Matthew’s Gospel portrays Jesus as the new Moses, bringing
God’s law and leading God’s people into freedom.
Nowhere is the parallel more apparent than in the readings for
the next two days from the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus expands
upon three of the Ten Commandments intended to lead God’s
people into a new way of life: Do not murder; do not commit
adultery; do not bear false witness.
If you read Jesus’ words in this section and feel overwhelmed,
you are not alone! Imagine if a pastor stood up before
the offering and said, “Wait, before you give your gifts, go reconcile
with anyone who has something against you.” Our churches
would go bankrupt! Imagine if you could be taken to court just
for insulting someone. The litigation would never end!
But what is Jesus actually saying? Apparently, Jesus
believes that carrying anger around, insulting others, and
devaluing brothers and sisters by calling them names can have
consequences as grave as murder. The word translated “anger”
describes not an outburst or fleeting moment of losing it but
rather a sense of seething, underlying rage that takes root as we
continue feeding it. Nurturing such attitudes, Jesus says, will
land us in “the hell of fire.” Words and even thoughts can be as
deadly as the sticks and stones that break others’ bones.
So how do we say yes to God’s new way of life when it
comes to the command not to murder? For Jesus, it means
engaging the hard work of reconciliation as much as the more
visible act of physical restraint. It means transforming our inner
lives as much as our external deeds. How would our society
differ if we chose such a way of life?
God, help me not to stop at external restraint but to deal with the attitudes that strip life away from within so that I may love in a way that is life-giving and abundant. Amen.
How are Christians to understand and relate to the Jewish law? The text from Deuteronomy confronts Israel with a sharp choice: Follow the commandments of Yahweh or bow to the gods of the Canaanites. Choosing the law means choosing a way of life. Psalm 119 praises the Torah as God’s gift bestowed on Israel to be the authentic guide as to how life should be lived. Jesus becomes the authoritative interpreter of the Torah, the one who pushes beyond external behavior to a consistency between disposition and deed. Christians are invited by the text to be different and become what Paul describes as “spiritual people.”
• Read Deuteronomy 30:15-20. How do you go about choosing between the call of God and the call of the idols that surround you?
• Read Psalm 119:1-8. How has keeping God’s command- ments been a joyful experience in your life?
• Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-9. What do you consider to be the “milk” of the gospel versus the “solid food” of the gospel?
• Read Matthew 5:21-37. Which of the “But I say to you” teachings of Jesus surprise you the most? Why?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.