"You Have Heard that it was Said…"

The Sermon on the Mount has been called the “Constitution of Christianity.” Indeed, Christ’s most famous sermon is a treatise on Christian living. In it, Jesus moves from the list of mere “dos” and “don’ts” that defines legalistic religion and addresses the attitudes of our hearts; attitudes that reflect how we feel towards God and our fellow man.
Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in Matthew 5:17-48. Jesus begins this portion of His teaching with a purpose statement, “I have not come to abolish [the Law and the Prophets] but to fulfill them.” He then empowers us to fulfill them. In fact, He states rather plainly that we must in order to enter His kingdom (see v.19-20). What follows is an instruction on the spirit of the law rather than the letter. The Pharisees had become experts on the letter of the law, but had forgotten the spirit of it, creating a joyless religion. Jesus came to give us joy by creating a religion based on our relationship with God rather than our adherence to a moral code, Throughout this section Jesus inserts His commentary on the law by using two distinct phrases: “You have heard that it was said…” and “But I tell you.” Remember, Jesus is not abolishing, He is fulfilling. He is making the Law complete. He knew the human tendency to restrict following God to a list of rules, and He came to correct it.

Unfortunately, history repeats itself. I often find that we are guilty of the sins of the Pharisees; we have reduced the greatness of being a Christian to a “to-do” list. I’m just as guilty as the next person. I often find myself “correcting” a wrong without encouraging the right. If Jesus were to preach to the modern Church, I can’t help but wonder what issues He would address? Please don’t assume that I claim to have some ‘special knowledge’ or insight into the mind of Christ. But what follows is based on a careful reading of the Scriptures, and I think Jesus might say something like this:

“You have heard that it was said,
‘attend church every Sunday.’
But I tell you
Walk with me everyday and live a lifestyle of worship and service.

You have heard that it was said,
‘take communion every week.’
But I tell you
Commune with me every day. Talk to me. Tell me your hopes and fears. Confess your sins and celebrate your victories with me. Listen to me. I want to teach you, correct you and encourage you. Remember me. Remember you were bought at a price. By remembering you will live a better life.

You have heard that it was said,
‘Read your Bible every day’
But I tell you
Meditate on my Word. Digest it. Let it become a part of you. It needs to permeate your mind and heart. Let it become as vital as the food you eat and the air you breathe. Hide it in your heart so that no one will ever steal it from you. Don’t just read it, experience it and put it into action.

You have heard that it was said,
‘Go and evangelize the World’
But I tell you
Love people. I mean really love them. Love them the way that I love them. Make time for them. Listen to them. Meet their needs, even if it means making a sacrifice. In doing so, you are already teaching them about me.

You have heard that it was said,
‘You must be baptized to be saved’
But I tell you
Don’t forget to love me and do not neglect your faith. The new birth that only baptism provides is useless if there is not a new heart that beats for me or a new faith that lives for me.”

Remember, Jesus did not do away with any of the commandments He addressed. He merely raised them to His standard. We need to start reaching for His standard. A standard that demands more than obedience; it demands a relationship with God.

Living for Jesus,

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