During what we call the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus said many times “You have heard that it was said…” and He followed it with “but I say unto you…” Was Jesus teaching new concepts and new morality?
The impression that is left when some talk about the Sermon on the Mount is that Jesus was teaching an entirely new standard of morality that wasn’t part of the Law of Moses. That’s just not true. What Jesus did was correct how the Scribes and Pharisees had incorrectly interpreted and applied the Law because of the hardness of their hearts.
Here are some examples from the Sermon on the Mount to illustrate that Jesus was correcting the hypocritical interpretation of the Law:
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
In Matthew 6, when Jesus was talking about prayer, charity and fasting, He compared true righteousness to how the “hypocrites” (Scribes and Pharisees) were behaving (Matthew 6:2,5,16).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught about lust, anger without a cause, keeping your word, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile and loving your enemy. Are those uniquely Christian concepts that were foreign to the Law of Moses?
Let’s look into the Old Testament and see.
In the Old Testament, was it okay to be angry without a cause as long as you didn’t kill that person?
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
You can’t read far into the book of Genesis without seeing God correct someone about anger. Genesis 4 shows God calling out Cain about his anger toward his brother Abel. Cain’s anger was without cause, and God said he needed to “rule over it.”
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
You can see that Jesus was not instituting a new ethic. This is the heart that God always wanted from His people.
More to come later..