9 “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.”
Making peace means more in Hebrew thought than halting wars or smoothing over rough patches in a relationship. Making shalom – the Hebrew word for peace – means working to restore God’s good creation. In every place. In every heart. In every corner of this planet. Making shalom is holy work and can easily be misunderstood. Yet a time will come, says Jesus, when these holy rebels will be seen for who they are – God’s children, restoring God’s creation.
How and where might you be called to make peace?
Hear my prayer, Holy One...Could you be calling me to make shalom in…
10 “Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”
11 “Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. 12 Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.”
Jesus finishes these blessings or beatitudes saying “happy are” two more times. Happy are people who are harassed because of being on God’s side of what is just and right. Then Jesus gets in the face of his followers. Happy are you. Happy are you when harassed because of me. Notice that Jesus says in verse 10 that the harassed belong to God’s kingdom now and in verse 12 says that the harassed will have a heavenly reward. God’s kingdom exists in the struggles of today and the hope of tomorrow. Faithful living consists of seeing God at work in the present while also waiting expectantly for God’s new heaven and earth. Any harassment we experience is accompanied by a vision of God’s activity beyond our circumstances.
What kinds of things harass you? How does this compare to Jesus’ words?
Hear my prayer, Holy One...Help me to see you at work in..
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. 14 You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.”
These verses give the infant church and the church today a mission statement. All of the descriptions of God’s people in the first 12 verses of the Sermon on the Mount are now condensed and personalized. You (God’s community on earth) are salt. You (citizens of God’s kingdom) are light. You exist to serve the world. To light the way. You are to live the kingdom life in such a way that you flavor the world around you with mercy, justice, peace and hope. Jesus reminds his followers that what we do in the world counts.
How can we lose our saltiness? Our illuminating power?
Hear my prayer, Holy One...Help me to be salt and light in
17 “Don’t even begin to think that I have come to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I haven’t come to do away with them but to fulfill them. 18 I say to you very seriously that as long as heaven and earth exist, neither the smallest letter nor even the smallest stroke of a pen will be erased from the Law until everything there becomes a reality. 19 Therefore, whoever ignores one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called the lowest in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever keeps these commands and teaches people to keep them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 I say to you that unless your righteousness is greater than the righteousness of the legal experts and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus now turns his attention to a new topic - a topic we will explore for the next eleven days. What are the faithful to do with the law of Moses? Does the Jewish law remain in full effect for Christians? Or is the law abolished because of Christ? Here Jesus teaches that neither is true. Jesus teaches that he has come to fulfill and transform the law – to help us go beyond the literal meaning of the law to a deeper appreciation of God’s character and a more faithful obedience to God’s will.
Be prepared. These teachings are challenging. They challenged the superficiality of adherents to the Jewish Law in Jesus time and they challenge our superficial faithfulness today.
When are you inclined to see faith as rules to be followed, rather than a deep, guiding commitment?
Hear my prayer, Holy One...I pray for greater righteousness in…
21 “You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, don’t commit murder, and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell. 23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift at the altar and go. First make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift. 25 Be sure to make friends quickly with your opponents while you are with them on the way to court. Otherwise, they will haul you before the judge, the judge will turn you over to the officer of the court, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 I say to you in all seriousness that you won’t get out of there until you’ve paid the very last penny.”
Jesus’ first example of greater righteousness is introduced in verse 21. He uses the formula “you have heard it said…but I say to you.” Jesus doesn’t replace the law. He points to the heart or meaning of the law, expecting his followers to live by that standard. “You have heard it said do not murder,” says Jesus. That remains in place. “But I say your anger and insults matter as well.” Jesus raises the bar for his followers. The attitudes and intentions of the heart matter as surely as actions.
How do you deal with your attitudes and intentions that are not Godly?
Hear my prayer, Holy One...for my anger and bad intentions toward…