Matthew 5

A. Introduction

1. Material

a. Matthew 5-7 (“Sermon on the Mount” – phrase goes back to Augustine 392-396 AD)

b. Luke 6:20-40 (“Sermon on the Plain”)

Note: Must be mountainous region with some level areas.

c. Comparison

i. Except for Luke’s woes (Luke 6:24-26) and two proverbs (Luke 6:39-40), all of Luke has parallels in Matthew

ii. All parts of Luke, except for golden rule, are all in same order as Matthew

2. Harmony Theories

a. Common Written Source (Q)

i. Matthew (perhaps) Expands

ii. Luke (likely) Selects

b. Fabrication

i. Matthew takes various teachings from Christ’s ministry and gathers them up front to show Christ as new Moses (cf. Sinai)

c. Apostolic Record

i. Christ delivered the Sermon

ii. Matthew as eye-witness delivers it extensively (though not completely)

iii. Luke records selections

iv. Christ probably repeated key elements of programmatic teaching throughout ministry

3. Setting

a. Inaugurates Second Phase of Galilean Ministry

b. Has Just Chosen Twelve (Luke 6:12-16)

c. On Mountain near Sea of Galilee

4. Addresses

a. Disciples (Matt 5:1; cf. Luke 6:12-16)

b. crowds (Matt 7:28; Luke 6:20a)

5. Genre

a. Summary

b. “Epitome”: “systematic synthesis” (H.D. Betz): “a condensation of a larger work … for a specific purpose. Its characteristics include brevity and precision in selection and formulation.”


B. Structure

1. H.-D. Betz: Matthew Luke

Mt. 5:3-16: Exordium Mt. 6:20b-26: Exordium

Mt. 5:17-7:12: Central Section Mt. 6:27-45: Main Body

Mt. 7:13-23: Concluding Section Mt. 6:46-49: Peroration

Mt. 7:24-27: Peroration

2. Hendriksen

Mt. 5:3-16: Citizens of the Kingdom

Mt. 5:17-7:12: Righteousness of the Kingdom

Mt. 7:13-27: Exhortation to Enter the Kingdom

3. J. W. Beeke

Mt. 5:3-12: The Distinguishing Marks and the Blessed Privileges of the true Subjects of the Kingdom of God

Mt. 5:13-16: The Position and Duties of the True Subjects of the Kingdom of God in this World

Mt. 5:17-48: The Obedience of the True Subjects of the Kingdom of God to God’s Law (contrasted with the only outward interpretation and obedience of the law by the self-righteous believer)

a. The permanency and unity of the law in the Old and New Testaments (Mt. 5:17-19)

b. The righteousness required by the law (Mt. 5:20)

c. The spirituality, meaning, and breath of the law exemplified in its requirements concerning (Mt. 5:21-48)

d. Anger and murder (Mt. 5:21-26)

e. Lust and Adultery (Mt. 5:27-37)

f. Lying and Oath Making (Mt. 5:37-42)

g. Selfish Love or Gracious Love (Mt. 5:43-48)

6:1-10: The Worshiping of God by the true Subjects of the Kingdom of God (contrasted with the only outward worship of the self-centered and self-righteous believer.

a. Almsgiving (Mt. 6:1-4)

b. Praying (Mt. 6:5-15)

c. Fasting (Mt. 6:16-18)

6:19-34: The Loving of God by the true subjects of the Kingdom of God

a. A Wholehearted Serving of God (Mt. 6:19-24)

b. A Wholehearted Trusting in God (Mt. 6:25-34)

7:1-12: The Loving of others by the True Subjects of the Kingdom of God

a. Self-righteous judging of others condemned (Mt. 7:19-24)

b. Non-discriminating liberality forbidden (Mt. 7:6)

c. Prayer for all gracious gifts commanded (Mt. 7:7-11)

d. Golden Rule conclusion (Mt. 7:12)

7:13-27: Self-examinational Tests of who are the true Subjects

a. Wide or narrow way (Mt. 7:13-14)

b. Appearance or Fruits (Mt. 7:15-20)

c. Talker or Doer (Mt. 7:21-23)

d. Hearer or Doer (Parable of Wise and Foolish Builder) (Mt. 7:24-27)

C. The Interpretation (Doriani, 4-11)

1. Thomas Aquinas

Two tiers of obedience; one required; one option – “counsels of perfection”

However, this is never explicit; in fact, the opposite is the case.

2. Lutheran Theology

Jesus’ law is a tutor to lead to Christ

3. Liberal Theology

Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of Man

4. Existential Theology

Guide to Authentic Living

5. Doriani

A Guide to Life in the Kingdom

a. Jesus’s disciples are his primary audience, and they already know about grace.

b. The sermon can prepare one for the gospel, when they see their inability to obey him

c. The sermon is an invitation to come to God: 2 ways, 2 fruits, 2 prayers; 2 houses

d. The sermon leads to Christ by virtue of its placement in the gospel – on the way to the cross.

D. Theme

1. Christ as Teacher / Fulfiller of an Eminent Righteousness

a. New Moses

b. New Israel

i. Mt. 5:17: “fulfill” (cf. Mt. 3:15: “fulfill all righteousness”

ii. Mt. 5:18: “fulfill”

Note: Dale C. Allison, Jr., “Indeed the Sermon is itself a Christological document” (EDB, 1186-1187)

2. Charter of the Kingdom

a. Its Heavenly Origin

b. Its Blessed Citizens

c. Its Unsurpassed Character

d. its Eminent Ethic

e. Its Necessary Entry

f. Its Doleful Corollary

Note: “The sermon sees all through the eyes of eternity. It does not so much look forward, from the present to the consummation, as from the consummation to the present” (Dale Allison, EBD)

Note: “Matt 5-7 presents the unadulterated will of God because it proclaims the will of God as it will be lived when the kingdom comes in its fullness. This is why the Sermon is so heedless of all earthly contingencies, why it always blasts shallow moralism” (Dale Allison, EBD).

E. Exposition of Chapter 5

Structure Discourse 1: Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1–7:29)

Mt. 5:1-2 Narrative Introduction: The Setting of the Sermon

Mt. 5:3-6 Approval in Relating to God

Mt. 5:7-10 Approval in Relating to People

Mt. 5:11-16 The Distinctiveness of the Disciples

Jesus and the Bible (Mt. 5:17–48)

Mt. 5:17-20 General relationship

Mt. 5:21-48 Specific ethical application: Six examples

Anger and abusive speech (Mt. 5:21–26)

Adultery and lust (Mt. 5:27–30)

Divorce and adultery (Mt. 5:31–32)

Vows (Mt. 5:33–37)

Retaliation (Mt. 5:38–42)

Loving one’s enemies (Mt. 5:43–48)


Christ Himself is the King of the Kingdom and He brings the very substance of the Kingdom. It turns human and religious standards upside down, for devotion to God is a matter of the heart, and there is no room for hypocrisy in the Kingdom of God. Obedience surpasses what comes out, and touches what lives inside of man’s heart.

The Structure of Matthew’s Beatitudes

Mt. 5:3 Poor in spirit are blessed because theirs is the kingdom of heaven

(The present tense ἐστιν in the promise, identical to Mt. 5:10)

Mt. 5:4 Mourners are blessed because they will be comforted

(A future passive promise [παρακληθήσονται,] as in Mt. 5:9)

Mt. 5:5 Meek are blessed because they will inherit the earth

(A future transitive verb [κληρονομήσουσιν] with direct object as in Mt. 5:8)

Mt. 5:6 Hungry are blessed because they will be filled

(A future passive promise [χορτασθήσονται] as in Mt. 5:7)

Mt. 5:7 Merciful are blessed because they will be mercied

(A future passive promise [ἐλεηθήσονται] as in Mt. 5:6)

Mt. 5:8 Pure are blessed because they will see God

(A future transitive verb [ὄψονται] with direct object as in Mt. 5:5)

Mt. 5:9 Peacemakers are blessed because they will be called sons of God

(A future passive promise [κληθήσονται] as in Mt. 5:4)

Mt. 5:10 Persecuted are blessed because theirs is the kingdom of heaven

(The present tense ἐστιν in the promise, identical to 5:3)

The Old Testament and the Beatitudes

The Old Testament speaks of good news to the poor (Isa 61:1-3) and especially the Psalms echo these themes (for example Ps 24:3–6; Ps 37:11; Isa 55:1–2; Ps 18:25–26; Ps 34:14; Pss 15 and 24:3–6). The Old Testament, in using “meek” like “poor in spirit,” speaks not only of those who are in fact disadvantaged and powerless, but also of those whose attitude is not arrogant and oppressive. In Ps 37:7–9 they are described as “those who wait for the Lord” instead of fretting and scheming to right their own wrongs. This will further be addressed in the exposition of the verses.
We see that the main section of the book of Matthew (Mt. 3–25) consists of five blocks of narrative/discourse material (Mt. 3–7; 8–10; 11–13; 14–18; 19–25). These five sections of Jesus’s works and words are divided by the key phrase “and it happened when Jesus had finished” (Mt. 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1).
“The Sermon on the Mount” is one of Christ’s most famous teachings. 27% of Matthew’s discourse is shared with Luke 6:20–49, and a further 33% has parallels elsewhere in Luke and 5% in Mark, while the remaining 35% has no parallel in either Mark or Luke. The teaching covers three chapters. These Beatitudes are sometimes called “macarism” which is derived from μακάριος (meaning ‘blessed’). The reason is followed by ὅτι (for/since/because) and then an explanation in which God’s approval is shown. Jesus speaks of His rule, in which disobedience leads to a curse, which is stronger than “unhappiness.” There are about 45 macarisms in the Hebrew Bible and 73 in the New Testament, also found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
What are these teachings? In the previous chapters, Matthew had started to announce Jesus’ teaching in Galilee, has mentioned the gathering crowds, and has thus set the stage for His authoritative teaching. These people are called to have a new kind of relationship with the Father in heaven, and are called to a radically new life-style, in conscious distinction from the norms of the rest of society. They are to be an alternative society, a “Christian counter-culture.” They ought to be the ethical standards to whom Christians live up to, and which shape their lives.
Turner gives the following analysis of the Sermon on the Mount:

Introductory narrative framework (Mt. 5:1–2):

Jesus is prompted to teach by the crowds, and his disciples gather around him to hear his teaching.

  • Introduction to the sermon (Mt. 5:3–16): The Beatitudes (Mt. 5:3–12) describe the divinely approved lifestyle of those who have repented at the arrival of the rule of God in Jesus’s words and works. Those who live by Jesus’s ethical teaching manifest the values of the rule of God to the world as salt and light (Mt. 5:13–16).
  • Body (Mt. 5:17–7:12): Jesus announces (Mt. 5:17–20) and then explains (Mt. 5:21–48) his relationship to the law with six contrasts. Then he turns to hypocritical versus genuine religious practice (Mt. 6:1–18), materialism and anxiety (Mt. 6:19–34), spiritual discernment (Mt. 7:1–6), and prayer (Mt. 7:7–11). A summary reference to the law (Mt. 7:12) completes the theme of obeying the law and the prophets that began in Mt. 5:17.
  • Conclusion to the sermon (Mt. 7:13–27): By three stark contrasts (two ways, two fruits, two foundations) Jesus challenges his listeners to make a correct response to his teaching. They are to take the narrow way (Mt. 7:13–14), to avoid the bad fruit of the false prophets (Mt. 7:15–23), and to build their lives on the words they have heard (Mt. 7:24–27).
  • Concluding narrative framework (Mt. 7:28–29): The crowds are amazed at Jesus’s uniquely authoritative teaching.

Exposition of the Verses

Discourse 1: Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1–7:29)
Mt. 5:1-2
The discourse that is mentioned is not for the crowds, but for Jesus’ disciples (Mt. 5:1-2). Jesus comes to teach and heal the crowds (Mt. 9:36; 13:2; 15:30; 19:2), but there are times in which Jesus withdraws himself to be with his disciples (Mt. 8:18; 13:36; 14:22). Jesus sits down, like a Rabbinic teacher. Sitting was the posture for authoritative teaching (Mt. 13:2; 24:3; 26:55), Turner links “sitting” to eschatological judgment (Mt. 19:28; 20:21, 23; 22:44; 25:31; 26:64).
Jesus’ withdrawal to the mountain might have a connection to Moses (Ex. 19–20; 34: Matt. 4:8; 14:23; 15:29; 17:1; 24:3; 28:16), as mentioned in the previous chapters. While Moses gave the law, Jesus fulfilled it (Mt. 5:21–22).
Verse 3-6 Relating to God
God loves those who do not boast of their spiritual richness like the Pharisees, but who admit their spiritual poverty (Mt. 11:5; Isa. 61:1). When spiritually poor, there is a total dependency on God for everything. The OT mentions the word עֲנָוִים “afflicted.” Those who (even if they would be materially rich), are spiritually poor. For those spiritually poor is the Kingdom of Heaven (present tense). This blessing is the same as Mt. 5:10. The ones who are spiritually poor experience some of the blessings now, and fully later. Though Matthew mentions “poor in Spirit,” Luke mentions “blessed are you who are poor” (Luke 6:20). The Hebrew equivalent to the phrase “poor in spirit” is used in 1QM 14.7 to describe the Qumran community, whose members took a vow of poverty in dependence upon God for righteousness and sustenance, taking both poverty in material and Spirit together. France says about this: ““Poverty in spirit” is not speaking of weakness of character (“mean-spiritedness”) but rather of a person’s relationship with God,” a positive spiritual orientation, the opposite of arrogant.
Verse 4 speaks of mourning. Whether this is mourning about misfortune, persecution or sin is unknown. Matthew spoke of repentance (Mt. 3:2; 4:17), so perhaps this is involved. The prophesy of Isa. 61:1–2 is being fulfilled here, the Servant of the Lord who came to comfort and heal the brokenhearted. Perhaps this is the message of restoration for the oppressed Israel (Luke 2:25), but the general message is clear, that everyone who suffers will have comfort ahead, and will enter into times of rejoicing.
Verse 5 speaks of the “meek,” (πραΰς) which describes like “poor in spirit” the attitude of people. Both “meek,” as well as “poor,” are translated as עֲנָוִים in the Psalms, where the emphasis is more on their relationship with God. It is the ʿanāwîm who according to Ps 37:11 will inherit the earth (or “land”) when the “wicked” who have oppressed them have been cut off. It was Jesus Himself who was the ultimate “meek” one (Mt. 11:29; 12:15–21; 21:5).
Verse six speaks of “righteousness,” probably referring to Ps. 107:5, 9: right behavior before God. This is not necessarily the righteousness of Christ of which Paul speaks (Rom. 5:1-2), but an upright lifestyle (Mt. 1:19; 3:15; 5:10, 20, 45; 6:1, 33). It speaks of God’s will on the earth (Isa. 51:1–5), God putting all that is wrong into right. Only then there will be a full social justice. Humility as mentioned in the first verses go before this righteous living. Humility is the basic trait of authentic kingdom spirituality (see also Mic. 6:6–8; Mt. 11:25–30; 18:1–5; 19:13–15). A humble person who acknowledges sin—not a smug one who congratulates himself on his goodness—receives God’s endorsement (see also Mt. 9:12–13). It is like Jesus said in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me.” The metaphor of hunger and thirst in this connection recalls Mt. 4:4, the idea of living not on physical food but on every word that comes from God. It is a matter of priorities. Such hunger and thirst will be fully satisfied: chortazomai, a graphic word used also for fattening animals, implies being well filled, as in Mt. 14:20, colloquially being “stuffed.”

Approval in Relating to People (5:7–10)

Verse 7 starts the second set of beatitudes, relating to people. Man ought to relate to one another with mercy and compassion, and there is a possible link to Prov. 14:21 LXX. Jesus modeled this life and clearly shows how this lifestyle is missing in the Pharisees (Mt. 9:13; 12:7; 23:23; cf. Hos. 6:6; Mic. 6:8). The ones who live in a right relationship with God and who have received the love and mercy of God, will do so to others as well (Mt. 18:21-35). Mercy is a requirement for believers from God. It is more than giving forgiveness, it is an attitude of generosity, it takes away the revenge which society teaches and fits in the characteristics of love (1 Cor 13:4–7).
The pure of heart shall see God (Ps. 24:3–4). It means integrity, not rule-oriented like the Pharisees, no inner corruption (Mt. 15:1–20; 23:25–28; 27:6) but piety and purity that flows out of devotion to God (Mt. 6:22–24; 13:45–46; 22:37; James 3:17–18). God’s power purifies the believer inside out, and transforms the person from inside the heart to the life that is visible to outsiders. God’s invisibility is stressed throughout the Old Testament (Exod 33:18–23), and strongly enforced in the New Testament (John 1:18; 1 Tim 1:17; 6:16), but it is a privilege that is given to some, like John on Patmos, and those in the New Jerusalem (Rev 22:4; cf. 1 Cor 13:12; 1 John 3:2). Here on earth, by pure living, we find strength “as if seeing him who is invisible,” (Heb 11:27). It is a blessing that will be given to us in the world to come (Isa. 52:6; 60:16; Jer. 24:7; 31:31–34; 1 John 3:2; Rev. 22:4).
Verse 9 speaks of seeking peace, which is the duty of God’s children (Ps. 34:14). Those who work for peace (Luke 2:14; 19:38; Acts 10:36; Eph. 2:14–18; James 3:18). The Father in heaven treats even His enemies well (Mt. 5:43-48), and if all God’s children will live accordingly, it will be for the welfare of the world. In a world of aggression and persecution, God’s people will stand out by humbleness, and seeking relationships with those around them. France summarizes: “Peacemakers “will be called God’s children” (the passive probably implies that God himself will recognize them as his true children) on the basis that God’s children reflect God’s character (Mt. 5:44–45), and God is the ultimate peace-maker.”
Verse 10 offers the kingdom of heaven again (Mt. 5:3). People are called to humility toward God and mercy toward people. Those who belong to God and fight for peace and God’s mission should expect persecution, and not the praise of man (Mt. 23:31-32). Belonging to Jesus and fighting for His goal will likely lead to the same fate as Jesus. This does mean that there ought to be an engagement and not a withdrawal from society, as 1 Peter 3:14 speaks about this.

The Distinctiveness of the Disciples (5:11–16)

These following verses are closely linked to Luke 6:22-23. In these following two verses we understand persecution more. Jesus’ disciples are not just to accept and live under persecution, but to live it with joy, because they may identify with Jesus (Mt. 10:22; 25; 24:9), and the prophets who have been persecuted (Mt. 23:29-39). The reward that they will find will be great (Mt. 5:46; 6:1–18; 10:41–42). There is a growth in maturity in faith when God’s people live in humility towards God and a peaceful attitude towards their neighbors. A “Christian-counter-culture,” in which not revenge but peace reigns. A culture that is completely different from the world (Mt. 5:46; 6:1, 2, 5, 16; 10:41, 42). Jesus was meek (Mt. 11:29). He mourned (Mt. 26:36–46). He “fulfilled all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15; 27:4, 19). He was merciful (Mt. 9:27; 15:22; 17:15; 20:30–31). And above all, he was oppressed and persecuted. Thus, as disciples cultivate the counter-cultural graces of the Beatitudes, they are in reality cultivating likeness to the Master.
The image of salt is more than just the seasoning of food (Job 6:6; Col. 4:6). Salt was added to sacrifices (Lev. 2:13; Ezra 6:9; Ezek. 43:24), connected with purity (Exod. 30:35; 2 Kings 2:19–22), a sign of barren wasteland (Judg. 9:45; Job 39:6; Ps. 107:34; Jer. 17:6; Zeph. 2:9), a sign of loyalty (Num. 18:19; Ezra 4:14; 2 Chron. 13:5), and used in fertilizer (Luke 14:34–35) and in cleaning newborn infants (Ezek. 16:4). In the context of this verse, salt is considered as purity, and against spiritual decline, just like light pushes darkness away.
The image of light is used multiple times in the Pauline epistles and the works of John. Matthew had associated light with Jesus and the Kingdom ministry in Galilee (Matt. 4:16, citing Is. 42:6), and Jesus is the light to the Gentiles (Isa. 49:6; 51:4–5; Dan. 12:3; John 1:4–5; 3:19–21; 8:12; Acts 26:18; Rom. 2:19; Eph. 5:8; Phil. 2:15; Col. 1:12–13). With the image of the hill, often times Jerusalem is meant. In the light, no one stumbles, when many lights are lit, the city becomes very visible in the darkness of night.
An oil lamp is never put under a basket; it is a ridiculous thought. It would not be visible, but also go out due to the lack of oxygen. Jesus indicates that there is no discipleship without good works (7:24–27; 13:23, 38; 10:22; 24:13). Turner summarizes: “Perhaps the dual images of salt and light are intended to portray two aspects of witness that are not easy to balance: engagement and distinctiveness. As salt, Jesus’s disciples must engage the world, but as light, they must never allow their engagement to lead to the compromise of kingdom values and their assimilation to the world. Jesus perfectly and harmoniously models both images.”

Jesus and the Bible (Mt. 5:17–48)

In the following section, Jesus relationship to the law is mentioned. How is moral uprightness linked to the law, and how are the Scriptures to be interpreted rightly? Despite His controversial character, Jesus wants to make clear to the disciples that He has not come to abolish (καταλῦσαι) the law but to fulfill (πληρῶσαι). Jesus did come to present a higher morality, one that surpasses an obedience to the law and flows from the heart of the believers. Paul spoke well of the law (Rom. 7:12, 14), speaking of Jesus who was the end/goal (τέλος) of the law. Paul continued to stress the law as based on the promises of the Hebrew Bible, but also claimed the freedom of the law (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Paul stands here in line with Jesus (compare Rom. 13:8-10 and Matt. 22:34-40). In the following verses, Jesus first speaks of His own relationship to the law and the prophets and then He teaches the obligation of His followers to the law.
Mt. 5:17 has two key words, namely καταλῦσαι (abolish) and πληρῶσαι (fulfill). The meaning of πληρόω should be understood by the verses Mt. 1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 26:54, 56; 27:9. Christ fulfills the law by bringing the commandments to their ultimate end because the law and the promises point to Him. Jesus proves here that His teaching is not antinomian, which people might have thought due to the debates with the Pharisees. France paraphrases Christ’s words as follows, “Far from wanting to set aside the law and the prophets, it is my role to bring into being that to which they have pointed forward, to carry them on into a new era of fulfillment.” Jesus explains His purpose with the words “I came to…” like in the verses Mt. 9:13; 10:34–35; 20:28, explaining why He came into the world.
Mt. 5:18 is a strong enforcement of what Christ just said: God’s Word and law shall not change “until heaven and earth pass away.” Not even one (י, yod), the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet will be taken out. Jesus implies here that its weightier matters are absolutely certain to be accomplished. Therefore Jesus’s disciples must not disobey or do away with (λύω, lyō; Josephus Ant. 11.140)[footnote]”But some time afterward there came some persons to him, and brought an accusation against certain of the multitude, and of the priests and Levites, who had transgressed their settlement, and dissolved the laws of their country, by marrying strange wives, and had brought the family of the priests into confusion.”[/footnote]any part of the law, however trivial it may seem. Some laws, like the sacrificial food laws were still binding at the time in which Jesus spoke these words, but not after His death. To explain this verse then, we must see the fulfillment of the law as a different “doing.” Jesus interprets the law, and the commandments of Jesus are binding as they overrule the OT ceremonial laws. The disciples should love every word of God instead of going back and forth between them, discarding and picking what they want.
Mt. 5:20 gives another explanation. Jesus desires a higher righteousness than the Pharisees, one that comes from an ethical intent of the heart, leading to kingdom righteousness. If righteousness comes from precise obedience to the law, no one would be more righteous than them, yet Jesus still sees them outside of the kingdom of heaven. True righteousness is found only in Christ. “To enter the kingdom of heaven does not mean to go to a place called heaven (though the eternal life of heaven will be its expected outcome, see on Mt. 18:8–9), but to come under God’s rule, to become one of those who recognize his kingship and live by its standards, to be God’s true people.”
Mt. 5:21-48 Six Examples of Fulfilling the Law
Jesus mentions six ethical applications in the following verses. There are two things to keep in mind: first the parallel in the audience: Israel of old versus “you” (the disciples of Jesus). Secondly, the contrast between what was said in the law, and that what is been said now by Jesus. Because Jesus is the end of the law, He is the perfect interpreter. The examples which Jesus gives can be divided into three groups:

1. Traditional teaching (Mt. 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43)

2. Jesus’s contrasting teaching (Mt. 5:22, 28, 32, 34a, 39a, 44)

3. A concrete application or further explanation of Jesus’s teaching (Mt. 5:23–26, 29–30, 34b–37, 39b–42, 45–47)

The exegetical structure is as follows:

Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις (Mt. 5:21)
Ēkousate hoti errethē tois archaiois
You have heard that it was said to the people of old
ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι (Mt. 5:22)
egō de legō hymin hoti
but I say to you that
Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη (Mt. 5:27)
Ēkousate hoti errethē
You have heard that it was said
ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι (Mt. 5:28)
egō de legō hymin hoti
but I say to you that
Ἐρρέθη δέ (Mt. 5:31)
Errethē de
And it was said
ἐγὼ δέ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι (Mt. 5:32)
egō de legō hymin hoti
but I say to you that
Πάλιν ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις (Mt. 5:33)
Palin ēkousate hoti errethē tois archaiois
Again, you have heard that it was said to the people of old
ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν (Mt. 5:34)
egō de legō hymin
but I say to you
Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη (Mt. 5:38)
Ēkousate hoti errethē
You have heard that it was said
ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν (Mt. 5:39)
egō de legō hymin
but I say to you
Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη (Mt. 5:43)
Ēkousate hoti errethē
You have heard that it was said
ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν (Mt. 5:44)
egō de legō hymin
but I say to you

Verse 21-26 Murder

Jesus interprets the sixth commandment radically. According to Jesus, the actual committing of murder is only the outward manifestation of an inward attitude. Anger cannot be testified except expressed, and as any expression of anger as “stupid” or “fool” is punishable, God looks at the heart, and even bad intentions that lead to murder are punishable. The question of capital punishment as we debate in modern day society is not a question here. According to the OT law, the penalty for murder is death (Gen 9:6; Exod 21:12–14; Lev 24:17; Num 35:30–31). Whoever murders shall be subject to judgment,” is a summary of texts such as Exod. 21:12 and Deut. 17:8–13. Jesus tells here how abusive speech and hatred lead to the judgment of God. The “brother and sister” mentioned in verse 22 is a fellow disciple. Abusive language is strongly punished by eternal fire. “Hell” is mentioned in 5:29–30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33 as well as a place of total destruction, whereas “Hades” is a shadowy place of punishment, yet not as definitive as “hell.”
Verse 23-24 change to second person singular, and connect to Mark 11:25 which says that “When you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive it.” Jesus speaks of the “altar” which was in Jerusalem. For someone to travel from Galilee, leaves the sacrifice on the altar and goes back to reconcile is hardly possible. So Jesus stresses here immediate action of forgiveness, just like Paul did in Eph. 4:26: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Divine forgiveness is linked together with human forgiveness, and hangs together with the commandment not to let your brother or sister stumble but to leave in perfect peace with one another (Matt. 18:6, 10, 12–17, 21–35).
The verses 25-26 are another example of reconciliation, not legal advice, but a command not to let any dispute or bad relationship exist. When Jesus says “I tell you truly” he enforces the fact that it is not to avoid punishment, but a true relationship from the heart that fits into the values of the Kingdom of heaven.

Verse 27-30 Adultery and Lust

Again Jesus mentions the outward expression of an inward desire. The Hebrew Bible did not condemn lust, but Jesus’ standards are higher and purer. He combines the seventh and tenth commandment namely the coveting. Also, Christ does not speak of the neighbor’s wife, but a woman in general. As the Old Testament often speaks of the danger of the woman, Jesus here puts the emphasis with the man. Many commentators have tried to explain this verse as a thought that leads to action, but Jesus is much stronger, and desires total, radical purity.
Jesus’ radical saying goes further, and speaks of self-mutilation of the body in order to save the soul. Matthew uses the phrase “cause to stumble” regularly (11:6; 13:21, 41, 53; 15:12; 16:23; 17:27; 18:6–7, 8–9; 24:10; 26:31–33), stumbling from the path of God’s will and salvation, or standing in the way of God’s purpose. The right eye (5:29; cf. 1 Sam. 11:2; Zech. 11:17; 2 Pet. 2:14; 1 John 2:16) and the right hand (5:30; cf. Gen. 48:14; Ps. 137:5) are respectively the means through which lustful thoughts are initially engendered (Josh. 7:21; 2 Sam. 11:2; Ezek. 6:9) and subsequently carried out. The image is quite shocking, but Jesus is saying here that it is better to deal strongly with sin than to burn because of it.

Verse 31-32 Divorce and Adultery

Matthew 5:31 (cf. Mark 10:11–12; Luke 16:18) speaks of defers, referring to Deut. 24:1–4. Some have considered it as a “cart blanche” for divorce. Divorce had become “easy.” Old writings speak of a divorce if a wife had spoiled a meal, (second cent. CE) or a divorce if a more beautiful woman was available. In God’s eyes this was a disgrace, and divorce was only allowed in case of sexual infidelity. If there was no “true divorce” there could not be a new marriage. The word for sexual immorality (πορνεία) is subject to debate. Most likely here, Jesus referred to any form of sexual immorality that did not include the man’s spouse. In this verse, Jesus truly honors and values marriage as an institution before God, not to be taken lightly in any way. Later, in chapter 19, He will expand this teaching.

Verse 33-37 Swearing

Swearing, and the abuse of God’s name is often mentioned in Scriptures (see Matt. 5:33; cf. Exod. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; Num. 30:3–15; Deut. 23:21–23; Ps. 50:14; Zech. 8:17; Wis. 14:28; James 5:12). Positive examples of oaths are found in (Gen. 14:22; 21:24; 47:31; Josh. 2:12, and there were punishments for broken promises (Exod. 20:7; 1 Kings 8:31–32). There are examples of men getting into trouble for their rash oath-taking, like Herod, and Peter, and we see that Jesus refrains from taking an oath when charged before the high priest (26:74). The teaching of taking an oath underlines the teaching of marriage. Men and women should be faithful to their word and faithful to their promises based on high ethical standards. Though bearing the ninth commandment about truth and false witnessing, there is again a strong ethical implication for believers, to be true to their word.
A comparison should be made with Mt. 23:16–22. According to Deut. 6:13; 10:20, oaths were to be taken in the name of God, but by the time of Jesus, pious Jews refused to use God’s name. Instead they swore by “heaven,” “earth,” and “Jerusalem.” In Scripture, God teaches that heaven and earth are His domain, (Isa. 66:1; Acts 7:49) and do not belong to men. Swearing on anything that belongs to God is not man’s right. Not swearing is safe for if you do not make a vow at all “there will be no sin in you.”
The strong prohibition against swearing is being balanced positively in Mt. 5:37, namely of faithfulness. In being dishonest, we fail to live up to God’s standards, which is a sin. God’s standards are based on truth, and His word should be taken as solemn truth, as He says, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord.”
Christ does not contradict the Old Testament. What He does is, he views the traditional biblical interpretation as permitting a double standard on verbal integrity. He holds the “spirit of the law” higher than the letter of the law, and God’s will over human interpretation.

Verse 38-42 Retaliation

These verses show five hypothetical situations in which believers should go beyond the teachings of society. The first example which Christ gives refers to Exod. 21:24 and Deut. 19:21. He refers to “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” legislation. Another relatively unknown verse relating to this expression is found in Leviticus 24:19-29, saying that ““Anyone who maims another shall suffer the same injury in return … the injury inflicted is the injury to be suffered.” Jesus here takes a different approach and tells His followers that retaliation should be resisted completely. He is very radical here, not just no revenge, but even no resistance to that which is “bad.” He seems to tell His followers not to stand up for their own honor or rights, even when others take advantage of them. Christ shows how radical the new order of living is, where the self is given to the other, and self-centeredness does not exist. Jesus goes here far beyond the law, far beyond human nature. Jesus does not contradict Scriptures, as many times in the Old Testament, revenge and taking justice in the own hand is strongly discouraged (Lev. 19:18; Deut. 32:35; Prov. 20:22; 24:29; 25:21–22; Isa. 50:6; Lam. 3:30).
Slapping someone in the face is and was a serious insult 2 Cor. 11:20; cf. Lam. 3:30. And penalties ranging from a small fine to the cutting off of an ear, depending on the social standing of the two parties involved. It is a matter of honor. Jesus here puts away with human honor, and asks His disciples to follow Him when He speaks of God’s servant, saying (I) “gave my back to those who struck me and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard (LXX has “to slapping”); I did not hide my face from insult and spitting,” Isa 50:6.
The second example speaks of a legal dispute, someone claiming the other one’s under-shirt (χιτών) as a collateral for a debt (Exod. 22:25–27; Deut. 24:12–13). Instead of just giving this shirt, they ought to give their “coat” (ἱμάτιον) which is way more valuable. This seems to contradict the OT laws as mentioned in Exod. 22:25–27; Deut. 24:12–13 where is written that the coat of another man should not be kept.
The third example is of a Roman soldier who demands a Jew to carry his equipment. This was quite common in the oppressed Palestinian territories (see also Simon of Cyrene who was forced to carry Jesus’ cross (27:32). If this happens, instead of responding with anger, believers should walk the extra mile. So these three examples show that instead of continuing a cycle of evil, a cycle of righteousness should be followed in which the believer acts opposite to common human response. The teaching of these verses is that “one may never need to literally turn the other cheek, give up one’s coat, or go the extra mile, but one must be willing to selflessly suffer personal loss with faith that the loving heavenly Father will meet one’s needs and deal with the injustice in his own time.”

Verse 43-47 Love

Jesus teaches undiscriminating love, even for enemies and persecutors (Mt. 5:43–44; cf. Luke 6:27–28). An enemy is by definition not loved, Jesus means here those who hate those who hate you, not those whom you hate. Such behavior will emulate the actions of the heavenly Father (Matt. 5:45) and transcend typical human practice (5:46–47). Disciples are not perfect, but the heavenly Father is (5:48), and therefore they must strive for perfection. Prayer is the greatest love to show, (Gen. 20:17; Exod. 23:4–5; Num. 12:13; 21:7; 1 Sam. 24:17–19; 2 Sam. 19:6; 1 Kings 3:11; Job 31:29; Ps. 7:3–5; Prov. 24:17–18, 29; 25:21–22; Jer. 29:7; Jon. 4:10–11) and is the true way of transforming lives by bringing people to the throne.
Again, Jesus tells something that seems to stand in contrast to the Old Testament where the Israelites are called to hate the indigenous people (Deut. 7:1–6; 20:16–18) and completely exterminate them. Psalm Ps 139:21–22 speaks of the hatred of God’s enemies. Instead of telling His disciples not to hate, He gives the extreme of love, which means to do good to one another, not to retaliate, not to resist, but to “embrace” the persecutor. He is the example of true, self-sacrificing love for enemies. So love ought to be unconditional and self-sacrificing.
Loving our neighbors and our own brothers and sisters (ἀδελφοί) is easy. There is no challenge in that, and also the unbelievers do so. It is those who we can’t stand, and don’t want to face whom we ought to love purely and unconditionally and treat our enemies with respect (Matt. 5:47). We obey this commandment ὅπως (in order that) we are children of the Father in heaven. Loving enemies, in imitating God. Eph. 4:31–5:2; 1 John 4:7–12; 1 Pet. 1:14–25.

Verse 48: Fulfilling the Law

Therefore (οὖν), for this reason, for the reason of the holiness of the Father we ought to be perfect (τέλειος). According to Matt. 5, “perfection” is uprightness and blamelessness in consistently obeying God’s law as ultimately interpreted by Jesus.
Christians have an immense deal to learn from these teachings. Yes, no believer is sinless, but believers need to model the Father in all areas, in all relationships, marriage, family, public, adversaries, etc. Being created in the image of God, we ought to strive to resemble Him, to grow in spiritual maturity, and pursue this greater righteousness of the Kingdom of Heaven.