New Testament Week 7: “Do not think I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets” – Matt 5, Luke 6

We are back to Luke and Matthew this week and there are some interesting differences. Matthew, in probably Jesus’s most famous sermon, gives us much more detail related to the Sermon on the Mount. Luke gives less information, and a more summarized version of the sermon. All of this adds to my suspicion that Luke’s main source was Mary and the already written accounts of Mark and Matthew. Meanwhile it’s seems Matthew’s source was some of the disciples. In any case, we get some good stuff in these two chapters.

The ideas and principles that Jesus teaches in these two chapters are fundamental to explaining how to live the gospel and how we should seek to interact with those around us. To many of us we have heard these teachings for much of our lives, so it seems normal, but at this time these ideas were radical. Teaching in direct opposition to the religious ideals and beliefs of the day. I would argue that if we are honest and humble, we will see that they challenge how we view religion even now in our time.

What I love the most, as I think about how I can become a better disciple of Christ, is that no matter what phase of life we are in these chapters and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount can challenges to be different and more like Christ. I hope as you study and teach this lesson you can think of how specifically you can become more like the disciple Jesus is challenging us to become.


– Jesus is framing how we become divine in opposition to traditional views of piety and strength with the Beatitudes.

– Christ’s law is a higher and more challenging law but accompanied with His grace.

– Jesus Christ is the foundation that we must build our house (testimony) and our life purpose. Any other foundation will be destroyed when the waves come.

Context and Timeline:

– Law (Torah) and the Prophets (Nevi’im) is a phrase that we often interpret as the Law of Moses and the teaching of all the Prophets separately. However, the Torah meant the first 5 books of Moses and the Nevi’im would have meant the subsequent books of the Old Testament that were usually called “the Prophets” and it likely included other things purportedly said by Prophets. However, there is a third important part of the Jewish law called the Mishnah.  The Mishnah is collection of writings based on the Oral Law that was passed down through generations. The Oral Law was the interpretations of the Torah and was the basis for the expanding of customs and requirements to the original laws given to Moses.  An example is the custom that people should not be healed on the Sabbath, or when the Pharisees accuse Jesus and his disciples of breaking the Sabbath when they eat the wheat while walking the fields.

– The primary difference between disciples and apostles at the moment they were called, was that the Apostles were called to be missionaries, to spread the message and seek to gather people in as disciples. 

– Many bible scholars look at the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus becoming the New Moses. He goes to the mount, leaving his followers below, and establishes a new Law to fulfill the old Law.  He teaches his messengers (the apostles) and charges them to spread the new Law.  

– When I was a missionary there was a lot talk about “The Spirit of the Law” and “The Letter of the Law.” The conversations usually revolved around breaking the “letter” to fulfill the “spirit.” I always found myself torn during the conversation, but I think as you look at Jesus’s actions and His words that in general The Spirit of the Law is a higher standard and a challenge for us to live, while The Letter of the Law is the guide to learning the higher law.

– The basis for the term described by Jesus of immoral behavior has been translated as fornication at times, but the word is porneias and it signifies sexual impropriety or impurity and is the basis for the word pornography, so the immoral behavior could have been referring to all sexually impure actions or desires, not just the actual act of sex. 

– The significance of Jesus going to the mount to pray, to teach His disciples, and later the Mount of transfiguration is something we need to understand. To the ancients, going up to the mount was their way of separating themselves from the world and getting close to God’s presences.  There is a very important idea at the heart of their worship and ours.  The idea is Holy and Profane.  Holy meant God and also meant the Temple.  The Temple was based on the Mountains where God visited man and so going to the mount to commune with God was both the Temple and the height of holiness.  The fall represented man becoming profane, and atonement is the process of becoming Holy once more.  So, when Jesus goes to the mount he is going from profane to Holy as he seeks to commune with God, and his disciples in this instance were doing the same thing.  Going from profane (letter of the law) to Holy (higher law) and communing with God (Jesus) in the Holy place (the mount or the temple). 

In Luke’s version of the story we begin with Jesus and the disciples being accused by Pharisees of breaking the Sabbath as they walked through wheat fields to find food on their journey two weeks after the Passover, which we discussed last week. Jesus rebuts their argument by recounting an episode when David was in need and the Priest allowed him to eat the shew-bread of the temple, which was against the Law. He then states emphatically his divinity by saying, “The Son of Man (Jesus) is the Lord of the Sabbath (Jehovah).”

In the second Sabbath story we find Jesus at a synagogue, presumably worshiping according to custom, and the Scribes and Pharisees were watching to see if they could catch him breaking the Law. Jesus senses the trap and so he calls attention to the situation and poses the great question, “Is it lawful to do good (heal someone) on the Sabbath or to do evil (lay a trap for someone)?” This immediately undercuts the Scribe and Pharisee’s intent and so Jesus heals the man.

I think it is an important discussion to have on what the Sabbath means to us and what we believe is the best way to make the Sabbath something that helps us become closer to God.

Luke, like John, gives the actual calling of the twelve apostles at this point in the ministry. Luke’s account explains that Christ went up a mountain for the night to pray. The mountain represented a place to be close to God and after his night of prayer he called his twelve apostles. They were now officially enlisted in this cause of spreading the message of the Messiah.

Not long after this calling and after more miracles were performed, there began to be crowd of people following Jesus. They were looking to be healed, cleansed, taught or whatever they could to be part of his growing following. The accounts seem to indicate at this point he took his disciples, not the whole following, and went up the mountain to have a discussion. There is some question about what part of the Sermon on the Mount was spoken to just the disciples for them to teach, or to the whole crowd. The text seems to indicate, at least in the beginning, the message was to his disciples.

Whether or not the sermon was taught just to the disciples or to the whole crowd is something worth thinking about, but the message is one of the best we can engage in. Here we get Jesus’s most direct lesson on how we can become more divine, how we can become more like Him, how we can become the best versions of ourselves.

Luke’s message is a more abbreviated version of Matt 5-7, so I will use Matthew’s version as the primary for the story this week and then combine Luke and Matthew 6-7 in next week’s lesson.

Jesus begins the famed sermon with what is known as the Beatitudes. It is a list of character traits that Jesus says will be blessed and follows the trait with blessing. All of the traits relate with each other in that they are representative of the people Christ was ministering too and seemed in opposition to the traits of the leadership of the Jews.

  • Poor in Spirit – Kingdom of Heaven
  • Mourn – Comforted
  • Meek – Inherit the Earth
  • Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness – Filled
  • Merciful – Receive Mercy
  • Pure in Heart – See God
  • Peacemakers – Children of God
  • Persecuted – Kingdom of Heaven and Reward in Heaven

Studying the beatitudes is something I think we can all benefit from and especially in teaching our kids. We often find ourselves just telling our kids what to do or what not to do, but here we get to talk about traits that we can develop and why they are beneficial. I also want to point out that each of them can be used when trying to live the higher law Jesus teaches later.

Next, we get two of the first parables from Jesus. He compares his disciples and followers to both salt and a light on a hill. He then emphasizes how important it is for the salt to keep its flavor and the light to be bright for people to see. Disciples must convey the source of their discipleship, that of Jesus Christ and his gospel. He is telling them and us that we must represent the things he is teaching for the message to truly spread to the world.

Before Jesus begins his efforts to redefine how the Law and the Prophets are understood, he explains that his purpose is not to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them. He makes it clear that he is not attempting to provide justification for not trying to keep commandments, but he is also showing us that there is more than meets the eye with commandments.

Anger – 
The first commandment Jesus tackles is “Do Not Kill” and he breaks this down to include a few things: 1) Anger can lead to danger, 2) Cursing and verbally attacking someone is wrong, 3) If you have a dispute or hard feelings toward someone seek to reconcile before you bring your offerings before God.

When I read this section, I actually laugh a little because Jesus is pulling no punches here. He goes right to the heart of something that affects us all, but He also knows is the source of so much pain and discomfort in our lives. Enmity with our fellow man is the source of the worst evils in life. I don’t think being angry is wrong, only that it is dangerous when left unchecked. If we can use the beatitudes as a guide when we are angry, we can seek to be meek, or act as a peacemaker, or humble ourselves so we are poor in spirit leading to reconciliation with those we are angry with.

Fidelity – 
Next He speaks to us about the commandments related to “Adultery and Divorce”. Jesus clearly knew there was evil in the way this law was being practiced, as men at the time could divorce their wives and marry someone knew as much as they wanted, but if a woman were to do that she would be accused and convicted of adultery. He knew that the men were taking advantage of this law by marrying whoever they wanted to avoid being adulterers according to the law. So He calls them out and basically says that fidelity to our spouses, and I think He is also implying fidelity to God as well, is built around recognizing our weakness and doing what we can to overcome it rather than indulge it.

Indulging in our own desires at the detriment to those we love and have committed to is something that will always lead to pain.

Honesty – 
The oath culture of the Israelites is something that we have a hard time understanding in our modern times. To break an oath in Israel was one of the worst things a person could do. Death by your own hand is something that would be required in many instances of breaking an oath. This is something that lead to the suicide of Judas Iscariot. This tradition also led people in authority to force oaths upon people that controlled and ruined their lives by binding them to things that went against what they believed or caused harm to those they loved.

Jesus is saying that your honesty and integrity should be known to everyone and that rather than making oaths or forcing others to make oaths that you should be known as a person who will be honest in every situation.

Love and Humility
The final part of chapter 5 gives us some of the most challenging teaching that come from the Savior. He uses “An Eye for an Eye and Love your Neighbor” as the commandment, but then teaches us 3 things that require a lot more from us:

  • Turn the other cheek
    • If someone strikes you, instead of retaliating we should be humble and offer them to strike us again. We have heard this, but I think the next part my be more applicable in our day. If someone sues us for our tunic then we should give that and our outer coat also. Wow! This is a completely different way of experiencing life than what we typically do.
  • Love those who hate and persecute you
    • If you only love those who love you, then how are you improving, how are you better than the worst people who also love and treat with those they love. Learning to love those who we have hard feelings for is much more challenging to our souls, but Christ says it will make us better.
  • The sun shines on and the rain falls on everyone
    • I think this is a tough saying for most of us. We want to believe that if we do good then we will have success in this life and we also want to believe that if people do bad that they will not be rewarded. I’m sure we have all said, “Cheaters never prosper” and the like. However, Jesus calls us out by saying the sun will shine on the good and the bad, and the rain will fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. This forces us into an uncomfortable perspective that we need to learn how to see everyone how God sees them, as His children.

Christ is challenging us to be different, to be better, to be like Him. This takes awareness and humility. I think this lesson can be very valuable to us and our children. The challenges relate to us all at every phase of life, but the challenges can make our life better and our relationships more meaningful.

Why are all the character traits Jesus is saying are blessed in direct opposition to what is traditionally considered the valuable traits? Does this mean the opposing traits are bad? Is there some way to merge the traits Jesus is emphasizing with other traits to make a sort of Super-trait?

What is so important about a higher law? Since we know we will likely fail at the higher law much of the time, is the value in forcing us to need Christ’s grace? Could it be that the challenge of improving ourselves brings the learning we need to have love and compassion for others in their challenges?

Our world is so full of divergent opinions, volatility, hatred, and tribalism what can Jesus’s teaching here tell us about our role in bring peace to the turmoil? What specific things can we do to be peacemakers in our life and other’s lives?

Key Moment or Scripture: Luke 6:46-49
46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?47 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
49 But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. 

Lately I have been thinking a lot about our affinity to “-isms” like liberalism, conservatism, Mormonism, feminism, capitalism, or secularism. I would say that most people could place themselves into an “-ism” or two, or three. When I read this scripture, I am reminded that we should never let any of these “-isms” become our foundations. Jesus Christ should be our foundation. His teachings, example, love, mercy and grace as our foundation encourage us to reconsider extremism in all our points of view, they challenge us to find ways to unify not divide, and they most importantly encourages us to be willing to admit we could be wrong and there could be a better way.

This doesn’t mean “-isms” are bad, they aren’t, but when they are what we build our house upon, over Jesus and His gospel, then when the storm comes our foundation may not be strong enough. We must work to build our foundations on Christ and let that foundation inform our life and ideas, not let the ideas around us inform our beliefs in Christ.

Final Thoughts:
Just as Jesus did not seek to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them. I believe that when we bring the attitude and character traits of the beatitudes to any situation we will not be destroying but fulfilling. We will make any situation, conflict, or relationship better and more divine. The lessons of the Sermon on the Mount challenge us and show us the path to become divine, to become like Jesus Christ.