We pick up in the Sermon on the Mount right where we left off on Friday with our gospel readings. We ended with “You are salt and light” and a warning that Jesus had not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.
The trajectory of the Sermon on the Mount is clear – a world upsidedown. Matthew zooms in ever closer on the law, Judaism, and Judaism of his time. And like the zoom lens of a camera, Jesus continues to get closer and closer to home, ending with penetrating focus with a series of warnings about how the law is practiced in his time and his place.
Today Jesus reinterprets various laws, and their traditional meaning. “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or a sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council….”
Jesus takes a more strict approach than the Old Testament law! Murder isn’t just murder, but you are violating that commandment if you get mad? Yes. He does the same with divorce, which was acceptable at the time. Not so here.
Jesus becomes the conservative. He is not throwing out the law. He is raising the bar.
At the end of the day we are left with one central focus – “The religion you all follow is not the true direction your faith and actions need to be taking. There is more to all this.”
This theme of turning things on their head is a common theme. All of our stories seem to get twisted and turned. And in the ultimate “upsidedown” the king of the Jews ends up nailed to a cross, humiliated and defeated, rejected by his own.
Perhaps we should rename this book The Gospel of Upsidedown.