Sermon on the Mount Recap to Oaths
The overview is important because the path to the deeper Christian life involves understanding and living by the core concepts of Jesus’ way of life.
The overview is my favorite part.
Jesus is making an audacious claim that through him the “good life” is now available to all. This good life is framed in kingdom terms. That’s important. It’s not church, it’s not religiosity, it’s life lived in a kingdom.
This kingdom is advancing against the world system—the various kingdoms of this world, including the United States. We are not seizing power by military force or power plays, we seize power by us accessing a higher power for our various activities of the day, and living by the perspective that everything in this life—all we are and all we have—has been given to us by God and should be used wisely in furthering his Kingdom—God makes us stewards of his Kingdom.
Salt and light:
When we live the good life, it naturally attracts people, like light shining in the darkness, and like salt in food. Not only do we attract people, but we stabilize the lives of those around us.
God’s intent was to undo the brokenness of humanity, which the Bible calls “Sin” through his family, his covenant community, the kind of community that lives by a higher law than the laws of the land—we live by God’s law, which until Christ, was unable to be truly birthed and sustained in a group of people with longevity, passing from generation to generation.
Through Christ, which Revelation unveils is the only one who is worthy to open the scroll—the only one who is able to accomplish God’s plan for humanity—a new way of life, the “good life” is now available. This life is true righteousness greater than the Scribes and the Pharisees.
It’s not a cop out either, through the vicarious atonement, “Jesus’ righteousness is imparted to us, so we don’t have to be righteous.” No! Standing justified before God through the finished work of the cross, imparts Christ’s righteousness to us, so that our deeds, words, and thoughts come under the Lordship of Christ and the direction of the Holy Spirit, which gives us the ability to truly be righteous in this life. A process we call sanctification.
We can only come under the Lordship of Jesus by obeying his commands and/or teachings. We take his yoke upon us. We obey through the abiding and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, which gives life to our mortal bodies.
So now, we come to the teachings of Jesus. We want to remember that Jesus is not going to say things in a straight forward way, he does this to fulfill prophecy that the people would be ever hearing but never understanding, ever seeing but never perceiving, demonstrating the hardness of human hearts, which fundamentally are in rebellion against God.
But Jesus, also does this because as the maker of human hearts and original prototype of its design, he understands that in order for the hardness of the human heart to soften, it must be drawn in by its own accord past the shallow, to find the deeper meaning behind the words. This process of investigation softens the heart, and attracts a person into the deeper Christian life lived in God’s kingdom.
So one of the Rosetta Stones we can use for interpreting the Deeper meaning of the Sermon on the Mount, is asking the question, “For what kind of a person would this be true?”
Jesus then comes out of the hatch with a specific and strategic set of statements describing people who defy shallow Christianity. Basically he is going to say that following the law is not about never crossing moral lines (although the lines should still never be crossed). It’s about the character of the human heart to process the aspects of life through the lens of God’s heart.
Knowing which moral lines to cross or not cross, misses the point. Because the sin within the human heart always is drawn toward how close to the line can we get. We believe maybe if subconsciously that God doesn’t actually have our best interest in mind. That on the other side of the line of good and evil, as long as we don’t venture too far into the yard of evil, we will find true happiness.
So he starts with the line of murder. We know we should not venture so far into the yard of evil that we commit murder, but we are happy to entertain anger, and to verbally put those who make us angry “in their place” because after all they are a lesser person.
The person who defies the shallow waters of angry living, only does so by the surrendering of their will, to the higher will of God. It is at the foot of the cross where we come to lay down our wants and desires that the journey into God’s Great Kingdom begins. And so, the softening of the human heart through a deep faith in God that is able to trust him in uncertain circumstances becomes the foundation of our relationships, which results in angry free living.
Anger toward you:
Then Jesus takes this to the court, the kind of person who would rather take unnecessary losses than to foster enmity with another human.
The kind of person who see’s their worship and sacrifices to God as flowing from His heart for broken people. We would then leave our sacrifice on the alter, to go and seek and save, to reconcile a lost friend back to our “fold.”
Anger is the emotion that results when our will is violated.
Anger, contempt, condemnation, which leads to murder are all resolved when we lay our will aside for the will of Christ, who is willing to take a loss he shouldn’t have to take to reconcile a precious and irreplaceable brother.
O! If we all would only get this simple principle our churches would never again become enslaved to shallow Christianity.
So you see the flow of our will being laid down, in view of a “good life” that is advancing against the world system, which places its highest priority on the preciousness or dignity of human life.
Now Jesus takes us even deeper after addressing the preciousness of human life. By having are hearts move from the value of a person over our stuff toward the sacredness of the person before the eyes of God. Now the heart cannot look upon a person for sexual gratification, because its lens of value is not for personal pleasure from the person, but from God’s pleasure of His child.
Our will to God’s will.
Our mission to God’s mission.
Our view of people to God’s view of people.
Our commitment then mirrors God’s commitment.
Jesus’ statement while referring to divorce is not about divorce, but about covenant faithfulness. As God was faithful to Israel even when they were not faithful to him, we now have hearts that are committed to people not because of the advantage or pleasure they give to us, but because our sacred view of people and their worth becomes what we devote our lives to. This sacred and enduring devotion is best seen through human marriage; which like life in the kingdom, marriage is a daily life of partnering with God to create the “good life” for others. Just as the sacred marital act of sex partners with God to create a new human life. Devotion to your spouse results in a united devotion to your children to bring about the good life for them through the collaborated effort to follow God’s will of extending the good life to all of humanity.
This is why adultery is so devastating to the soul. It violates our design for devotion and severs the organized partnership to bring about the good life. Adultery shifts the focus from our secured good life in Christ that partners with God to bring about the good life for all, rescuing them from the world system, and makes the focus about getting what we want from others no matter the cost.
Finally we get to our present section on “Oaths.” Do you see how the sermon while at the shallow end of the pool looks like a collage of random teachings, but at the deep end of pool, beneath the surface, each topic is perfectly flowing into the next. We are talking about devotion in life with our family and now Jesus shifts to our devotion to others with our word.
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
For what kind of a person would it be true that they would not swear by anything? Their yes is yes, and their no is no.
Under what circumstances do people swear oaths in the first place?
We swear oaths when a person does not believe that we have their best interest in mind.
Even though they don’t believe in our devotion to them, we still want something from them. So the oath is most often a sign of a lack of trust in each other. Instead of dealing with the lack of trust, building rapport, demonstrating that we can be trusted, we turn to oaths to help people feel certain about what we are saying or doing, even though they don’t feel certain.
If we become the kind of person that everyone knows will always show up and fulfill their word, then the oaths become unnecessary. A Yes is yes, and a no is no.
Now, Jesus takes this even further, and we says anything beyond a yes or a no is from the Evil One. That is, it belongs to the other kingdom—the world system.