Do you know the name Dirk Willems? He was burned at the stake in the Netherlands for being re-baptized on May 16, 1569. His story was remarkable. The Church of that day had him arrested because Dirk rejected the belief that your soul was saved when you were baptized as an infant. He wanted to be baptized as an adult to show his love for God.
What makes his story amazing was what he did when he escaped prison. He was being held for trial by the church, escaped through a window, ran through the night as a guard chased him. He ran across ice and he made it to the other side. His pursuer didn’t make it, he started to fall through the ice and yelled out for help. Dirk, with love and compassion in his heart, turned back and saved the guard. The guard grabbed Dirk, took him back to prison where he was later burned to death.
Who lives like that? Why would Dirk have love and compassion for his enemy? We are going to answer that today.
I want to quickly recap the big idea of this series. If I had one sentence to summarize the Sermon on the Mount, it would be this: God sent Jesus to establish God’s kingdom in our hearts. That’s what the Sermon on the Mount is all about. It’s the foundation of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
And as exciting as that sounds, we had to give you a warning. God’s kingdom is radically different than our kingdom. As we walk through Jesus’ words verse by verse, you will discover that being a disciple of Jesus requires trust and faith. If what Jesus said in this sermon is true, and if we say, ‘I am a Christian,’ or, ‘I am a disciple of Christ,’ that has radical implications.
For example, based on what Jesus said, I will view people differently and treat them differently. Based on what Jesus said, I will view and spend money differently. Based on what Jesus said, I will view my future with courage, not fear, doubt and worry.
So, understand the Sermon on the Mount is amazing and it should make us wrestle with what it means for us to follow Christ. Today is no different. To prepare you for what we read today, I need to give you context from last week.
Jesus told everyone, I am not here to abolish the law, I’m here to complete the law. Jesus was saying, there is something missing in your rules and regulations and I am here to tell you what it is. What is it? Your heart. You can live out the law but if you don’t clean up your heart, you still sin.
Matthew 5:21 The law says, “Do not murder.” Then Jesus said, if you are angry at anyone, you have murdered. Jesus didn’t abolish the law, He completed by addressing what is in our hearts.
Matthew 5:27 The law says, “Do not commit adultery.” Then Jesus said, if you look at someone lustfully, you are committing adultery. Jesus didn’t abolish the law, He completed by addressing what is in our hearts.
Matthew 5:31 The law says, “If you divorce, do it legally.” Jesus said, you are hiding behind that law, you are getting divorces because you are selfish. Jesus didn’t abolish the law, He completed by addressing what is in our hearts.
Let’s keep reading in Matthew 5. I want to read this section in the Message Version and then the Good News Translation.
Matthew 5:38-48 The Message Version [MSG]
38 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ 39 Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. 40 If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. 41 And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. 42 No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
43 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best — the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.
Matthew 5:38-48 Good News Translation [GNT]
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too. 40 And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles. 42 When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something, lend it to him.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44 But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. 46 Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! 47 And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that!
48 You must be perfect – just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Jesus continues to introduce to us God’s kingdom. It is radically different than our kingdom. The law of Moses was an eye for eye kind of justice. Jesus doesn’t abolish that law, He completes it. Jesus said, if you have been wronged, don’t work to get revenge. Don’t be vindictive or unforgiving. Notice he didn’t say, you can’t protect yourself. He is saying, when you get the short end of the relationship, don’t live tit for tat.
Then Jesus gave four quick examples to make what He said practical.
Vs 39 If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too.
In those days, a slap on the cheek was a great insult. Jesus was saying absorb unfairness and don’t retaliate.
Vs 40 And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well.
People wore two pieces a clothing. A tunic that would be like a shirt and a coat that would be the outer wear that you might sleep with at night. Or someone to sue you for your shirt was pretty low. Jesus was saying, be generous, go above and beyond when faced with something unfair.
Vs 41 And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles.
The Jews were under Roman rule. Any solder could demand that a Jewish person had to carry his military gear for one mile. Jesus was saying, give your oppressor more than they have the right to ask for.
Vs 42 When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something, lend it to him.
In those days, every seven years everyone’s debts were canceled. So people would not want to lend help to others as much around year five and six because in year seven, every debt is removed. Now keep in mind, this wasn’t referencing a home loan, this was referencing someone who had a legitimate need for the basics of living. Jesus was saying, don’t withhold help to people when they need it.
Jesus knows what real, day to day, life is like. He said, you will be treated unfairly. There will be a jerk to takes advantage of you. There will be a friend who hurts you. There will be times when you get the short end of the stick. As a disciple of Christ, you absorb the hurt, the unfairness, the disappointment and you give back love. In fact, you be generous, go above and beyond what is expected.
Do you see what Jesus did? The law says, ‘Eye for eye.’ Jesus didn’t abolish the law or justice, He completed it. In the ordinary day to day routine if life, expect that you will be treated unfairly and be ready to absorb it and give back love.
Jesus doesn’t stop there. He raises the bar even higher. I want you to love your enemies. When the Jewish people heard this, it would have been a huge shock. You have to understand how intense their hate was for different groups. A Jewish person could accept another Jewish person. However, a Samaritan was only half Jewish so they would avoid and look down on them. They wouldn’t even walk through a known Samaritan town. Even worse, a Gentile wasn’t Jewish at all, they viewed them as dirty. Even worse, the Romans ruled over them. So when Jesus said, love your enemies, it would have been a shocker.
To love those who love you back is easy. To be good to those who are good to you, that’s easy. Even Godless people do that. That’s human. But to be good to those who are evil, that’s requires God in you. That’s special. That’s different.
Remember Dirk Willems? That’s what he did. He was being hunted down to be captured and killed. In the face of evil, he returned good, he gave love, he served and it cost him his life. Who does that? Someone filled with God.
Today we close out Chapter 5, the first part of the Sermon on the Mount. We said that in this first chapter was Jesus teaching us what it looks like if God comes and transforms our hearts. It practically changes everything. The Beatitudes. We are Salt and Light. A new understanding of the traditional laws on murder, adultery, marriage and divorce, how you treat people in this world.
Before we move into the second part, we have to stop and ask ourselves: Is this information to me or am I being transformed? If this is information to me, I hear the words but I don’t change. I continue to think the church professionals should build God’s kingdom and I fail to see that I am salt and light. I continue to be angry [that means I murder], I continue to lust [that means I am committing adultery] and I continue to treat my marriage like a contract. I continue to live with a desire to get revenge and I only give what is good to those who are good to me.
Please hear me. For us to enter into God’s kingdom, we must surrender. These words of Jesus should radically transform our hearts.
24 Jesus said to his followers, “If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want. They must be willing even to give up their lives to follow me. 25 Those who want to save their lives will give up true life, and those who give up their lives for me will have true life. 26 It is worth nothing for them to have the whole world if they lose their souls. They could never pay enough to buy back their souls. NCV Matthew 16:24-27
Did you see what Jesus said, “…they must give up the things they want… ?” In the New Living Translation, it says, “…you must put aside your selfish ambition…” That means to enter God’s kingdom and become a disciple of Jesus, you surrender, you give up your rights. You give up a life that is in pursuit of what you want for what God wants. That radically changes everything.
God becomes my provider. God becomes my protector. I can now rest. I can now relax and not demand control. I no longer have to get revenge or retaliate. I can absorb hurt, disappointment, unfairness and give back love. I am free to love my enemies. How can I do this? I surrendered to Christ.
Are Jesus’ words information to you or are they transforming you?
Are you walking week to week with little change or are you addressing what is in your heart?
Are you building your kingdom and the things of God kinda… rub you the wrong way? You know, when we talk about anger, lust, marriage, money, how you treat others, loving your enemy.
Are you all in or will you walk away today with the attitude, “I’m not surrendering today”?