Matthew's Book Leader Notes - Session 8
Matthew 5:38-48 The passages in this session cover two separate but connected thoughts. As you might expect, in both sections, Jesus challenges the accepted paradigm and stretches our perception of what it means to be part of His Kingdom.
In verses 38-42, Jesus speaks to resistance and retaliation. The retaliation element comes from the Old Testament (Exodus 21) laws about fair punishment for crimes that cause injury to others. The intent of the laws was to ensure that punishments did not become excessive. Over time, however, the people began to see the laws as approval to retaliate when offended. Jesus uses hyperbolic language again to emphasize the shift He is making. He exaggerates the examples (let them slap both cheeks, give them tunic and cloak, etc.) in order to make His point. Verse 41 would have been especially shocking because it refers to the occupying Roman Empire. By law, a Roman soldier or official could ask people in an occupied country to carry their gear for a mile so that they didn’t have to carry it themselves. This was a slap in the face to the occupied people and would be a prime example of everything that is wrong with the Roman rule. And Jesus says to “go the extra mile” (I think this is where that saying comes from) rather than resist or grudgingly comply.
In verses 43-48, Jesus gives some of the most difficult teaching to practically live out. He says we should actually love our enemies and even pray for those that are seeking to do us harm! He even goes so far to say that loving those who are good to us or taking care of our friends and family isn’t that noteworthy. We should definitely love those folks and take care of them, but Jesus says even barbarians and corrupt people do that! Following Jesus means learning to love even the people that do wrong and have no love for us. Verse 45 shows us that God lovingly cares for all mankind regardless of their love, or lack thereof, for Him. Verse 48 lets us know that God should be our gauge, not what we can do or what comes naturally to us. God's love is so perfect and complete that He even loves the people who hate Him. That should be our example, our model, and our goal.
In both ways, Jesus is calling us to lay down ourselves (our rights, our self-preservation, our pride, etc.) in order to love others like He loves.