extra? Whose true neediness has given you an opportunity to be generous?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You that You did not cling to Your grip upon equality with God but made yourself of no reputation and took the form of a slave. Grant that we would be humble and generous, knowing that our interests are safe in Your hands. For, we ask it through Your Name, Lord Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP15 “Within Your Tent, Who Will Reside?” or TPH488 “May the Mind of Christ, My Savior”

No comments:

Post a Comment