"Today we continue our reading of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 6 verse 5 to chapter 7 verse 29. In this reading Jesus provides his disciples with a model prayer and encourages them to express their reliance upon God through persistent prayer and fasting. There is no room for anxiety in the life of a disciple for they know that the Lord will take care of their needs. Jesus encouraged his disciples to attentively listen to what he said and build their lives upon the Word of God." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)We ended the previous passage reading with this challenging verse.
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)And started this passage with this strong warning.
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.Today's passage is the second half of what is referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. I find his teaching here pretty intense and extremely challenging. We go from his opening words of "blessed are the poor in spirit" to "fell with a great crash" and right in the middle "be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect". Woe! Wow!
Sometimes I try to imagine living during the days Jesus lived. Here I imagine that I am in this crowd and know only of the Old Testament writings. Imagining I know nothing of the death of Jesus and his resurrection. The crowd that I am apart of is sitting all around Jesus and some in the crowd are even referring to him as a great prophet from God. Jesus is sitting and teaching us about blessings, God's commandments, the world, and life. What would be my reaction to this message given by Jesus on these rolling hills not too far from Capernaum. To be honest I am not sure I would have left those hills feeling encouraged. I would have probably left confused. My world and values had just been turned completely upside down by this man named Jesus.
Jesus starts his message pointing out that God's Kingdom is for those who are honest with their condition and sincerely acknowledge they need him. Not for those who think they have it all figured out. The Kingdom is for those who are considered by the world's societies as low, weak, and poor. It is for those who have a pure heart and are passionate for what is right. It is for those who are sad and are persecuted for their faith in God. It is for those who show mercy to others and seek peace with those around them. It is these kind of people who have a deep joy that makes them happier than happy. They have a place in God's Kingdom.
Jesus goes on in his message to very specifically challenge those listening. To challenge me. Here is the challenge I hear when I read his message:
Don't hide your faith in God. Sincerely teach and live the words God has given us. Don't commit murder but also don't hold an angry grudge against those around you. Stop hurting people by calling them names. Don't worship God while you have an angry grudge against someone else. Settle your legal claims with others quickley. Don't commit adultery but also be careful how you look at the opposite sex. Don't divorce your spouse. Don't make promises you can't keep. Keep your commitments real- let your yes be yes and your no be no. Don't fight back if you are hit. Don't turn away from those who ask you for things. Love your friends and neighbors, but also love your enemies. Don't ignore your enemies. Pray for them. Be perfect like God is perfect. Don't be a poser. Don't make your faith into a performance for others. Don't be a hypocrite. Forgive others. Don't pretend to be Holy. Don't play to the crowd. Quite going after things that are temporary. Focus on the eternal things of God and his Kingdom. Don't let money control you. Don't become a servant to money. Don't worry about your physical needs, like clothing and food. Don't worry about your security. Don't worry about the future. Don't judge others. Don't focus on the failings of others. Treat others like you would like to be treated. Don't just hear and learn about the teachings of Jesus. Live them.
I feel like Jesus is raising the bar way to high to an unreachable height. In reading this message from Jesus and listing out the challenges I simply find them too difficult to live. Sometimes I may be able to. Sometimes I hit the mark, but probably most of the time I fall short of the high and holy standard of God.
I am comforted that Jesus doesn't leave me alone here at this message of God's high standard. He has not left me here only to fail and fall short. His ministry went on after this message.
Jesus lived his message. He, in practice, met God's holy and high standard. He died living this message. He died having met God's highest standard. He died so my failure to live to the high standard of God's perfection was forgiven. His resurrection and victory over death has given me a way that I can meet the high standard even while failing to do so.
I am working through the E100 Bible Reading Challenge again. You can learn more about my journey and read the other posts completed so far at this link. I encourage you to stop back soon to read another passage.
Please share your own thoughts on this passage in the comment section below or on the Facebook page.