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For New King James text and comment, click here.
Matthew 5-6; Luke 6:17-36 Listen
In this passage, we see the following events in Jesus' ministry:
What you must know before you read this passage
All about the Kingdom message
Many people misunderstand aspects of this sermon by Jesus because they don't place it in the proper context. The context is vital. First of all, Jesus came as the Messiah to establish the kingdom on earth prophesied by the Old Testament prophets. Of course it had been prophesied by Daniel and Isaiah that the Jews would reject the initial offer, but nonetheless, the offer had to be made to fulfill Old Testament prophecy. If the Jews had accepted Jesus as their Messiah, the Davidic throne would have been restored at the first advent of Jesus, the Messiah.
That brings us to the second major contextual consideration for this passage, the religious leadership. The priestly families were the Sadducees; they denied two major scriptural doctrines, the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. That doesn't leave much. What makes that even more ironic is the fact that they controlled the priesthood - claimed to be the descendants of David's high priest, Zadok. Then there were the Pharisees. They believed in the supernatural all right, and they believed in all of the Old Testament. Their problem was that they had become an elite class of picky, picky religionists. Over the years they had handed down extra-scriptural traditions which they orally appended to the Law of Moses, having given these oral traditions and laws the same weight as the written Mosaic law. These oral traditions were later (early third century A.D.) compiled into written form, a volume of books known as the Mishnah. They flaunted their law-keeping practices in the faces of everyone else. In their eyes, nobody was as righteous as they were. If they were, they would be Pharisees too. Of course there were the Herodians, but we don't find much written about them. They were more like Sadducees, but their zeal for the ruling family of Herods was their distinction. For more on these three political parties, click here.
So, meet your religious leaders! They were corrupt before God. That's why John the Baptist addressed them as a "generation of vipers" (Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7, see notes). And that's why Christ said in John 8:44 (see notes), "Ye are of your father the devil." As a matter of fact, Jesus mentions the Pharisees in this discourse in Matthew 5:20 when he says, "For 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." Yet, they controlled Jewish thought and practice in the day when Jesus ministered. They had taken law keeping and made it the standard of righteousness. The real standard of righteousness is acquired through a personal relationship with God - always was...always will be. Genesis 15:6 (see notes) says of Abraham, "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." Spiritual righteousness has never been attained by keeping the law, but the Pharisees had manipulated it to make it appear that way. For all effective purposes, the Pharisees and Sadducees had established a false religion.
So, what was the kingdom on earth to look like? Let's look at what is know as the "New Covenant" of Jeremiah 31:31-34 (see notes):
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
What about the Messiah who was prophesied in the Old Testament? Look at Jeremiah 23:5 (see notes):
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
More about the Messiah was prophesied in Isaiah 9:6-7 (see notes):
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Based upon these Old Testament prophecies, what will the Kingdom of God/Heaven look like?
So, let's recap the circumstances in Israel when Jesus began ministering. Jesus is the Messiah. The religious system over the Jews was corrupt. This corrupt influence over the Jewish masses caused them to reject Jesus as Messiah. The Old Testament prophecies detailing the Messiah's suffering were at hand. However, the Jews were offered the Kingdom of God/Heaven; they could have accepted it, but they rejected instead. This sermon (aka "Sermon on the Mount") characterizes the difference between vain religion and true righteousness. The Sadducees and Pharisees practiced vain religion, but they also controlled the religious practice of the Jewish masses. This sermon highlights their hypocrisy and their inconsistencies. This sermon lists the qualities of true righteousness - kingdom-appropriate righteousness. This kingdom being offered is the kingdom on earth prophesied by the Old Testament prophets with the characteristics listed above.
The "beatitudes" (Matthew 5:1-12; Luke 6:20-26)
|1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
|17 And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases;
18 And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed.
19 And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.
20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.
23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
25 Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
First of all, let's establish that both of these accounts record the same occasion of Jesus preaching. At first notice, the Matthew designation in the KJV "he went up into a mountain" would seem to be different from Luke's "stood in the plain." Actually, the Greek phrase in Luke's account specifically records a "topos" (place) with the adjective modifier of "pedinos" which means "level to the feet." In other words, while on the mountain, Jesus chose a spot level enough for the people to stand and listen.
In order to properly understand these verses, please read the section above regarding the "Kingdom message." Both Matthew and Luke are giving an account of the same sermon given by Jesus. People today commonly refer to the "Blessed" verses contained in these chapters as "The Beatitudes." The word "beatitude" means "supreme blessedness." Notice that Luke's list is considerably scaled down as compared to Matthew's list. Many people think way too hard when they read these "beatitudes." Think of these as kingdom equivalents to the "fruit of the Spirit" found in Galatians 5:22-23 (see notes). Together, they form a view of the characteristics of those who are kingdom-appropriate people. Do not use these as stand-alone action/result items. In other words, being "meek," by itself, does not result in inheriting the earth (i.e. entering the Davidic kingdom). However, people with a heart relationship with God are led by God to exhibit the characteristics found in Matthew 5:2-10 and Luke 6:20-26. Consider this: Luke's abbreviated account of this message as compared to Matthew validates the fact that one should understand that these verses address general attitudes about godliness rather than specifics. As I said, sometimes people think waaaay too hard on these so-called "beatitudes."
Now notice something; these attributes of kingdom-appropriate people fly in the face of the lifestyles of the Sadducees and Pharisees. As a matter of fact, these leaders were all about "doing." They would have scoffed at the very idea that God is more pleased with the attitudes reflected in verses 2-10 rather than their "doings." I'm certain that this passage was written as a stark contrast between fake righteousness and true righteousness. True righteousness is a heart relationship with God, not a compliance checklist, as had been practiced by their contemporary Jewish leaders. In other words, in this passage, let us observe all the things that the Sadducees and Pharisees are not. However, when a Believer is led by the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is manifested in his life (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance). Therefore, a life directed by the Holy Spirit captures the qualities of what we know here as "the beatitudes."
Jesus takes a subtle shot at the hypocrisy of the Jewish leadership in verses 11-12. Persecution is inevitable, just like the persecution experienced by the Old Testament prophets. Question: Who persecuted the Old Testament prophets? Answer: The Jewish leadership. And who were Jesus' persecutors and critics? You guessed it - the Jewish leadership.
Example living is important (Matthew 5:13-18)
|13 Ye 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.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither 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.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For 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.
They are told that true Believers do strive to be examples; they are "the light of the world." Moreover, they add the missing component of "salt" to the world. Literally, the "light" of the Messianic Kingdom and the flavor ("salt") will be manifested through those who have an honest and sincere relationship with God...in contrast to the Pharisees who simply comply with the Law of Moses. Then Jesus explains the role of the Mosaic Law. His declaration in verses 17-18 brings into view the "new covenant" (see above) prophesied by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:31-34 (see notes). That new covenant cannot take force until the requirements of the law are fulfilled. This passage is a prophecy of Christ's necessary death on the cross to fulfill the sacrificial requirements of the law.
Many remove verses 17-18 out of their context and promote a doctrine that erroneously requires Gentile Believers to keep the Mosaic Law as a condition of continued salvation in Jesus Christ. THAT'S WRONG! Look closely at what Jesus is saying here, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For 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." Here's an important concept, but let me emphasize it by asking a question first: Did Jesus fulfill the law when he died on the cross? If your answer is "no," then tell me what Paul meant when he said in Colossians 2:14 (see notes), "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." Here's the irony for those who think the Law of Moses is necessary in one's life to continually find favor with God: Virtually none of them actually keep the Old Testament Law. (Click here to read the article on Sabbath keeping which should make the point.) Here's exactly what Jesus was saying in Matthew 5:17-18: The death of Jesus on the cross fulfilled the requirements of the Old Testament Law. And...that's exactly what Paul is emphasizing in Colossians 2:14 (see notes). A correct perspective on the Believer's relationship to the Law of Moses is vital for a complete understanding of the Kingdom message preached by Christ during his earthly ministry.
A sobering declaration from Jesus (Matthew 5:19-20)
|19 Whosoever 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.
20 For 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.
The composition of the attendees are your common, everyday Jews. There is no record of even a sprinkling here of Pharisees. Yet, they get dishonorable mention here in verse 20 with regard to their practice of the Mosaic Law. Jesus says that they are falling short. If there were any present, verse 20 had to simply inflame the Pharisees listening to this message, "For 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." What! They were supposedly the most righteous people living! NOT SO! The Pharisees and scribes were corrupt. Well...if these picky, picky Pharisees are falling short, then what chance does anyone else have of finding favor before God?
You must understand the meaning of "Kingdom of God" and "Kingdom of Heaven" in order to grasp the meaning of these two verses...or the whole sermon. These terms are formal identifiers of the Messianic Kingdom on earth as prophesied by the Old Testament prophets. These terms do not describe Heaven above. So, when that Kingdom is established, who resides there? Those residents are to be made up of those who have an authentic heart relationship with God according to the "new covenant" of Jeremiah 31:31-34 (see notes) - not those who simply appear legally compliant with the Law of Moses. It is in that context that these Pharisees get mentioned.
If this concept of the Kingdom of Heaven/God is confusing to you, you'll want to go back to the top and read the introduction (click here).
Are these hypocritical Pharisees really keeping the law? (Matthew 5:21-37)
|21 Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22 But 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.
23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
25 Agree 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.
26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
29 And 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.
30 And 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.
31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32 But 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.
33 Again, 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:
34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:
35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
These comments, introduced in verses 19-20 (see above), are intended to serve as an indictment against the legalism of the Pharisees. They practiced actions while ignoring the condition of the heart. To them, it was all about doing. These verses accentuate the sinful conditions of their hearts and show that, while they appear to keep the law, in reality, they fall miserably short in heart and attitude. He lists these examples. Read this passage, and you will see that the Pharisees were, in actuality, way guilty of violating the spirit of the Law.
The examples that Jesus lists in verses 21 to 37 are designed to emphasize the failure of the Pharisees to actually keep the Law in verse 20. Keep in mind: The Pharisees were all about outward compliance. To them righteousness was compliance and had nothing to do with attitude. Jesus emphasizes that outward compliance falls short as a standard for righteousness because of the wicked motivations of one's heart and mind. It is ironic that Jesus means to use these verses to expose the hypocrisy of the falling-way-short Pharisees, but many misdirected Believers today use these verses to add a new layer to the Mosaic Law for their fellow Believers to keep. Here's the bottom line on Matthew 5:21-37, and it's found in Romans 3:23 (see notes), "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Jesus means to expose the wickedness of the human heart and thus emphasize the need for authentic righteousness. When we pick through the list of sins found in these verses, identify and promote abstinence from them as an enhancement to personal righteousness, I'm afraid we miss the point Jesus was making to these hypocritical Pharisees about the nature of sin.
With that in mind, let's look at those concepts of sin dealt with by Jesus here:
Jesus seems to be listing common abuses of the Law of Moses by the Pharisees themselves in these verses...and their shortcomings. In other words, they were all about doing and the appearance of compliance, but with corrupt hearts before God.
So, how will you treat your enemies? (Matthew 5:38-48; Luke 6:27-36)
| 38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But 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;
45 That 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.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
| 27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.
30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
Here's another interesting characteristic of the Sadducees and Pharisees: they were all about vengeance. Jesus introduces this section with a reference to the Old Testament Laws regarding punishment for bodily harm when he says in verse 38, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:" He, of course, is making reference to Exodus 21:24 (see notes), Leviticus 24:20 (see notes) and Deuteronomy 19:21 (see notes). These Sadducees and Pharisees practiced vengeance to an extreme. "Longsuffering" wasn't even in their vocabulary! They were all about getting even. They overlooked the compassion components in the Law of Moses, but jumped on the punitive. Jesus mentions a few examples of the compassion found throughout the Law of Moses in verses 39-42.
The Sadducees and Pharisees continually sought to murder Jesus. It wasn't just Jesus; they seemed to take joy in persecuting those who, in their opinion, fell short in keeping their rendition of the law. Notice verse 43, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy." The first part is based upon Leviticus 19:17-18 (see notes). Of course there is nothing in the Law of Moses nor rabbinical literature that endorses hating one's enemies. I suppose the Sadducees and Pharisees had inserted that as part of their oral tradition. However, there is no question that these Jewish leaders had a hatred toward what they considered Roman oppression...and what do you call the attitude that resulted in the crucifixion of Jesus. Here's the reality: they felt completely justified in hating that which did not forward their cause. What's more, they had a disdain for the "little people," so to speak - those who did not practice their brand of Judaism to the same extent as they did. As you read through the Gospel accounts which record the confrontations with Jesus by these Pharisees, you see Jesus pointing out their enormous hypocrisy. Their love for others outside their own circle of influential Jewish leaders was virtually non existent.
Jesus introduces a new concept not found in the Law of Moses, per se, in verse 44 when he says, "But 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." Jesus is, as was stated previously, introducing true spirituality to a group of people who had only been beaten over the head with "doing" and "vengeance."
Jesus: Prayer and fasting done right! (Matthew 6:1-18)
|1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Well, it's obvious that everything Jesus has taught so far flies in the face of the practice of Sadducees and Pharisees, but he's not done. These hypocrites do their alms (help the needy) only when it enhances their reputation. They want to be seen and praised for their actions. Notice verse 2; their reward is the glory of men and not from God.
And then there's the issue of public prayer. Who are those guys that periodically during the day stop what they're doing and begin chanting repetitive phrases out loud in the presence of everyone. Why...they're Pharisees! That's one of their badges of honor. That's their way of elevating themselves above the rest of the Jewish populace. That's their way of saying, "We're holier than any of you!" Jesus says, here's the deal on prayer: Real prayer is done in private, and it isn't comprised of a series of recitations. Real prayer is communication from our hearts to God's. Jesus insists, "Don't recite phrases as a substitute for prayer." Now here's the ironic part. Jesus gives an example of a prayer with meaningful components in verses 9-13. He's demonstrating prayer that is from the heart and meaningful - not one of reciting memorized phrases. And so what do people today do with this model prayer? They memorize and recite it (aka "The Lord's Prayer") as a substitute for real, heart-felt prayer. Admit it; that is ironic, isn't it? Incidentally, the prayer we pray in public before a meal is for the purpose of identifying ourselves with Christ as our Savior, not for the purpose of lording ourselves over others as the Pharisees did. It's a heart thing, you see. By the way, Jesus also proposes this prayer model much later in Luke 11:2-4 (see notes).
There's a carefully chosen term in verse 7, "heathen" (Greek: ethnikos). That word usually refers to pagan Gentiles. It is interesting, though, that Jesus refers to prayer "in the synagogues" in verse 5 as he refers to the practice of the Pharisees. It would appear that Jesus intends for these hypocritical Pharisees to be likened to heathen Gentiles when they do their repetitious prayers.
What about forgiveness (verses 14-15)? We'll see as we read through the Gospels that the Pharisees were not known as big-time forgivers. Forgiveness of the weaknesses of others would only serve to diminish the importance in their minds of their extreme pursuit for righteous-looking reputations.
How about fasting (verses 16-18)? In the Old Testament the Jews only fasted on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31, see notes; Leviticus 23:27-32, see notes; Numbers 29:7, see notes). Later on when they returned from Babylonian exile, four other annual fasts were observed by Jews (Zechariah 7:5, see notes; Zechariah 8:19, see notes). We see from Luke 18:12 (see notes) that some of the Pharisees fasted twice a week; we have no idea why, but here we get a sense that they did it for recognition (verses 16-18). Jesus tells them to fast if they want to. However, if they're looking for their fast to hold any weight before God, they had better stop doing it for men's praise and start doing it as a personal matter between them and God. For a complete overview concerning fasting, click here to read the notes on Isaiah 58.
One's rewards should be heavenly (Matthew 6:19-34)
|19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Verses 19 to 34 drive home a spiritual concept foreign to the Sadducees and Pharisees: It's not about show; it's about pleasing God. They were all show. In that process of show, their treasures were being laid up on earth rather than Heaven. In verses 22-23, it is the eye that provides the light for one's body. Blind eyes provide one with only darkness. Obviously the metaphor here refers to spiritual light as opposed to spiritual darkness or authentic righteousness compared to fabricated righteousness - just like the corrupt religious leaders practiced. You must choose one or the other (verse 24). Is your master to be the praise of others or the praise of God? Jesus encourages his audience to demonstrate a true relationship with God that ignores haughty appearances and lays up treasure in heaven (verses 19-21 and verse 33). This message flies in the face of Pharisaical practice.
In the remaining verses here Jesus encourages a life of dependence on God. The point is this: We don't really have control over the events of our lives anyway; only God does. Therefore, being in sync with God is key to a life of righteousness and joy. The rest? Well...it's covered in verse 33, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." When one's first priority is pleasing God, all the right stuff follows.