Citizens of the *Kingdom
EasyEnglish Study Unit 2 (Level B) on the Gospel (Good News) of Matthew 5-8
translation into EasyEnglish by Mary Read
(Based on the Crossway Bible Guide, used by permission of Crossway Books, Leicester, LE1 7GP, England.)
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
WYCLIFFE ASSOCIATES (UK)
EasyEnglish Ó TRANSLATION (Level B)...................................................................... Mary Read
LINGUISTIC CHECKER............................................................................................... Sue Hunter
Crossway Bible Guide
(Used By Permission of Crossway Books
Leicester LE1 7GP, England.)
A Study of the Gospel (Good News) of Matthew
For personal study,
and for study by a group.
By Stephen Dray
(Note: Each Section will be in a box, so that you can
easily find a particular passage.
It will look like this: .)
There is a Word List at the end of this book.
This gives the meanings of difficult words.
These words have a star like *this in front of them in the text.
There may be other words that you do not understand.
If so, please tell us.
*OT means Old Testament. It is the first part of our Bible.
*NT means New Testament. It is the second part of our Bible.
In the Bible, verses are the divisions of a chapter.
Introduction to ‘the Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 5:1–7:29)
(Note: We could say this in another way. It is ‘the talk that Jesus gave on the mountain’.)
The greatest talk that anyone ever gave
Matthew emphasised something. It was this. To teach was the very important part of Jesus’ work in his life. We see this in 4:23–35. Here, he told about Jesus’ first public talk. He told us a lot of what Jesus said.
There are 4 popular ideas about Jesus’ words:
► Some people think that Jesus provides standards of moral behaviour. There are two problems with this idea. First, it does not work. The standards are good. But men and women cannot live by them. Second, this idea forgets about the truths in 5:3–9. These verses emphasise something. The change in a person’s character must come first. Only then can he or she obey Jesus’ words.
► Other people think that Jesus’ words are not for us today. This is another idea. Some people say that Jesus gave rules. God would accept people if they obeyed the rules. They say that Jesus gave up the rules later. He saw that they did not work. But, this cannot be right. Jesus is not telling us how we can earn our *salvation. He is speaking to those who are in a right relationship with God. He is showing them how they should live.
► Some people think that the sermon (talk) is a standard for ‘special’ Christians. This is another idea. But, there is a problem with this idea too. Jesus was teaching all who followed him. Chapter 5:1–2 shows this. He was not just speaking to a special group.
► Only one idea is satisfactory. Here, Jesus tells us how to be a Christian *disciple. All real believers (Christians) should show that they are citizens of heaven. They do this by lives that follow the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus expects them to do this. Perhaps they refuse to do it. If so, there is no real evidence that they are real believers.
It is helpful to compare the last two ideas. The first of these two assumes something. It is enough for a person just to claim that Jesus has saved him. But, many people who claim this do not live by the standards here. They claim to be Christians, but their lives do not show it.
The second of the two ideas emphasises something. The standards are those of God’s *kingdom. Some people never reach the standards. Some people do not even try to reach them. These people should ask themselves if they are real Christians.
Brief statement of the main points
This is the message of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (talk on the mountain):
Chapter 5:3–10: What the character of a Christian should be like.
Chapter 5:11–12: There is proof of a genuine Christian character. People who are not Christians do not take any notice of God. They will do bad things to Christians. Believers’ real characters will show in their reactions to this.
Chapter 5:13–16: How a Christian will behave in society and in the world.
Chapter 5:17–48: How a Christian will live because of God’s character.
Chapter 7:1–27: A Christian will always remember two things about God. First, God sees how he or she lives. Each one must give an account of his or her life to him. Second, each one must have the right fear and respect for God.
Matthew gives an account of the sermon (talk). So does Luke. People have two difficulties with these accounts. First, there is the place for the sermon. Luke (6:17) states that it was on a plain (flat place). Here, Matthew says that it was on a mountain. But this does not need to be a problem. Luke could be referring to a plain that was on a mountain. Or, Matthew could mean the part of that country that had hills.
Second, there are the contents of the sermon (talk). Matthew and Luke give different records of it. But, this is not surprising. Certain things were of special interest to Matthew. He recorded them. Luke, too, recorded the things that interested him.
Jesus might have said it all on one occasion. But, maybe he took several days to say it all. Other *Gospels show that Jesus said the same things in other places. Again, this is not surprising. It just suggests that Jesus used the same teaching more than once. But, then, all speakers do this!
Real *disciples will:
· have a humble trust in God
· depend on God for everything
· be gentle and holy.
Matthew introduced the talk in verses 1–2. Then, Jesus began his sermon (talk). He explained what a genuine *disciple should be like. (This is in verses 3–12.) Each statement began with the same word. Those who translated the Bible into English chose different words. Some of them used the word ‘happy’. Some of them used the word ‘blessed’. Many of the *OT psalms use the same *Hebrew word. It means: ‘What rewards there are in such a life!’ It is especially for those of whom God approves. People will want to be like them.
The poor in spirit
This does NOT mean three things:
• those whose spirits have lost hope
• those who do not have God’s Holy Spirit
• those who do not have spiritual understanding.
It DOES mean those who know that:
• they have no spiritual resources of their own
• they cannot please God by their own efforts
• they are trusting in God only.
In the *OT, the word ‘poor’ has a usual meaning. It refers to those who do not have many possessions. Perhaps they do not have any possessions at all. So, they need God. This is an attitude that everyone must have. Without it, nobody can enter God’s *kingdom.
People who feel very sad
Verse 4 relates very much to verse 3. People who are ‘poor in spirit’ will feel very sad about their *sin. It is not just their personal failure. It is the fact that their *sin separates them from God. David showed this perfectly. See Psalm 51. You can read about David’s *sin in 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12. David says to God, ‘My *sin is against you’ (Psalm 51:4).
Here, Jesus described people who are like this. These people are always aware of their *sin against God. But, there is comfort for them. They also know that Jesus can forgive their *sin.
People who are humble
Verse 5 relates to verses 3 and 4. There are people who are ‘poor in spirit’. They feel very sad about their *sin. Those people will also be humble. Humble people are not just ‘nice’ people. They are not weak or lazy. They are often firm and strong in character. Moses was like this. (Read Numbers 12:3.)
People in the ancient world knew the word ‘humble’ well. It referred to people who had the right sort of anger. That is, they were angry when people did bad things to other people. But they did not stay angry with those who did wrong things to them. They were not bitter against those who did bad things to them. They did not want the best things for themselves either.
But Jesus gave extra meaning to the word. He meant people who obey God. They obey his words. They let God’s will control them. They are completely loyal to the purposes of God. They recognise their own lack of knowledge. They realise that they are weak. But they know that God will supply all that they need.
God promised to give the country called Canaan to his people. This was very important to *OT believers. But, the *prophets extended the promise. One day, all God’s people would live in a new heaven and a new earth. Here, Jesus was thinking about this great truth of the Bible.
Those who are ‘hungry’ and ‘*thirsty’ for righteousness
(The word righteousness means to be ‘right’. It also means to do what is right.)
‘People who want to do right more than anything else’. Jesus says that these people ‘will be happy’ (verse 6). Jesus knows that everyone wants to be happy. But he knows something else too. He knows that there is only one way to be really happy. That way is to live a life that pleases God. A person must really want to live a life like this.
‘Righteousness’ can mean different things in the Bible. It can refer to God’s opinion of someone. A person believes in God. So, that person’s life pleases God. Then, God says that he or she is ‘righteous’. This was true about Abraham. (Read Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:1–5.) In Matthew, it includes two meanings. First, it refers to a holy life. This kind of life comes after two things. It comes after we have *repented and after we have believed in God. Also, it includes something else. It is a desire for God’s *kingdom to come.
Ancient Israel often had no rain. So, there was a great lack of water. There would be a lack of food too. The lack of these things often caused death. Jesus spoke here about a situation like this. The person’s desire for ‘righteousness’ is very great. In fact, he feels that he will die if he does not have it. He is like a very hungry person. He is like a person who desperately needs some water. He feels that he will die if he does not have food and water. (Note: ‘He’ refers to a man or a woman.)
The truth of this teaching requires much from us. It can frighten us. So often, we are not like this at all. But, there is comfort for us too. We may have failures. But we just need to keep close to God and to Jesus Christ. We must desire what is best in our lives. Then, God will certainly bless us.
1. What do these verses teach me? How can they help me, as a *disciple of Jesus?
2. There is much talk in the church today about celebration (a happy time). But, people should be sad about *sin too. How can both these things be in the local church?
3. Many people in our world today are very poor. How do these verses apply to what they need?
4. What effect should humble people have on the church and on the world? There are people who live for God. What effect should their lives have on the church and on the world? Can you think of any examples?
The quality of a person’s life will show if he or she is a real *disciple.
Jesus had been speaking about a real Christian. He had described his or her character. He did this in the earlier verses of this chapter. Now Jesus emphasised something else. It was this. The character of such a person will show in how he or she behaves.
People who show mercy
There is a good way to understand this word. It is to look at its use in the *OT. There, it describes God’s sympathy. It is genuine. It is also active. He does something about it. We have the best example. It is this. God sent his Son to save us.
Believers (Christians) know God’s love and mercy. Jesus teaches us that we should show the same things. We must do this in all our relationships. When we show mercy, it is evidence. It shows that we have received it ourselves. Only then can we expect God’s mercy for us on the Day of *Judgement. (Note: There is more about the word ‘mercy’ in the Word List.)
People who are holy
Verse 8 is most important. It tells us what to do. We must be holy if we want to enjoy God in this life. Then there is the life that is future. That is most important of all. We must be holy if we want to enjoy God then. But to be holy affects everything now. It affects our thoughts and our emotions. It affects our will and our actions too.
To be holy does not mean that we do not *sin. We can never be without *sin in this life. But Jesus taught us what it means to be holy. It is this. We will want to be holy more than anything else. The great aim of the believer must be to please God. We do this when we become more and more like him.
Read Revelation 1:7. It says that everyone will see God one day. (Remember that Jesus is God.) For the people who did not want Jesus, it would be a sad day. Jesus spoke about the time when some people will see God too. But he meant something else. Jesus referred to the time when some people will enjoy God. They will enjoy God in his *kingdom for ever. It will be the same for everyone who is a real *disciple of Jesus.
People who ‘make peace’ (‘peacemakers’)
Many of us have our own ideas about what ‘peace’ means. We think that it means the end of war. Or, we think that it means that nobody is against us. But it means much more than this in the Bible. It includes 5 things. It means that:
· someone is whole as a person. There is nothing to cause a lack of agreement inside him or her.
· there is a sense of being complete. Nothing is missing.
· there is satisfaction
· there is joy
· there is happiness.
These 5 things refer to one person. But they also refer to people in a general way.
So, this is what ‘peacemakers’ do. They work hard to cause this kind of peace. They encourage all that brings honour to God. They encourage all that causes agreement between people. This was what Jesus was saying in verse 9.
People should see ‘peacemakers’ at work everywhere. They should be trying to cause peace in a family. They should be active in the church. They should be working for peace in the world. They will also work for the spiritual good of all people. This is their most important work.
These people are following the model of their Father. (Read Hebrews 13:20 and 2 Corinthians 5:20.) They are following the model of their Saviour (Jesus). (Read Philippians 2:1–11 and Colossians 1:20.) God will call these people his children. Everyone will know that these people belong to God. This will happen when God judges people at the end of the world. So, the ‘peacemakers’ show three things. They show that they are the children of God. They show that they are living in peace. They show that they are living for peace.
Verse 9 links with verse 8. It emphasises a most important Christian truth. It happens when a person really believes. A great change takes place. It may only happen slowly. But a change does take place. There is a reason for this. God gives his Holy Spirit to every believer (Christian). The Holy Spirit helps him or her to live a life that will please God.
1. The Holy Spirit is active in your life. What evidence of this is of most value to you? Is it the evidence that Jesus would most love to see?
2. What ambitions do the people of God have today? It should be the desire to be holy. It should also be the desire for peace. What do Christian people today often put in place of these things?
3. Non-Christians notice the lives of believers. The Holy Spirit is in them. There should be evidence of this. What would help people most to become Christians today?
Be careful! There will be enemies.
Jesus emphasised that there would be *persecution. He showed how the believer could find comfort at a time like that.
Verses 3–10 all start with the same word. Some translations use the word ‘happy’. Other translations use the word ‘blessed’. Verses 11 and 12 explain more. They show the reactions of non-Christians to real Christians. Verses 13–16 make a contrast. They describe the Christians’ reactions. They live in the world. Many other people in the world do not believe. These verses give the right reaction to these people. They show how Christians should behave in that world.
There will always be *persecution for real believers. Jesus taught this. He emphasised the fact in three ways:
• *Persecution is evidence. It shows that a person is a citizen of God’s *kingdom.
• Jesus spoke about ‘when’ not ‘if’ *persecution will happen.
• History shows that *persecution will happen (verse 12).
Here, Jesus was speaking about a certain type of *persecution. It is when people say bad things against you (verse 11). All believers must experience it at some time. This is the least form of *persecution. Many Christians (believers) experience much worse things.
Sometimes, Christians suffer for the wrong reasons. It can be because of their *sin. They may be stupid or not wise in their words or deeds. They may insist that only their group is right. Jesus was not thinking about any of these things.
Here, it is *persecution because of a person’s right beliefs. It is because of a person’s good behaviour. Jesus called these things *persecution. Today, non-Christians may laugh at those who practise love. They may laugh at those who are ready to forgive. Also, there are Christians at work. They will want to work all day. They will refuse to tell lies. These things may cause other people to laugh at them.
Jesus tells us that we must not just continue. There is something more. When there is *persecution, we must be happy and glad (verse 12)! There are three reasons for this. They are things about *persecution.
· It gives us evidence that we really are Christians (verse 10).
· It helps us to be more sure that we are God’s children.
· It means that we will have a reward one day. The reward then will be much greater than any suffering that we have now (verse 12).
1. Think about your own life. You may have told someone that you are a Christian. People made things hard for you because of this. What things in this passage could encourage you?
2. Have non-Christians caused difficulties for your local church? If they have, why was this?
3. The Church in the West today rarely seems to have *persecution. Why do you think that this is true?
Salt and light
Jesus described some responsibilities of those who follow him.
Read verses 10–12. Here, Jesus explained something. It was about the people who do not believe. They will always have a certain reaction. They have this reaction to real *disciples of Jesus.
Now read verses 13–16. Here, Jesus spoke about believers. He explained their reaction. This reaction would be to the people who do not want God in their lives. Jesus used two word pictures. First, he used salt (verse 13). Then, he used light (verses 14–16).
Think about salt. The main use of salt is to stop things from going bad. Jesus has something to teach us here. It is about people who do not believe. They tend to do more evil. Jesus said that the people of God are like ‘salt’. People will get morally worse without this ‘salt’. The world’s history shows that this is true. There has been a big change in nations and peoples. This has been when real believers have been most noticeable.
When you rub salt into something, you cannot see it. But it still stops things from going bad. You cannot see it, but it still works. Jesus taught that steady *disciples can prevent the growth of *sin. They can have a powerful effect, even if people cannot see it.
There should be nothing in salt to spoil it. If there is, the salt will not be useful. Real *disciples should be like salt in this way. They will keep away from anything that would spoil. Believers will want only what God wants. They will desire only God’s honour in everything. This does not mean that there would be no contact with non-Christians. *Disciples can only be like salt if they are with non-Christians!
• Salt stops things from going bad, as we saw above.
• Salt gives flavour. Steady *disciples will have a good quality of life. Other people will not have it. They will see that these *disciples enjoy good pleasures. They will wish that they could do the same.
• Salt prevents the growth of things that cause disease. Real *disciples will try to be pure in every part of their lives.
There is something else to consider. If something spoils salt, it cannot be useful. It even has bad results. If salt gets into the ground, it will stop growth. So, *disciples like this are a bad example to other people.
Then, there was a most serious matter. Read Matthew 5:13. Jesus’ words mean that bad salt cannot become salty again. These words teach us. They teach that a real *disciple’s life is always of some use. Perhaps they also teach something about a person who is like bad salt. He or she must receive God’s punishment. God must send that person away. So, we should be like good salt.
Then, Jesus spoke about light. He said, ‘You are the light of the world.’ Real *disciples cannot hide that fact. It will show in the way that they live. It is not just their words. It is not just their ‘good deeds’. It is the way in which they do these actions. It is the way in which they say these words. Their lives should be right. They should be beautiful and attractive. They should give honour to God only.
1. Here, Jesus described the life of a real believer. This life shows people about God. It cannot avoid doing that. How much do you think that this is true of you? How might you improve?
2. Should people in churches today practise ‘good deeds’? In what ways do you think that they should do this? If they do too much social work, what dangers are there?
3. ‘Good deeds’ cannot save people from their *sins. How can we tell people this fact?
The *Old Testament teaching today
Jesus explained about the *OT *Law in our own situations. He showed us how we should understand it. He explained how we can know its meaning.
People often discuss this passage. They very often understand it wrongly too. So, it is vital to study it well. Then we can be sure about what it means.
Jesus said that his teaching agreed with the whole of the *OT. This was what he told those who listened to him. (Read verses 17–18.) But, the teaching of the religious leaders was very different. Jesus said that their teaching did not agree with the *OT. (Read verses 19–20.)
We need to know what the *Jews meant by ‘the Law’. It referred to the laws that were in the first 5 books of our Bible. These are Genesis to Deuteronomy. The ‘*Prophets’ meant the next group of books. They are the books of Joshua to 2 Kings. (But *Jews do not include Ruth in this section.) This group also includes Isaiah to Malachi (but not Daniel). The other books of the *OT were called ‘the Writings’.
However, the words ‘Law and *Prophets’ usually apply to the whole of the *OT. This was how Jesus used the words here. So, he taught that he would never destroy any of the *OT teachings. He said, ‘I came to give full meaning to what it taught.’ He was not adding to them. He was not putting anything in their place. So, Jesus claimed two things. First, the whole of the *OT spoke about him. Second, he completely obeyed all of the *OT.
Jesus spoke Aramaic. The *OT was in Aramaic and Hebrew. Both these languages have the same alphabet. Jesus spoke about the smallest letter of the alphabet. He also spoke about the smallest part of a letter (verse 18). In this way, Jesus taught that he would not change any of the *OT. There has been much discussion on one word. This word is ‘until’ in verse 18. But, the word just emphasises something that is permanent. Jesus taught that the *OT is permanent. Its basic lessons do not change.
Jesus explained the meaning of ‘righteousness’ (to be and to do what is right).
In verses 19 and 20, Jesus answered another question. It was, ‘What is real righteousness?’ There were two groups of religious teachers. There were the teachers of the *Law (the scribes). Also there were the *Pharisees. To them, it was most important to obey all the *OT *Law. This was what they taught. They wanted to obey all of God’s laws. Jesus knew this. (This explains his words in verse 19.)
But, they did not understand two big things about the *OT *Law.
• First, it emphasised ceremonies. To obey God’s *Law on the outside of themselves was most important to them. They did not tell people to obey God because they loved him. This was the reason for what Jesus said in verse 20. Real ‘righteousness’ is greater than the righteousness of these men.
· Also, the teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees added many rules. This meant that they never noticed great lessons in the *OT. Sometimes, they even denied these truths. Jesus discussed this particular bad habit in detail. He did this is in verses 21–48.
In these verses, Jesus taught about standards. There was the standard of ‘righteousness’ in the *OT. God would accept men and women by this standard only. There was the standard of behaviour. God expected this standard from citizens of his *kingdom.
Jesus knew that nobody could obey all the *Law. (That is, no person except himself could obey it all. Read verses 17–18.) That was the reason that he became a man. (Read 1:21.) There was a problem with the two groups of religious teachers. They thought that they could do things that would please God. And God would accept them because of what they did. Jesus’ teaching showed that this was not true. Nobody could ever do all that God requires. Nobody could ever obey all God’s laws. But God looks for people who love him. They ask for his help to obey his *Law.
1. Do you have the same interest as Jesus had in the *OT? If you do not, what is the reason for this? Decide to read at least a part of each *OT book. Then, write a plan to do this in the next 12 months.
2. Should our churches teach the laws of the *OT? Or, should they teach Jesus’ own way of life and behaviour? What are the differences?
3. Think about the teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees. In what way are non-Christians like them? Do they understand the *Law in a similar way? Explain this. Do you think that people in your church are like this too?
Jesus made 4 main points in this section of his sermon (talk).
► Jesus emphasised the moral principles of the *OT laws. They will always be God’s standards for man.
► Jesus taught something about the *OT laws. They were not a complete list of rules. God never meant that they should be like that. They were examples. They showed how God’s desires applied to specific situations. People must know how to use the principles of the *OT in their lives. This was what God intended the laws to do. The teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees did not understand this. They concentrated on the laws themselves. So, they forgot the great principles of the *Law.
► Jesus pointed out something. The teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees had not understood it. It was to do with how they obeyed the *Law. It included three things. There were motives (why we do something). There were desires. Also, there were intentions.
► Jesus showed something else. The *OT laws were usually things that people should not do. But, God wanted people to think about the good things that they should do instead. The teachers and the *Pharisees did not notice this at all.
Notice the first verse of each new section in 5:21–48. It begins with the same words. ‘You know what our people heard long ago… . But, I tell you…’. Jesus was comparing two ways to think about the laws. First, there were the teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees. They explained the *OT *Law in a certain way. Second, there was Jesus. He was going to give people the real meaning of the *OT laws.
God hates it when people hate!
It is not just acts of murder that make God angry. It is thoughts about murder.
Jesus repeated Exodus 20:13. But he added something too. He said that the teachers of the *Law had added to God’s *Law. They added: ‘God will judge anyone who kills someone.’ Jesus said that they were wrong to do this. It was not just for what they said. It was for what they did not say. It was for what they did not emphasise too.
Here, Jesus used his authority as the Son of God. The *Jews were not used to this. Their teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees never did this. They always repeated other people’s opinions.
The *Law forbade murder. This was to teach that life is important to God. This principle is in Genesis 9:1–7. This teaches that only God has rights over life. So, when anyone takes another life, he goes against God.
In Genesis 9:1–7 there is another idea. God made men and women as a copy of himself. (People use some words for this fact. They are: ‘in God’s image’.) This fact gives great worth to every human being. So, to murder someone spoils God’s image.
But, there is more. Two things are wrong. First, someone may behave as if another person’s life is not important. This is wrong. Also, it is wrong if anyone denies a person’s worth. Jesus gave three examples of this.
• He mentioned anger.
• Someone may say bad things about another person.
• Someone may say bad things to another person. (Read verse 22.)
But, that is not all. Jesus spoke about the other person as a ‘brother’. He chose to use this word. He had a reason for doing this. A good family looks after its own members. (Cain did not do this. Read Genesis 4:9.) God expects all people to look after each other. Anything less is not to obey God.
Ceremony must not be instead of actions
Notice Jesus’ words in verses 23–26. They continue from verses 21 and 22. This is hard for us to understand. Perhaps Jesus was thinking about some objections to his teaching (why people did not like his teaching). Some people may have thought that religious ceremonies were most important. Their quality of life was less important. But Jesus said that this is not what God wants.
Jesus gave an example. Someone was offering the correct gift. He wanted God to accept him. So, he did what God ordered. But, he suddenly remembered a certain person. It was someone who was angry with him. Jesus said that he must leave his gift. First, he must go to that person. He must try to make peace with him. Then, he could offer his gift. Otherwise, his gift was of no use at all.
Notice what Jesus did not say. It was not: ‘If you are angry with a brother’. Jesus did not say something else. It was not: ‘If your brother has a good reason to be angry with you’. There might be no good reason for it. But, Jesus still wanted him to try. He must try to make things right between them. If he did not, God would not accept his gift.
Jesus’ words show us something important. It is about anything that the Bible tells us not to do. Our thoughts must be good as well as our actions.
Jesus explained something in verses 25 and 26. It is urgent to become friends again. Jesus gave the reason for this. If the person does nothing, the relationship could get worse.
The standards are high in these verses. We may never achieve them perfectly in this life. But, we must try. The most important thing in life is to obey Jesus. Of course, he will help us. But we must ask him.
1. Is there someone who is angry with you? What are you going to do about it?
2. It is very important not to have wrong things between believers. (Note: This does not mean that believers must always agree about everything.) How might the members of your church emphasise this? Think especially about the *Lord’s Supper. You may say: ‘Peace be with you’ at this special meeting. But is that enough?
3. Many non-Christian groups oppose each other. How should Christians try to make peace between them?
(This is a law that some countries have. Someone kills another person. The law says that the killer must die too.)
The Bible emphasises that life is important to God. So, murder is a serious matter. Genesis 9 speaks about this. That is the reason why the *OT laws were so strict. A person who killed someone was acting against God. He lost the right to live. In the *OT, God sometimes appointed men to act for him. They were to take the life of a killer.
Today, we too must remember that life is important to God. We must think seriously about murder. But, there are other things to consider. So, when we apply God’s Word, the details will vary. There is a time for *mercy. This is especially true when there is *repentance. David was a murderer. But God forgave him. He died in peace. So, the *OT laws remain in principle for all time. But we can apply them with *mercy. We can forgive.
Jesus’ words in 5:18 still agree with the *Law. He showed this in the rest of the chapter. Jesus wants people to use the basic principles of the *Law. He does not demand that people must obey each rule exactly
The *OT permits war. The *NT emphasises another point. It applies to all of God’s people. It is that they should listen to their rulers. (Read 1 Samuel 15:1 and Romans 13:1–6.) This does not mean that the *OT and the *NT do not agree.
Some believers say that war may be necessary. They give a reason for this. The world in which we live is full of *sin. The Christian has a responsibility to the state. Sometimes, this can mean ‘taking up arms’ against another person. This is not murder in the Bible. Perhaps one man kills another man. He wants to kill him. He does this because he hates that person. That is murder. In these verses, Jesus was discussing murder.
There is another subject. It is what people call a ‘just war’. Some people think that this could be a Bible principle. The subject is too big to consider here. But this passage, on its own, does not deny such a theory.
Adultery and divorce. (Note: Adultery is a *sexual *sin. A married person is one of the partners. The other partner is not the husband or wife.)
Right *sexual behaviour begins in the mind. But it shows in a marriage that lasts.
Adultery in the mind (verses 27–30)
These verses give another example from Jesus’ words. They show how we should understand the *OT laws. They show the real meaning of ‘righteousness’. (This means to be right. It means to do what is right too.)
Jesus said words from Exodus 20:14. This is command 7. The *Jews thought that it applied only to the act of adultery. Jesus explained God’s words. He was not speaking about a look that admires. He was not speaking about our natural *sexual natures. God gave them to us. Jesus was not speaking about the sudden thought that enters the mind. *Satan tempts us. But, what we do with it is important. The child of God should stop that thought quickly.
But, Jesus was speaking about something. It is the deliberate look of desire (when we mean to do it). Read verse 28. This describes the thoughts and actions of a man. That man is not innocent!
Read verses 28–29. A person may choose to imagine *sexual *sin. Jesus showed that that is a *sin. These thoughts are a serious matter. The person must refuse them completely. We must not do exactly what Jesus says here. He does not want this. If he did, he would have mentioned both hands and both eyes! But, Jesus had a purpose for what he said. It was this. The eyes are the main parts of the body for wrong *sexual desires. The hands are the main parts of the body for action. We must have discipline in both desires and actions.
Marriage is for life (verses 31–32)
This is another example that Jesus gave. He was referring to the teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees. He considered their attitudes to divorce. Jesus said words from the law that they used. This was in Deuteronomy 24:1–4.
The Bible deals with the subject of divorce. It deals with the subject of remarriage too. We should read the main passages about them first. Then, we will be able to understand Jesus’ words. The passages are: Deuteronomy 24:1–4; Matthew 5:31–32; 19:3–9; 1 Corinthians 7:12–16. There are three ways to understand these passages.
1. People usually say, ‘Deuteronomy 24 permits divorce but it does not encourage it.’ In fact the *OT never did approve of divorce. But Jesus replaced the *OT teaching. He gave a new standard. Now, there is only one reason for divorce. It is adultery. (There is more information in a later section. This is the section on Matthew 19:1–12.)
1 Corinthians 7 does not mention the word ‘divorce’. So, some people suggest that it refers to something else. It is when a couple separate from each other. This may take place when one partner leaves the other partner. In the *NT, there is only one time when there can be a remarriage. This is when one partner dies.
2. Paul does not use the word ‘divorce’ in 1 Corinthians 7. But, he does use language that clearly refers to it. People do not want to act against Jesus’ words. So, they have an explanation. Jesus was speaking about marriage that was between believers. Paul was thinking about another kind of marriage. This marriage was between a believer and someone who was not a believer. So, believers cannot divorce except for two reasons. First, they can divorce for adultery. Second, they can divorce if the non-Christian partner leaves them.
3. Perhaps this is the best explanation. Jesus was not trying to replace the *OT law about divorce. But he was trying to answer a question. The *Jews often asked it. They asked: ‘What are the reasons for divorce in the *OT?’ But Jesus did not give a direct answer. He said that they were asking the wrong question. They should not be arguing about the reasons for divorce. They should ask something else first. They should ask: ‘What does the *OT teach about marriage?’ Jesus emphasised the ideal for marriage. The relationship can end only when one partner dies.
But, Jesus recognised realities. There was a time to allow divorce. This was when there was adultery. In this case, there could be divorce. The ‘innocent’ partner would not be guilty of *sin. This does not mean that there must be divorce after adultery.
There is something else. Maybe, a wife behaves badly to her husband. This could make it easier for him to think about adultery. Then, Jesus would expect her to feel guilty. She would have some responsibility in the matter. Of course, a husband may behave badly to his wife. The same thing would be true in that case too.
But, Jesus did not change the teaching of the *OT. This was that divorce is possible for certain reasons. Paul thought this too. He gave the example of one partner who leaves.
But Jesus emphasised something. The teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees did not emphasise it. Jesus taught that divorce is usually a *sin. There should be *repentance. Where it is possible, the couple should save their marriage. There is nothing very specific about divorce in the Bible. We must decide if there can be a divorce. We must do this in each situation. But, we must always teach something too. It is this. When a marriage fails, there has been *sin.
1. Am I thinking about some wrong things? Do I enjoy doing this? What could I do to improve things? How does Jesus feel about it?
2. There is always *sin in a divorce. So, what does this teach about the state of marriage? What does it teach about deciding to marry?
3. Sometimes a couple stay together when there is hate. This is a terrible thing. Is divorce worse than this? If so, why is it worse? If not, why is it not worse?
4. Church leaders often find it hard to deal with divorce. How do they help someone who has had a divorce? How might this passage help them?
When you say an oath (a strong promise). When you do more than you need to do.
A real *disciple will always respect the truth. Someone may hurt you. But you will not want to hurt that person.
Jesus continued to give examples. They were about his teaching in 5:17–20. Again, he referred to a popular teaching of the *Jews (verse 33). He gave a short account of some *OT passages. They are: Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:2 and Deuteronomy 23:21. He did not agree with the *Jewish religious leaders. They taught the opposite of what the *Law intended. Jesus referred to the law about oaths (strong promises). This was what they taught. Only some oaths were important. But, Christians should not use oaths at all when they speak. When they say ‘yes’, they should mean ‘yes’. When they say ‘no’ they should mean ‘no’.
When you do more than you need to do
Read verse 38. Jesus again said words from *Jewish tradition. They were short accounts of some passages in the *OT. These were Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20 and Deuteronomy 19:21. The short accounts were right. But the *Jews had not understood them in the right way.
These *OT instructions were for the law courts. (Read Deuteronomy 19:18 especially.) The laws gave principles. They were there to help judges to make decisions. There were two reasons for this.
• First, the law should control wrong desires. Someone has hurt you. So, you want to hurt that person. You have suffered. So, you want that person to suffer too.
• Second, the law removes punishment from personal feelings. It puts the responsibility with the court of law.
But, the *Jews increased the principle of the *Law. It became a guide for personal behaviour. People could use the *Law in the courts wrongly too. They could use it to give excuses for their evil desires. They thought that someone had done bad things to them. So, they would use the court to do bad things to that person.
There is a big contrast in verses 39–42. Jesus showed how people should apply the *Law. He referred to a blow on the cheek. This was a very bad thing to do in ancient Israel. Jesus suggested something here. It is never right to punish another person for a personal wrong.
But we must understand Jesus’ words in the right way. Someone might say, ‘A man should never say anything to those who behave badly.’ It could seem that Jesus meant that. But he did not mean that. It is important that people should be fair to everybody. The rights of other people are important too. So, people may defend themselves. But the *disciple must stay holy. A *disciple should accept it when someone does bad things to him or her. That is, if it only affects him or her. His or her love can then change attitudes.
In Jesus’ day, the *Romans were in power. They could force *Jews to do things (verse 41). And *Jews could not refuse to obey their commands. This practice was not popular. And it might not be convenient. The *Pharisees would obey. But they would show that they were unhappy about it. Jesus said that this must not be the standard for *disciples. They must do their duties in a cheerful way. They must be generous in the way that they do the duties too.
Jesus gave an example in verse 42. There are people who really need help. This teaches what the *disciple’s reaction should be to them. The *disciple should help them all that he can.
1. Should a Christian ever tell lies? Is there any situation when it might be right?
2.Think about a certain situation. Someone has hurt you. You want to hurt that person in return. What should you do? Someone may say: ‘I can never forgive him for what he has done.’ How would you help the person who says that?
3. Members of the Church should be willing to give in to other members. How can they show this? There is a principle in verse 39. Jesus spoke about someone who hits you on one side of your face. Jesus said that you should let that person hit the other side of your face too! How much should a Christian be like this? Think about an example. A thief steals some important equipment from the church. Should the people of the church forgive him? Should they call the police? Or, should they do both these things?
We must look at Jesus’ words that are in the Bible. We must understand his words as the Bible describes them. We can see that Jesus was not speaking about national events. So, Jesus was not teaching that we must always refuse to fight in wars. He was not saying that we must not oppose evil. Discussion on these subjects must come from other passages.
It seems that Jesus was not speaking about social relationships either. Romans chapter 13 and 1 Peter chapter 2 are about society. Those passages show a person’s relationships in society. It would seem that Christians could be judges in courts of law. Jesus could be saying that a Christian should never go to court. Or, that he should not oppose a thief who comes into his house. Or, that he should just give away all that he has. But it is hard to believe that Jesus meant these things.
Jesus was teaching about our behaviour with other people. We must not have wrong attitudes. So, people may hurt us. But we must not want to hurt them. We should have an attitude of love.
Some people think that they should never say oaths in a court of law. They use Jesus’ words here (verses 33–37). But, this is wrong. Their understanding of Jesus’ words is not right.
The *OT allowed oaths. In fact, it demanded them in certain situations. The *OT describes holy men and women who said oaths. (Read Genesis 14:22–24; 21:23–24; 24:3, 9; 26:31; 28:20, 22; 31:53; 47:31; 50:5; Joshua 9:15; Judges 21:5; Ruth 1:16–18; 2 Samuel 15:21; 1 Kings 18:10; 2 Chronicles 15:14–15. These are only some of the references.) God says an oath in the Bible. (Read Genesis 22:16; 26:3; Psalm 89:3, 49; 110:4; 132:11; Jeremiah 11:5. Also, there is Luke 1:73 in the *NT.) Jesus would not ignore anything that was from the *OT. The High Priest gave Jesus a command. He told Jesus that he must answer. So, Jesus answered as if it was an oath. (Read Matthew 26:63–64.) Paul said oaths too. (Read 2 Corinthians 1:23 and Galatians 1:20.)
So, something is clear. God does not forbid all oaths. Jesus was teaching that it is important to be wise about oaths. People must always be serious when they use oaths. People should never use them because they want to be like non-Christians. They should never use them to swear against God. They should never use them to wish bad things for other people. Probably, oaths are never right in ordinary conversation.
Think about a person who makes an oath. He or she is going before God’s court. He or she is going before the Judge of all things. So, Jesus is teaching that truth is the standard of the Bible. People should always be able to believe what we say. We must never add to the truth. We must never take away from the truth when we speak. Promises should be promises.
Love your enemies and be serious about religion
There is one vital mark of a real *disciple. It is the greatest mark. It is love for other people. It is love that is completely unselfish (not selfish). What you do matters. But it is not just actions that matter. Attitudes are important too.
Jesus began his last example of real ‘righteousness’. (This means to be right. It means to do what is right too.) It was also his last example of how to understand the *OT laws. He said words from Leviticus 19:18. The teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees had added to the Bible passage. He also said some of their words. He showed that they changed the real meaning of the Bible passage.
The teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees put people into two groups. There were neighbours or friends. But also, there were enemies. These leaders taught that there was a big difference between the groups. The original *Law was not like this. Person A might hurt Person B. Then Person B would want to hurt Person A too. The *Law taught that love must always win. The teachers and the *Pharisees asked: ‘Who is my neighbour?’ Jesus showed that the question was wrong. The neighbour is anyone who needs help. (Read Luke 10:25–37.)
The *NT uses several words for ‘love’. There is the love that is between members of a family. There is the love that is between good friends. This is another word. There is *sexual love between a man and a woman. A different word emphasises this. But Jesus used yet another word for love. This word emphasised a person’s will. It described good intentions. It was about wanting to help people. This kind of love will not change whatever people say or do. They may insult us. They may hurt us. But we will not allow ourselves to be bitter against them.
Jesus gave other reasons why a *disciple must live in this way. He gave the example of God himself (verse 45). God has a special family love for his children. (Read Genesis 17:21; Psalms 103:17–18 and 147:20.) But he cares about everyone too. (Read Genesis 17:20; Psalm 36:6 and John 3:16.) God expects us to care about everyone too.
Jesus gave another reason (verses 46–47). God meant his laws to make his *disciples different. They should not be the same as non-believers. But God’s *disciples have a choice. They could choose the same standards as non-Christians. Then, there would be no difference between them. There would be no evidence that they were real *disciples.
Verse 48 ends all of Jesus’ teaching in this section. (The section is verses 21–48.) He seemed to refer to two passages in the *OT. They are Leviticus 19:2 and Deuteronomy 18:13. He showed that the teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees were wrong. They thought that these passages referred to actions. They thought something else too. They referred only to the deeds that the Bible actually stated. In this chapter, Jesus taught that this was wrong.
Be serious about religion (6:1–4)
First, Jesus dealt with the thoughts of the teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees. This was in chapter 5:21–48. Here, he dealt with their actions. God expected certain things from real*disciples. They had failed to understand this. Their thoughts and their actions both showed it.
There is a general principle in verse 1. Three examples follow:
· good works (verses 2–4). This refers to the care that a *disciple should show to other people.
· prayer (verses 5–15). This refers to the *worship that a *disciple should give to God.
· to fast (to go without food, verses 16–18). A *disciple should try to stop *sinning. This refers to the way that he should do it.
Jesus began by speaking against some people. He spoke about those who brought attention to themselves. They did this by religious actions (verse 1). He spoke against the actions of ‘hypocrites’ (actors). People like this still act in front of people. They do good things for other people to see. They pretend to be religious.
Jesus’ point is a simple one. The *Jews were doing the right things. But they were doing them in the wrong way. A real *disciple should want only to please God the Father (verse 4). So, a *disciple should do good deeds to please God. This attitude will please God. God will bless him or her in this life. God will bless him or her in the next life too.
1. Think about the teaching in 5:21–48. In these verses, we see spiritual things to check in our lives. What are they?
2. ‘See how these Christians love each other.’ Is this what non-Christians think about you and people in your church? If not, what is the reason for this?
3. Do it ‘secretly’ (6:34). ‘Let your light shine’ (5:16). These two verses seem to be opposite in meaning. How can they both be true?
For real prayer there must be a proper attitude. Jesus gave us the best example. He gave us a pattern for real prayer.
Jesus now spoke about prayer. It is still the most important duty of a *disciple. The *Pharisees believed that it was important. This was correct. But, their attitude was wrong. People must see them when they were praying. So, they were not really praying to God. They were like actors. The two examples that Jesus gave showed this. He was really saying the same as he was in the last section. These kinds of prayers were to please people. And people would think that they were good prayers (verse 5). But that is not real prayer. When we pray, we should want only to please God.
Jesus spoke about other false prayers in verses 7–8. Many religious people think that prayer is like magic. So, the more that they pray, the more it will work. Because of this belief, some people use things to help them. They may use prayer wheels. They may count little stones that are on a string. People can even use The *Lord’s Prayer like this. (Note: This is the prayer that Jesus taught. See below.) It is easy just to repeat the words. But this is not real prayer. Other people try to impress God. So, they use special words.
But we should really mean what we pray. Jesus emphasised that. People sometimes think that they must repeat the same words continuously. Then they can be sure that God knows their needs. But this is not necessary. The God to whom we pray loves us. He is always ready to answer our prayers. Often, people just do not ask!
The prayer that is a model (verses 9–15)
In this section, Jesus gave us two things. First, he gave us a form of prayer. Then he gave us an example to follow. (Read verses 9–13.) It is a short prayer. But, it is a complete prayer. It includes everything. It is called The *Lord’s Prayer.
· Our Father
The word that Jesus used for ‘Father’ here is important. It was the word ‘Abba’. This is in the Aramaic language. It is still the most familiar form of the word. A child uses it to his father. It points to the fact that God is near to us. It shows that he loves and cares about his children. They are part of his family. The Bible speaks about God as the Father of all people. (Read Malachi 2:10 and Psalm 36:6.) But in this passage, only the real *disciple can pray like this.
· in heaven
This does not refer to where God lives. It is about God’s power. It refers to his rule over all things. God can do whatever he wants. God is our Father in heaven. This increases the confidence of real *disciples.
God is also the ruler who has all authority and power. This should cause the *disciple to have the right reactions. The reactions must include two things. First, there should be humble confidence. Then there should be great respect.
The rest of Jesus’ prayer includes 7 requests. There are 3 for God’s *glory (honour). Then, there are 4 for our personal needs.
· We want people to give honour to your name.
In the Bible, the ‘name’ of a person is special. It refers to all that he or she is like. To give ‘honour’ includes humble trust. So, the person wants all people to give honour to God. This includes the person who makes the request.
· We want your *kingdom to come.
Jesus clearly referred to his own great acts. (Read Matthew 12:28.) He said that these acts showed something. It was this. ‘The *kingdom of God has come to you.’ Here, the *disciple prays that God’s *kingdom will come. He asks God to establish the authority of Jesus in his own life. He wants God to establish his *salvation in all his people. He also asks that Jesus’ authority will be total. He wants this to happen soon. (Note: ‘He’ refers to both he and she.)
So, the *disciple wants God to establish his *kingdom now. But, there is more in this request. It includes the future ages too. (Read Revelation 22:20.) Every real believer (Christian) will meet God some day. God will complete all his promises. The real believer should desire this time very much. Then, ‘He (God) will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death. Nobody will be sad. So, nobody will cry. There will be no more pain.’ (Read Revelation 21:4.) Each believer should desire the great time that is coming.
· We want everyone to do your will on earth as everyone does it in heaven.
In heaven, the *angels *worship God. They praise him. They are ready to do his will. This request is that people on earth should do the same. They should always obey God. They should obey him completely. They should obey him gladly. They should obey him immediately. This is what always happens in heaven.
· Give us our daily bread today.
We all have physical needs. God cares about the daily things that we need. He cares about them just as much as he cares about great matters. The word ‘bread’ probably refers to things that are necessary in life. God is not thinking of extra things that we do not need.
· Forgive the *sins that we have done; the same as we forgive the people who have *sinned against us.
Jesus knows that everyone needs God to forgive him or her. This is because of failure and *sin. In this prayer we are asking for God’s *mercy. We fail daily. So, every real *disciple must often make this request. But there is something else. A person may claim to be a *disciple. If so, that person must forgive other people. Someone may refuse to do this. If so, he or she cannot know that God has forgiven him or her.
This request is important. So, Jesus explained more about it after the prayer. (Read verses 14–15.)
· Do not lead us into the place of temptation.
(This is the word for when someone tempts us. That person tries to make us think or do something wrong. We feel the urge or desire for it too.) Temptation itself is not a *sin. But it tests us about how strong we are. And it tests us about how loyal we are. It tests whether we can serve God too.
· But keep us safe from the evil one (the devil)
Read 4:1–11. There is always some danger in temptation. This is because it comes from the devil. So, a *disciple should try to avoid it as much as possible. Temptation begins in the mind. So the *disciple will refuse to look at or think about something that is wrong. This was what Jesus taught.
Some versions of the Bible include some more words.
· The *kingdom, the power and the *glory are yours for ever; Amen (we want it to be like that).
(‘For ever’ means for all of time, and after time ends.) It seems that these words were not in the book of Matthew at first. It was usual for the *Jews to end a prayer with words of *worship. Then they started to use Jesus’ prayer. They probably added these words at that time. They seem to come from some passages in the *OT. The passages are 1 Chronicles 29:11; Nehemiah 9:5 and Psalms 145–150.
This prayer is complete. It includes everything.
It includes references to:
· God’s *glory (the first 3 requests)
· things that we need (the last 4 requests)
· physical needs (request 4)
· spiritual needs (requests 5, 6 and 7)
· present, past and future needs (requests 4, 5 and 6)
· other people’s needs. (Notice the words ‘our’ and ‘us’.)
Jesus included all of these things in 7 brief requests. This is a perfect model for our prayers.
1. Think about the times when you pray this prayer. Do you really want God to answer you? If God does answer your requests, what changes will need to happen?
2. Think about public prayer in our churches. It is easy just to repeat prayers together. Or, it can be just one person’s prayer. How can they become real prayers of the whole group?
3. The people of a church should make a difference in the world. Prayer should be the way to do this. But only a few people go to meetings that are for prayer. Why does this happen?
Our intention to continue with prayer should be firm. God approves of this. The Bible teaches it. Jesus agreed with it too. He prayed all night sometimes. (Read Matthew 14:2–25.) Paul said that we should pray ‘all the time’. (Read Romans 12:12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17.) Jesus spoke about this kind of prayer too. (Read Luke 11:5–13; 18:1–8.)
But, Jesus forbade a certain attitude to prayer. It was about the form and the length of prayer. Some people still use these things. By them, they decide how spiritual a person is. But it is not right to do this.
A life that has a purpose
Put the things that are most important first! Even food is less important than God.
The proper reason for a person to fast (verses 16–18)
(Note: To fast is when a person chooses not to eat for a time.)
To fast (go without food) was normal in the life of a good *Jew. Jesus did not discuss the qualities of this practice. The right attitude, while a person fasts, is the important thing. To fast can show our determination. We are going to put first the most important things. To fast can help us too. We can see what is most important in our lives. These things will happen if we fast with the right attitude.
The *Jews had two types of fast (times when they did not eat). There were the public fasts. These were times when everyone fasted. For example, there was the Day of Atonement. (Read Leviticus 16.) They would all fast at a time when very bad things were happening to the nation too. Also, there were private fasts. (Read Mark 2:18 and Luke 18:12.) These were for moral and religious discipline. In this passage, Jesus seemed to be speaking about private fasts. Jesus taught that a real *disciple must be sincere. He or she must not fast so that all will know about it. It must be private. (Compare verses 17–18 with verses 3–4, 6.)
There is another way to understand Jesus’ words. He may be calling us to control ourselves. We can become so busy with things that we forget God. These things could be right. But it is sometimes good for a *disciple to leave them. He or she may need to think only about spiritual things. To fast could help him or her to do this.
The most important things in life (verses 19–24)
In 6:1–18, Jesus spoke about a danger. People can put religious custom first in their lives. The custom could then become more important than a right attitude. In verses 9–34, Jesus spoke about two other dangers. The first is in verses 19–24. Believers (Christians) call it ‘being worldly’. This is when things and people have first place in a life. Spiritual things then become secondary. The next danger is in verses 25–34. It is the danger of worry. Both of these dangers are a result. They come from a *disciple’s wrong way of life. They come when there is a lack of trust. They come when there is *sin in his or her life.
Some people have ideas of what Jesus meant here. They say that a *disciple should never make plans. He or she should not prepare for the future at all. (Read verse 11.) But other people say that God especially approves when people are poor. These ideas are not correct. Jesus is thinking about a person’s attitudes. A poor person can think too much about worldly things. A rich man can be a real *disciple.
Some people want the things in this world. They do not live their lives for God. Jesus said that people like this are wrong. He said that they were foolish. Treasures in this world wear out. (Note: Treasures are anything that a person values much.) And, a person cannot take them into the next life either. A *disciple should be preparing for that future life. He or she should be storing treasures in heaven.
All people want the things that they believe to be important. This is what should control their lives. (Read verse 21.)
In the ancient world, a slave had no rights. He or she was the property of a master. All the time, that slave had to do what the master wanted. It was impossible to have two masters (verses 24). The same thing is true when we live for God. This was what Jesus said.
1. What are God’s ambitions for you? Are you following them? Is discipline important? What do you think about it?
2. What are God’s ambitions for your church? What are those of your group? Are both ambitions the same?
3. What place should ‘fasts’ have in today’s church? What might they include, in addition to not eating? Give reasons for these things.
There are many reasons to fast in the *OT:
· *Repentance. (Read Leviticus 16:29–34; 23:26–32; Numbers 29:7–11; Deuteronomy 9:18; 1 Kings 21:27; Nehemiah 9; Daniel 9:3–4; Jonah 3:5.)
· An illness. (Read 2 Samuel 12:15–23.)
· Defeat in war. (Read Judges 20:26.)
· The death of someone that you love. (Read 1 Samuel 31:13; 1 Chronicles 10:11–12; 2 Samuel 1:12.)
· The arrival of sad news. (Read Nehemiah 1:3–4.)
· Trouble as a punishment from God. (Read Joel 1:14; 2:12–15.)
· Terrible danger from an enemy. (Read 2 Chronicles 20:3; Esther 4:3; 9:31.)
These are reasons why people fasted in the *OT.
Worry and how to avoid it
God is a ruler who has all authority and power. He loves and looks after each of his *disciples. Worries about the future should not stop us trusting God.
In verses 19–24, Jesus spoke about a danger. It is bad for us when we put things before God. Attitudes like this come from trust that is not complete. This does not mean that real *disciples should never make plans. Birds work hard. They prepare their nests (verses 26). The Bible teaches that we should do both of these things. We should work hard and we should make plans. (Read Proverbs 6:6; 2 Corinthians 12:14; 1 Timothy 5:8.) Here, Jesus warns us about worry. It stops us from trusting God. Sometimes, it can fill a person’s thoughts all the time.
Jesus mentioned the necessities of life. They are food, drink and clothes. (Read verse 25.) Jesus knows that these things can cause worry. This is especially true in some societies or countries. There can be a serious lack of these things. There is a natural need to think about some things. Jesus does not forbid this. But he says that this must never become worry. Jesus gave several reasons:
► Life is more important than food. It is more important than clothes. (Read verse 25.) *Jews often made a point in this way. Something that was less important would emphasise the thing that was more important. Jesus seemed to do that here. God has given us life. So, we do not need to worry about less important things.
► God looks after tiny birds. They do not need to get anxious (verses 26). So, surely, God looks after men and women too.
► Worry does not help in any way. We never achieve anything by it. (Read verse 27.)
► Think of a field that is full of flowers. Nothing is more beautiful. But they are not like this because they are anxious. It is because of God’s provision. God gives this beauty to a field. So, Jesus says, he will certainly provide for all his children’s needs. (Read verses 28–29.)
So, it is hard to understand why we worry. We worry when we do not trust God. (Read verse 30.) So, real *disciples should never worry, even if other people worry. Real *disciples should be confident in God. He knows everything that they need. They should use all their energy to live for God. Then, each *disciple can live one day at a time.
1. Is there something that worries you today? What can encourage you in this passage? Does it help when you do not worry about future days?
2. Do some Christians tend to worry more? Someone may tell them that they do not have enough trust in God. Would that help them? How can you help each other in this matter?
3. Think about this passage. What difference should a non-Christian see in a Christian?
Some people give these verses a certain meaning. They say that real *disciples should never have a lack of anything. Usually people say this in countries where most people are rich. People in other countries know that this is not true. So, think about how we should understand Jesus’ words.
In the *OT, there is what is called ‘teaching of wisdom’. Proverbs is the most famous ‘book of wisdom’. The author spoke about ‘Wisdom’ as if it was a person. ‘Wisdom’ considered life. It decided things because of experience. But, these were not rules. Sometimes, people made them into rules. But, they found that this just did not succeed.
This happened with the men who comforted Job. They tried to explain Job’s experience. But they failed to do it. They thought that they knew the answer. He was suffering. So, he must have *sinned. But, the book of Job shows that this was not true. Suffering is often the result of *sin. But, it is not always like that.
Here, Jesus’ words are ‘wisdom’. They are generally true in experience. God’s children find that he does provide for their needs. He often does this in wonderful ways. But, it does not always happen like this. God’s people may suffer a lack. They may even die. But there is always a reason for it. God has a greater purpose to achieve through them. But, whatever happens, one thing is certain. We can trust God completely.
Be careful how you talk about other people’s bad habits!
We do not gain anything when we talk about people’s bad habits in the wrong way. To do this can be unkind. It can show a lack of care. It may not be sincere. Instead, we should look to God. He provides what we need.
The person who is always noticing bad habits (verses 1–6)
Read verse 1. Jesus did not mean that we must always ignore the bad habits of other people. He was referring to the sort of people who are always looking for bad habits. They enjoy finding them too (verse 3). It shows someone who is unkind. That person thinks that he or she would never be like that. That person does not show love or *mercy.
People like this are only aware about the weaknesses of other people. They do not look at themselves. They are always finding reasons to talk about other people’s bad habits. But they are never aware of what they lack. In fact, the bad habits that they find in other people are their own worst bad habits. But, usually, they are not aware of this (verse 5).
Something else makes it even worse. Someone like this talks about another person’s bad habits. But that person is a ‘brother’ (another Christian). It is someone whom he should be helping. Jesus made it clear that the matter is very serious. (Read verses 1 and 2.)
Jesus said three things about looking at other people in the right way:
► A good judge of people needs clear sight. He or she must understand things clearly. A blind optician (someone who tests people’s eyes) is of no help at all! So, before we judge a Christian ‘brother’, we must examine ourselves. We must *repent. We must pray to God for help. (Read verse 7 especially.)
► There may be a time to tell someone about a bad habit. But we must always do it in the right way. Our attitude must be right. It must be for the benefit of the other person too.
► We must always be careful if we speak about someone’s bad habits (verse 6). Jesus gave two examples. First, there were dogs. They were wild, large, fierce and ugly. Then, he mentioned pigs. God gave orders to *Jews about them. *Jews must not eat pigs. They must not even touch dead bodies of pigs. (Read Leviticus 11:7 and Deuteronomy 14:8.) Jesus was saying that we must deal with people carefully.
God loves to answer our prayers
The standards for a real *disciple are very high. This includes 7:1–6! Men and women cannot reach these standards. But, help is available from the Father. (Read verse 11. Then compare 6:9.) God is always ready to give his help. The standards are too high. The *disciple cannot do it. But God can do it in him or her (verses 7–8). The *disciple must depend on God. As he does this, he must continue to ask. Then he will receive from God. He must continue to look for what he wants. Then God will show him the answer. He must continue to ‘knock’. This is a word picture. It shows that he is not going to stop until he has an answer. God will answer someone who is like this. (Note: ‘He’ means ‘he’ or ‘she’.)
Everyone who looks for help in this way will find it. God will give in exact proportion to the need. He will not do anything that is unkind. It will not hurt us rather than help us. A human parent wants to satisfy the needs of his children. So, there can be no doubt that God will do the same!
Verse 12 seems to be the end to 7:1–11. It seems to end the whole sermon (talk) so far. People have often given a certain meaning to it. They say that God accepts the person who lives by this standard. But, Jesus could not mean this. He taught that God accepts only one type of person. God accepts the person who trusts him completely. God knows that we must all have his help. We see this in verses 7–11 especially. But, he taught it all through his sermon. Jesus taught, too, that men and women always need *mercy. They need God to forgive them.
Read Matthew 22:35–40. Someone asked Jesus a question. ‘Which is the most important command of the law?’ Jesus said words from Deuteronomy 6:5. ‘You must love the *Lord your God.’ Then he said that the next command was like it. He said words from Leviticus 19:17–18. ‘You must love other people in the same way as you love yourself.’ Jesus added: ‘Think about all of the *Law. Think about what the *prophets wrote. They all take their meaning from these two commands.’
Read what he said in verse 12. ‘You want other people to behave in a certain way to you. You must behave in the same way to them. This is what the *Law means. This is what the *prophets taught. ‘So, 7:12 seems to be a short account of what Jesus taught in 22:35–40. All the moral standards of the *OT come from these principles. First, love God. (Read Deuteronomy 6:5.) Then, love other people as you love yourself. (Read Leviticus 19:18.)
1. Think about someone who tends to look for bad habits. Are you like them? (Think carefully about this.)
2. How can members of churches make it possible to show people their bad habits in a helpful way? What we say should not make people sad. Is it ever possible to do this? How can we avoid a wrong attitude when we talk to someone about a bad habit?
3. A non-Christian may think that he or she is obeying verse 12. What would you say to him or her?
Be ready to act!
Jesus warns us not to choose the wrong ways. A life that is too easy can lead to this. Some people listen to false information. They can make bad decisions too. Some people do not look hard for the truth. They may easily choose the wrong way.
The narrow way (verses 13–14)
People must make a choice. Jesus asked them to decide. Two people who lived before Jesus did the same. There was Moses. (Read Deuteronomy 30.) Then there was Jeremiah. (Read Jeremiah 21:8.) Jesus knows what people are like. He knows that they tend to hesitate. So, Jesus urged people to act.
Only a few people find the right way in life. It is not a very popular way. It has interest for only a few people. It is a way that will be difficult to follow too. Jesus described a certain kind of gate. Only one person at a time could go through it. That person could not carry very much with him or her. To go on that way would require much effort. Jesus taught that the effort must be continuous. This was because the narrow gate leads to a narrow road.
► The narrow road leads to life (verse 14). In the *NT, ‘life’ refers to two things. First, there are the good things of the future age. We will always be close to God. Second, there are good things in the present life. There can be satisfaction now. We can be content in this life. The life of a real *disciple has real pleasures. These things will last for this life and for the next life. (Read 6:20–2.)
► The wide road leads to death (verse 13). There is danger ahead. It could lead to action. But, this does not usually happen. The wide road tends to encourage a lack of decision. But it is the popular choice. A person may feel satisfied now. But, the pleasures of this life do not last. There will be *judgement in the age that is to come too. (Read 6:20–23 again.)
The false *prophets (verses 15–20)
Jesus asked for a decision. He wanted people to listen to his message. Then he wanted them to obey it. (That was in verses 13 and 14.) But, he knew that he was not the only person who was doing this. Other people were calling for decisions too!
So, there were good teachers. But there were false teachers too. It was not easy to tell the difference between them. Jesus showed this by some word-pictures.
· He said that false teachers came to them in sheep’s clothes. This meant that these teachers were pretending. They were saying that they were real *disciples. But they were not. Often in the *OT, God’s people were called ‘sheep’. Jesus himself called them sheep too. (Read John 10.)
· There was a thorn bush in ancient Israel. (Note: A thorn is like a sharp needle. It grows on some plants.) The thorns looked like grapes (a small fruit). There was also a weed with thorns. From a distance, they looked like figs (another small fruit). In verse 16, Jesus mentioned these things. They showed how false teachers could seem to be *disciples.
· False teachers may look like sheep. But, they are really like wolves (wild dogs). Wolves are dangerous. Their mouths are very strong. Their teeth are sharp. They are clever. They attack, kill and eat another animal. False teachers may not always know that they are like wolves. But, their teaching brings spiritual death to those who follow them.
We may want to know how we can recognise false teachers. Jesus gave us a simple test. ‘You will know them by what they do’ (verse 16). Their teaching will seem to be right. People must obey their rules. This will make people feel that the false teachers are good. (Compare 5:17–48.) But their actions will make people look at them, not at God. They will tend to make people praise men and women, not God. (Compare chapter 6.) Their actions will not show the need for God’s *mercy.
A false sense of security (verses 21–23)
Jesus continued to warn people. He warned them against all that was false. He warned them against all that was not proper religion. He gave them an awful example. There is a group of people at the final *judgement. They realise that they have never been real *disciples. They have never known the way of proper religion. This surprises them very much. The situation is similar to the situation that is in verses 15–20. But, there are two main differences. Verses 15–20 refer to those who lead people in the wrong way. Here, in verses 21–23, the reference is to those whom they have led in the wrong way.
Jesus described these people. He showed what their reactions might be in the final Day of *Judgement. They might point to certain facts about themselves. These facts must surely make Jesus receive them. Of course, he would allow them to come into his *kingdom. But, the *Lord’s answer is clear. It comes with great authority. These things will not cause God to accept them.
Look at the things that these people say about themselves. They seem to have right beliefs. They are sincere. They state that they were useful in a spiritual way. (‘We gave *prophecies in your name.’) They say that they have used great spiritual gifts. (‘We made evil *spirits go out of people.’) Jesus does not deny any of these things! But these things do not cause God to accept those people. Jesus said that they were wrong about something. It was this. They did not do ‘the will of my Father who is in heaven’ (verse 21). Jesus still looks for a character that pleases God. This will show itself in a life that pleases God. Chapters 5–7 describe the sort of life that it will be.
There is an important lesson here. People’s beliefs can be right. They can be sincere. They can be useful. They may be able to do many useful things. But, they may not be real *disciples. They may not really know God. They will not have a character that pleases God. So, their lives will not please God. Beliefs must make a difference to the life.
1. How can I be sure that God has accepted me?
2. Teaching in churches today may be sincere. But it could still be false. What dangers are there in churches like this?
3. People can give great honour to a famous Christian leader. What do these verses say about this? What is the value of listening to a speaker like this? What are the dangers?
Be careful! A building may look good. But, it may not be safe.
A builder should plan and prepare well first. If a *disciple wants to succeed, he must do the same. He may hear God’s words. But, he may not obey them. This will mean very bad trouble in the end.
Read verses 15–20. There, Jesus compared two groups of people. They were the false teachers and the true teachers. Read verses 21–23. Here, Jesus compared another two groups. There were the people who just believed facts. But also, there were the real *disciples. Now read verses 24–27. Here, Jesus compared two groups again. There were wise builders. But also, there were foolish builders.
Hear and do God’s words (verses 24–27)
Everyone ‘builds’ in life. This is a picture of how a person lives. There is the wise person. He or she is the sort of person who works hard. He or she makes plans, and then follows them. This person thinks about all that he or she will need first. Then he or she ‘builds’. The result shows in the way that a person deals with a sudden crisis. Usually, a person who is like this can deal with these events. He or she can find an answer. (Note: ‘He’ refers to both ‘he’ and ‘she’.)
But, there is another type of builder. It is the foolish person. He wants the same things as the wise person wants. (He wants a house in which to live.) But he is not ready for the hard work that is necessary. Such people do not make proper plans. Often, they will not listen to the advice of other people.
Foolish people may progress as fast as wise people. This makes them think that they do not need to plan. Effort is not necessary. But it is different when there is very bad trouble. They do not prepare for difficulties. Their troubles destroy the lives of people like this.
So, Jesus described two groups of people. Both groups wanted to be *disciples. But, only one group was willing to use God’s methods. The two buildings looked the same. Both groups wanted God to accept them. They both wanted to be members of his *kingdom. They seemed to be similar. But, there were actually great differences. These were because of a different attitude to the word of God. One group heard what God said and did it. The other group only heard God’s word.
When troubles come, foolish people cannot deal with them. This happens today too. People say that they are *disciples of Jesus. But they stop believing when there are difficulties. The Day of *Judgement will be even worse. God will examine them very carefully. The truth about them will be clear then.
To obey God is like when someone builds on a rock. This does not mean that there will be no troubles. Jesus described two groups of people. Both groups had the same troubles. (Compare verses 25 and 27.) But there was a big difference. Even if the trouble is worse, someone who is like a strong building stays firm. This is because ‘the building’ stands on a rock.
Jesus taught something very clearly. It is still most important. It is for all of his *disciples. They must know what God requires. They must do God’s will too. Only then can God bless them. Only then can they know real security. They will be safe for ever.
Addition to the sermon (talk) on the mountain (verses 28–29)
The people who heard Jesus were ‘astonished’. They had felt like this for some time. Think about what caused this reaction. First, it was the authority of Jesus. It was not just his manner as he spoke. It was what he said. When the *prophets spoke, they said: ‘This is what the *Lord says’. When Jesus spoke, he did not need to say this. He used his own authority to speak.
Jesus gave his own opinions. But notice something here. Jesus said: ‘I say only the things that the Father has taught me.’ Read John 8:28. But he said too: ‘The Father and I are one.’ Read John 10:30. The teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees were not like this. They always repeated the opinions of other people. In the *OT, a *prophet was someone who spoke for God. But, in 5:11–12, Jesus claimed that his *disciples would be like *prophets. So, Jesus was claiming to be God.
Jesus said things about himself. They were things that could only be true about God. Here are some of Jesus’ claims:
· He came to give full meaning to the law (5:17). This tells us something. It is this. Jesus had a life before he came into the world.
· He had a special relationship with God. Jesus called him ‘My father’ (7:21). Compare this with ‘Our Father’ (6:9).
· He could ask all people to obey him. Jesus had the right to do this (7:24).
· He spoke with the authority of God himself (7:21–23).
Those who listened to Jesus were ‘astonished’. This is not a surprise. But it was not just his claims that had this effect on them. It was his teaching too. There was one thing in particular. He taught that human effort could never cause God to accept anyone. This was the exact opposite of what the religious leaders taught.
Jesus also spoke about those who obeyed God. They must obey because they really wanted to obey. The teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees were not like this. They knew that they should obey. So they did. But that was the only reason why they obeyed. Jesus explained about people whom God would accept. They must be more holy than these leaders. Many people were listening to Jesus. That idea was a great shock to them.
1. You have read the Sermon on the Mount (the talk on the mountain). What is your reaction to it? Read each section again. Ask God what he is saying to you.
2. Someone may say that he or she is a believer (Christian). How can you know if that claim is true?
3. What is like ‘sand’ in your own situation? What is like ‘rock’ in your own situation?
4. Someone may say: ‘Jesus was a great moral teacher.’ What would you say to this person?
Only Jesus can heal and forgive
Jesus healed a leper. (This is someone with a disease called leprosy. Leprosy is a terrible disease in the skin.) Jesus showed that he is the person whom God promised to send. He is the *Messiah. He can forgive men and women.
Matthew now began a new section of his *Gospel. (The section is Matthew 8:1–9:34.) It told about some *miracles that Jesus did. Matthew wrote his *Gospel in a careful way. So, there was a reason why he put the *miracles here.
First, they fitted with what he had already said.
• In 4:16, he repeated the *prophet Isaiah’s words. When Jesus began his work in Galilee, it was like a great light shining out.
• In 4:23–25, Matthew explained about the light. It shone out in Jesus’ words. It shone out in his actions too.
• In 5:17–20, Matthew showed again how Jesus’ words were like a great light.
• Now, in 8:1–9:34, he showed the same thing. He did this when he described some of Jesus’ actions.
The *miracles in these two chapters did something else too. They confirmed the authority of Jesus’ words.
In the Bible, *miracles were important. They happened especially when God began something new. So, we read about *miracles at the time of:
· Abraham. God first chose one small group to be his special people.
· Moses and Joshua. God rescued his people from Egypt. He had promised to give them the land. He led them into that land.
· Elijah and Elisha. These two men were the first of the great *prophets.
· Daniel. This was a time when God’s people were especially in danger.
· *Messiah. The *Jews expected to see *miracles when he came. So, Matthew recorded some *miracles that Jesus did. Something is clear. Matthew wanted to confirm that Jesus was the *Messiah. (Read 7:28–29.) The *miracles showed that God’s *kingdom had arrived. God had begun to do something new again.
The *OT *Law often mentioned diseases. Many people think that health was the only reason for the laws. But the *OT does not seem to consider the disease called leprosy in the usual way. We usually think that contact with leprosy was dangerous. But, think about Naaman. He remained the leader of an army. But he had leprosy. (Read 2 Kings 5:1.) Gehazi had leprosy. But he could speak to the king. (Read 2 Kings 8:4–5.) Also, there were the priests. They must touch people who had leprosy. They must make sure that the leprosy had gone. But they might discover that the person still had the disease. (Read Leviticus 13:12–13.)
But the *OT laws were often like signs. God used them to teach spiritual lessons. It was especially true about leprosy. This was because it was such an awful disease of the skin. It slowly spread over the whole body. A person with leprosy was like a dead person. He or she could not live with God’s people.
The sign of leprosy taught God’s people two things about *sin. First, *sin spoils people. Second, *sin separates people from God. The words of Psalm 51:7 show this clearly. David asked God to ‘wash’ him. He wanted God to make him ‘clean’. Sometimes people did recover from leprosy. Then they would use this sort of language.
*Jews thought that it was impossible to cure a person with leprosy. It was as hard as making a dead person come back to life. They thought that only God could heal a person with leprosy. (Read Numbers 12:13–15 and 2 Kings 5:14.) But, *Jews believed that both these things would happen when the *Messiah came. Matthew suggested this belief in 11:5. So, this story confirmed that Jesus was the *Messiah. It taught that he was God. It showed that Jesus could forgive *sin. (Compare Mark 2:1–12.)
Leprosy disease is a like a picture of *sin
The poor man with leprosy here seemed to have understood much. He called Jesus ‘*Lord’. The word could just mean ‘Sir’. But the Bible also used it as God’s name. The man *worshipped Jesus. He believed that Jesus could heal him. (And only God could do that.) In Luke 5:12, we read that he was ‘full’ of leprosy. So, he showed great understanding and trust in Jesus. Jesus’ action (verse 3) confirmed this.
Verse 4 is difficult. Jesus said that the man must not tell anyone. That could be difficult to understand There are various ideas. Perhaps it was only until the man had been to the priest. Perhaps Jesus thought that the priests would be jealous of him. If so, they would not want to declare that the man was ‘clean’. People might think about Jesus as just someone who did *miracles. Jesus did not want this. He wanted them to know him as the *Messiah. It was he who made people ‘clean’ from *sin.
There is another matter in verse 4. The priest needed to say that the man was well again. This would be a proof to people. Perhaps Jesus was talking about the people in the crowd. The *miracle would confirm his words. Perhaps he was talking about the priests. If so, Jesus’ act would confirm his work. Then there would be no excuse for them to oppose Jesus.
So, leprosy is like a sign. It shows that a person is a *sinner. *Sin is like the disease of the skin, leprosy. *Sin spoils the whole person. It shows itself in different ways. But it proves that there is a serious disease. No medicine will heal it. The person will be separate from God’s people. He or she cannot enter God’s *kingdom. The end must be death. These things were true about leprosy then. They are still true about *sin today.
But, there is an answer. Jesus put out his hand to heal the leper. It was against the *OT *Law to do this. (Read Leviticus 5:3.) A person who touched a leper became ‘dirty’ too. He became like a leper. But Jesus showed that he makes people ‘clean’ from *sin. Only Jesus can ‘touch’ *sin and heal the *sinner. (Note: A leper is someone who has leprosy.)
Of course, there were things that the leper must do. Jesus’ power to heal was not just a matter of chance. The leper must recognise three things.
• He must be sure that he had a serious disease.
• He must be sure that Jesus, as God’s *Messiah, could deal with it.
• He must trust Jesus to do it.
Jesus had great sympathy for this man. (Read Mark 1:41.) He healed him immediately. He healed him completely. Jesus never refused to help anyone who came to him. He always forgave the *sin of anyone who came to him. He is still the same today.
1. It is wonderful if Jesus heals you by a *miracle. But there is something even more wonderful. It is when Jesus forgives you. This is a *miracle too. Think about what Jesus has done for you. Make a list. Some people do this in another way. They pretend to write a letter to thank God.
2. Should people in the church ask God to heal people? What place should this special work have in the church?
3. Do non-Christians need people who do *miracles? Do they need preachers? (A preacher declares God’s word in public.) Or do they need both? Give a reason for your answer to this question.
We receive *salvation as we believe God. We cannot earn it.
Jesus showed his *disciples how to enter God’s *kingdom. The only way is to believe God.
In 8:1–4, a man with leprosy trusted Jesus. Here we read about the second *miracle of Jesus that Matthew recorded. It was about a centurion’s servant. (Read the last part of this section. It describes a centurion.) The centurion trusted Jesus too. He had heard about Jesus. (Read Luke 7:3.) He called Jesus ‘*Lord’. He believed that Jesus could heal his servant. So, the centurion meant more than just ‘Sir’.
We do not know the exact illness of the servant. But we know that he could not move. The illness would get worse, until he could not breathe. Then he would die. (Compare Luke 7:2.)
The most important part here is the talk between Jesus and the centurion. Even the *miracle does not seem as important as the talk in the story. The centurion said that he was not good enough. He could not expect Jesus to come to his home. He knew, too, that Jesus was a *Jew. He would know that *Jews did not enter the home of a ‘Gentile’. (Note: a Gentile is a person who is not a *Jew.) Read John 18:28; Acts 10:28; 11:2–3. He probably thought, too, that he was not in the family of God.
Yet, he did trust Jesus. He said: ‘Just say the word, and my servant will be well’ (verse 8). Jesus acted because of this trust (verse 10). He also acted because of the man’s sense of need. He spoke about the centurion’s great trust. Jesus had not found such trust among the *Jews.
Because of the centurion’s trust, Jesus had some comfort for him. Jesus told him that non-*Jews will be at the *Messiah’s great meal. The *Jews thought that it was for them only. They did not understand Isaiah 60:12. But the *prophets had taught that people would come from the entire world. They would all share in God’s *kingdom. (Read Isaiah 2:2–3; 11:10; 45:6; 49:6, 12; 54:1–3; 59:19; Jeremiah 3:18; 31:34; Hosea 1:9–10; 2:23; Amos 9:11–15; Micah 4:1–2 and Malachi 1:11.) In this way, Jesus comforted the centurion in his time of need.
Then Jesus said something very serious (verse 12). He said it because of the *Jews. They were sure that they would be members of God’s *kingdom. But Jesus said that they were on their way to hell. Jesus taught the centurion an important truth. It was this (verse 13). To believe God is the only way to get into God’s *kingdom. The centurion had shown that he did believe God. Jesus confirmed that this was true. He healed his servant.
1. How can I be sure that God will receive me? Where do I put my confidence? Pretend that you are applying to get into heaven. Write a letter about this.
2. Read the *OT references above. They are about people who come from the entire world. They will come to share God’s great meal. This is a future event. How could we start to enjoy it now? Is that something that we should do?
3. How does Jesus’ teaching here affect those whom people will not accept today?
The centurion was an important person. He was a soldier in the army of Rome. This was a great capital city. Rome’s army ruled the country where Jesus lived at that time. (All the countries that Rome ruled had a name. It was the *Roman *Empire.) A division of Rome’s army was a legion. A legion had 6000 men in it. Each legion had 60 ‘centuries’. A centurion was in charge of a century. He was usually a soldier who stayed in the army for a long time.
Whenever the *NT mentions a centurion, it is always with respect. (Read Matthew 27:54; Acts 10:22, 26; 23:17, 24; 24:23; and 27:43.) Herod Antipas was the *Roman ruler of Galilee. He would probably pay this centurion. (Herod lived at Tiberias. It was not far from the city called Capernaum.)
The centurion did not feel that he could approach Jesus. So, he asked some *Jewish leaders to speak for him. (Read Luke 7:3–5.) This meant that he was probably a ‘proselyte’. A proselyte was a Gentile who was following the *Jewish religion. (Note: A Gentile is a person who is not a *Jew.)
God saves so that the person can serve him
Jesus healed. This act emphasised that God had sent him. God wanted Jesus to deal with the punishment for *sin.
Matthew believed that Jesus’ *miracles also showed God’s truths.
• Verses 1–4 show that Jesus came to heal *sinners.
• Verses 5–13 show that the *kingdom of God is for all *sinners. But they must be humble. They must come to Jesus and ask him for help.
• Now, in verses 14–17, Matthew used events that happened in Jesus’ work. Jesus healed. Then, Matthew taught how Jesus can save *sinners. (Read 1:21.)
First, Jesus healed the mother of Peter’s wife (verses 14–15). Peter probably came from Bethsaida. But he had a home in Capernaum. (Read Mark 1:29.) He was married (1 Corinthians 9:5). Perhaps Peter’s wife was from Capernaum. It seems that both families lived in one house. He and his brother Andrew shared a business. They caught and sold fish (Mark 1:6).
Nobody asked Jesus to heal this lady. He just did it. This was the only time that this happened in the book of Matthew. Perhaps Matthew saw something that was important here. As soon as Jesus healed her, this woman served him. So, all those whom Jesus saves should serve him too. (Read Colossians 3:24.)
Jesus healed her on the Sabbath. (Read Luke 4:31.) In fact, he healed many people on this special day. God gave it to the *Jews as a day for rest. But they added many extra rules. The day started and ended when the sun went down. So, the Sabbath was from Friday evening to Saturday evening. The people came to Jesus when the Sabbath ended.
The *NT says that some illnesses are the result of the devil’s work. This was true in verse 16 here. But, we must be careful. Many illnesses are not the result of the devil’s activity. The last part of verse 16 shows this. But no illness is impossible for Jesus to heal. Matthew made this clear. Jesus healed ‘all the sick’ people. He healed those whom nobody else could heal. He healed those who were close to death too.
But demons (evil *spirits) do cause some illnesses. Matthew wanted to show something about them. Jesus healed these people by his word. Jesus was showing his authority even over the devil. (Compare Matthew 12:29; Luke 10:17 and Revelation 20:2–3.)
The *OT taught that all illness was the result of man’s *sin. (Read Genesis 3.) This did not mean that particular illnesses were the result of particular *sins. But it did mean that all people were *sinners. [Note about the word *sin. It is when someone does not reach God’s standards. It is when someone does not obey God’s rules. The word can speak about a state. (Read Genesis 3 and Romans 3:23; 5:12–17.) It can also be an act. So the word can be a noun or a verb.]
In the *OT, we read about a time when there would be no more illness. And so, there would be no more *sin. God would make a new world. In Isaiah 53, the ‘servant’, (verse 11), would make all these things happen. His method would be to take away *sin by his death. (Read Isaiah 53:11–12.) It would be something that he chose to do. He would suffer the punishment for *sin (53:10). He would do this in the place of other people (53:5). To Matthew, Jesus was this ‘servant’. Matthew showed more clearly how Jesus did this. Later in his *Gospel, he described how Jesus did take away *sin.
1. Do you know that Jesus has taken away your *sin? If so, how do you show it by what you do for him?
2. How should the church help those who are sick? Should medical people and people in the church work together? If so, how can they do this?
3. Why does God allow illness to be in the world? How can we explain this to non-Christians?
Some people use passages like this one. They teach that real *disciples should never be ill. But a *disciple may be ill. Then these people say that he or she does not trust God enough.
This idea is wrong. First, it does not agree with other passages that are in the Bible. Several things are the result of man’s *sin. There is pain when a woman gives birth. Also, there are weeds. (Read Genesis 3:16 and 18.) People may say that Christians should never be ill. But they are forgetting certain things They do not say that these people should not have weeds in their gardens. They never say something else. It is this. Christian women should not have pain when they give birth. So, God has not yet dealt with all the results of *sin. This is clear.
There is something else. We must understand what the Bible teaches about *salvation. In the *NT, the work of *salvation is not complete. It is waiting for the time when God’s *kingdom has come. Until then, everything that God created suffers. This includes *disciples. (Read Romans 8:18–23.) So, all men and women still suffer illness. This is true in the Bible too. Even those who healed other people were sometimes ill themselves. Or their friends were ill.
(Compare 2 Kings 13:14 and 20:1; Acts 9:36–37; Galatians 4:13; Philippians 2:25–27; 1 Timothy 5:23 and 2 Timothy 4:20.)
But, there is another most important fact. In the Bible, God encourages us to pray that he will heal us. (Read James 5:14–15.)
Jesus calls us to follow him
Jesus wants a certain type of person to follow him. His *disciples must continue the task that he gives them.
Here, Matthew had a section that was not about *miracles. He told about two talks. They explained how to be a real *disciple. Jesus was going to suffer (8:17). His *disciples must suffer too. (Compare 5:10–12.) Anyone who wants to be a *disciple must understand this. (Read 8:18–20.) To follow Jesus must be the most important thing for that person. (Read 8:21–22.)
Jesus had been working hard. Maybe he felt that he needed a rest. Maybe he did not want people to get too excited about his work. Anyway, he decided to go away from the crowd. (Read verse 18.)
As he left, a teacher of the *Law came to him. He told Jesus that he wanted to be a *disciple. These teachers were usually against Jesus. (Read 5:20; 6:2, 5,16 and 15:1.) But this was not always true. (Read 13:52 and 23:34.) This man even said that he would change his way of life. (Read verse 19.) But he only called Jesus ‘Teacher’. This may show that he did not understand who Jesus was. (Read 8:1–4 and 8:5–13 again. These men understood about Jesus much more clearly.) But read verse 20. Jesus tested the man. He had not thought enough about being a real *disciple.
Another man wanted to be a *disciple of Jesus. We read about him in verses 21–22. This man had thought too much about being a real *disciple! He was willing to be a *disciple. But he was very aware of something else. He had other responsibilities too. In the end, he refused to follow Jesus.
‘*Lord, first let me bury my father.’ We may not understand what this man meant. Maybe his father had just died. He wanted to go to the funeral, of course. But, something else was more likely. He was probably saying that he had responsibilities to his parents. This might continue for some time. He could not follow Jesus until his parents were dead. Jesus does not tell us to ignore such responsibilities. But he does teach us that real *disciples must put him first in their lives.
1. Have you said: ‘Not now, *Lord, but later’? Is there something that you should do now? Write it down. Then ask God to help you to do it.
2. Sometimes a person shows great excitement. What is the difference between excitement and trust?
3. What do these verses mean to you? Is God calling you to do some special work for him?
In verse 20, Jesus called himself ‘the Son of Man’. This was the first time in the Gospels that Jesus did this. (Note: The Gospels are the first 4 books of the *NT.) The *OT mentioned this name in several passages. In Psalm 8:4, it referred to men who are weak. They have no power. They trust God completely. The same use of the name is in the first chapters of Ezekiel. But it is different in Daniel 7:13. It has another reference to a ‘son of man’. This seems to be a title for the *Messiah. Jesus wanted people to think. This was the most likely reason for this phrase. Jesus was showing them slowly who he really was.
This title comes 29 times in Matthew’s Gospel:
• 13 times, it was about the Son of Man’s return. This would be at the end of the age. (Some references are 16:27; 25:31; 24:27–44 and 26:44.)
• 9 times, it was about Jesus’ death and his return to life.
• 7 times, as here, it referred to his present work. (Some references are 17:12; 26:24; 12:40 and 17:9.)
Here, Jesus said that people would refuse to accept him.
· This began at his birth. There was no room at the hotel.
· The story continued. The people in Judea refused to accept him. (Read John 15:18.)
· Many people in Galilee stopped following him. (Read John 6:66.)
· The people in Gadara asked him to leave. (Read Matthew 8:34.)
· The people in Samaria refused to let him stay. (Read Luke 9:53.)
· All peoples in the earth refused him. (Read Matthew 27:23.)
· Finally, even God the Father left him. (Read Matthew 27:46.)
King of everything that God created
Jesus stopped the storm. This made people ask a question. It was: ‘Who is this?’
Matthew had a short passage about being a *disciple. (Read 8:19–22.) Now, he described more about Jesus’ *miracles. The first three were showing God’s truth. They were showing it by actions. They explained the work that Jesus came to do. (Read 8:1–18.) They gave an answer to the *disciples’ question. (Read 8:27.) ‘Who is this?’ they asked. The answer is in 8:29. Jesus is the ‘Son of God’.
Jesus showed his authority over:
• nature. (Read 8:23–27.)
• the spiritual world. (Read 8:28–34.)
• *sin. (Read 9:1–8.) These last verses marked a change in Jesus’ special work. From that time, the religious leaders tried to find a reason to kill him.
Jesus and his *disciples were in the boat. Suddenly, there was a great storm. It must have been a very bad storm. The men knew about these storms. (Read the ‘More Explanation’ section. It is about the Sea of Galilee.) But they were still very afraid (verse 25). So, the storm must have been even worse than usual. The word that Matthew used in verse 24 showed this. The word usually described an earthquake. (This is when the earth shakes. It can cause great damage.)
Jesus was very tired. He was able to sleep because he trusted his Father. His *disciples had to wake him. Then he did a great *miracle. He just gave a command to the wind and the waves. They obeyed immediately (verse 26). The wind stopped. The water became very calm.
Jesus gave an order to the wind and to the sea. Many people did not follow the real God. They had a belief. They believed that the sea was the great enemy of the gods. The *OT sometimes used similar language. But, it did not accept the same beliefs. It taught that God has authority over the sea. This fact would cause people to praise God. (Read Psalm 93:3–4 and 96:11.)
Matthew showed that Jesus had authority over everything. This included the Sea of Galilee. This led the *disciples to praise Jesus. Surely, this Jesus must be God.
The *disciples were confident that Jesus could save them (verse 25). But he was asleep. They were not sure if he could help them then. They woke him. First, Jesus blamed them for their lack of trust in God. Then Jesus performed his great *miracle. This showed his authority over the whole of creation. (This includes everything that God has made.)
This *miracle was showing God’s truth too. It was showing it by actions. These *disciples were not like the men who were in verses 18–22. The *disciples did follow Jesus (verse 23). But it was not always easy to be a real *disciple. They soon had great troubles. They must live by trust in him. They must learn to trust Jesus. He controlled everything. These things are still true today.
The *disciples were still not sure who Jesus was. So, they asked the question in verse 27. Soon, they would get the answer. But it would come from a very unusual place!
1. Do you find it hard to believe that Jesus can help you? In what parts of your life do you find this? Compare each one with the storm. Does this help you?
2. What ‘storms’ does your church have now? How can Jesus help?
3. Jesus is *Lord of creation. (This includes everything that God has made.) So, what does this tell us about the church’s responsibility to the earth?
(Note: ‘Church’ refers to the people not to the building.)
The Sea of Galilee was, and is, a lake. It is only 13 miles long and 8 miles wide. It is part of the Jordan valley. It makes a deep crack in the surface of the earth. Galilee is 650 feet (211 metres) below the level of the sea. The climate is warm and friendly. But there are mountains on the west side of the lake. These mountains have deep valleys with steep sides.
Sometimes a strong wind will blow into the deep valley. Then it will suddenly rush down on the lake. The wind will blow with great force. All will be calm. Then, in a moment, there will be a very bad storm.
Someone tells of a visit to Galilee. He was at a place called Tiberias. The lake was very calm. Some people who were with him doubted the truth of Matthew’s story. Almost immediately, the wind became strong. In 20 minutes, the waves were coming over the walls at Tiberias. The visitors were 200 yards from the lake. But they still had to find shelter.
Demons (evil *spirits) are afraid and run away!
Jesus is the Son of God. Evil *spirits oppose him and his people. He has authority over them all.
The storm ended. Jesus and his *disciples reached the other side of the lake. Verse 28 described what happened next. There were some caves. There, local people buried those who had died. Two men were living in these caves. They were very dangerous. People were afraid to come near them. (Read Luke 8:27–29 and Mark 5:3–5.) The state of these men was awful. It reminds us of the power of the devil and of his forces. It also shows that their power ruins lives. Their power spoils people.
The men met Jesus. Now the *disciples got an answer to their question in verse 27. They had asked: ‘Who is this?’ about Jesus. The demons (evil *spirits) in the men shouted the answer. He is ‘the Son of God’ (verse 29). (Read ‘Important Truths’ in the section for Matthew 3:11–17.) The evil *spirits knew that they were with their great enemy. (Compare James 2:19. It might be a reference to this event.) They knew their terrible end too. (Read verse 29. Compare Revelation 20:3.)
It is hard to understand verses 30–32. The demons (evil *spirits) could not do anything unless Jesus let them. They asked to go into the large group of pigs. As a result, all the pigs died. We do not know why Jesus agreed to the evil *spirits’ request. Maybe the time of their final punishment had not come. Maybe Jesus wanted to teach the local people something. This was a more likely reason. Jesus had saved two men from the devil’s control. This fact was more important than anything else.
The owners of the pigs were not pleased, of course. They forced Jesus to leave the area (verse 34). They did not bring their sick people to Jesus. They did not ask him to forgive their *sins. (Compare 9:1–8.) They only cared about their pigs.
[Note: It was against the law for *Jews to keep pigs. But most of the people of this area were Gentiles (people who are not *Jews). So, they could keep pigs.]
Here, Matthew reached an important part of his *Gospel. He had been telling about people’s reactions to Jesus. Verses 18–22 told about people who were ‘almost’ *disciples. They thought that they would like to follow Jesus. Verses 23–27 told about weak *disciples. Here we read about people who understood who Jesus was. Jesus showed who he was by his words. He performed a great *miracle too.
This made them think about a question. It was: ‘What is the most important thing in life?’ But, they did not ask Jesus to forgive them. Then they could be God’s children. They were more interested in things instead. Possessions and selfish ambition came first. This was not a matter of religious laws. It was about what is important in life. It was about what was the most important thing in life.
1. Demons (evil *spirits) could cause trouble in your life. Do you have confidence in Jesus? Are you sure that he can help you? Can you describe a time when this happened? How would you recognise the activity of *Satan (the devil)?
2. How do you think that the devil tries to spoil church life today? Does he work better when he hides himself? Or is he more successful when everyone can see his work?
3. In what way is the devil active in the world today? He hides the real nature of his work. How does he do this?
4. Someone may behave in a strange way. He may need a doctor. He may need someone to discuss things with him. Or, he may need a special type of prayer. (It is the prayer when someone else orders an evil *spirit to leave him. That person can only give this command in the name of Jesus.) How can we know what sort of help the person needs? (Note: ‘He’ refers to he or she.)
There are two difficulties with this story.
First, there is the name of the place. Our *NT is a translation from the *Greek language. In the book of Matthew, the place is called ‘Gadara’. This is the most likely place. It was not far from the Sea of Galilee. ‘Gergesa’ is another possible name. But this may have been a village in the Gadara district. In the books of Mark and Luke, the place is called ‘Gerasa’. This was 30 miles from the Lake of Galilee. So, it is not likely to be the right place.
There is a reason for this confusion. At first, people copied the Gospels by hand. The names are very similar. So, someone could easily make a mistake. (Note: the Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.)
Second, the books of Mark and Luke mention only one mad man. Matthew mentions two mad men. There is a possible reason for this. Mark wanted to emphasise two things. There were the words of the demons (evil *spirits). Also, there was Jesus’ command to one of the men. (Read Mark 5:7, 18–20.) Luke does the same thing. But Matthew records the full facts.
We can be sure that demons (evil *spirits) are real. We can learn about what they do. This passage emphasised these things. We read most about them during Jesus’ time on earth. The devil and his forces were meeting their great enemy.
Certain illnesses do not prove that a person has a demon (evil *spirit). Some people say this about mental illness. But there is no idea of that, here. It is important to remember this. This passage shows that Jesus is ruler over all the powers of *Satan (the devil). They are under his control.
angel ~ a being from heaven who brings messages from God; God especially created angels to serve him; God sends them to serve people too (Hebrews 1:14).
disciple ~ a person who follows a leader; a student; one of the 12 men whom Jesus chose; a person who obeys Jesus today.
empire ~ very big *kingdom.
faith ~ to believe in someone or something; to be really sure about the things of God and Jesus his Son.
glory ~ the power and greatness of God; his great beauty; in the *OT, people saw it as a very bright light or fire; in the *NT, we see it especially in Jesus (John 1:14); Christians can show God’s glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Gospel ~ one of the 4 books at the beginning of the *New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Greek ~ the language in which the authors wrote the *New Testament.
Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke when they wrote the first part of our Bible.
Jew ~ a person who is from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; a person who believes the *faith of the Jews, called Judaism.
Jewish ~ a word that describes a *Jew or anything to do with a *Jew.
judgement ~ when God or a person says what is right or wrong; he tests behaviour; he decides if it is right or wrong; then he acts on the decision; judgement can be about legal or moral matters; judgement can mean when God punishes people.
kingdom ~ a kingdom is where a king rules. God is the King of all Christians and all Christians are in his Kingdom.
Law ~ the Law usually refers to the first 5 books in our Bible; Moses wrote them.
Lord ~ a name that we call God or Jesus; we call God or Jesus Lord when we obey them.
mercy ~ kindness to someone who does not deserve it; it is a very strong word; there are several meanings in it; there is love and pity; to have mercy means to forgive *sins; there is more information about this word; it is in the section for 5:7–9.
Messiah ~ the *Lord Jesus Christ; it is a *Hebrew word, ‘meshiah’; the same word in *Greek is ‘christos’, Christ. God promised the *Jews that the Messiah would save them; we read about him in the *OT; then Jesus came; but the *Jews did not believe in him (John 1:11). Many *Jews are still waiting for Messiah to come.
miracle ~ a wonderful thing that only God could do; it could not happen in a natural way.
New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible.
NT ~ New Testament; the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after the life of Jesus.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible.
OT ~ Old Testament; the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before the life of Jesus.
persecution ~ when enemies of God hurt people because they believe in Jesus.
Pharisee ~ a member of a *Jewish religious group; they claimed to obey all *Jewish religious laws and customs; there is more information about them; it is in the section for 3:4–10.
prophecy ~ a special message from God; it could tell about the future; it is one of the special gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians chapters 12–14).
prophet ~ a person who hears God’s words and tells them to other people; in *OT days, a prophet often wrote books; these books were called ‘The Prophets’.
repent ~ to turn away from evil and towards God; this choice will mean a complete change of life; in the *NT, the *Greek word is ‘metanoia’; this means a change of mind.
repentance ~ this is the act of a person who *repents.
Roman ~ a person from Rome; the Roman *Empire consisted of the many countries that the Romans ruled.
salvation ~ rescue from *sin or danger; the *Hebrew word is ‘yasha’; the *OT uses it 353 times; people may be in trouble or danger; someone rescues or saves them; this may be God or a person; the *NT speaks about salvation in three ways; it is past, present and future (2 Corinthians 1:10).
Satan ~ the devil; the enemy of God.
sexual ~ about sex.
sin ~ when we do not obey God’s rules.
spirit ~ spirits are alive, but we cannot see them. There are good spirits usually called angels. Bad spirits (also called evil spirits, or demons) live in the air round us. Their leader is called Satan.
thirsty ~ when someone wants a drink.
worship ~ the word can be a verb or a noun; to honour God with words of prayer and praise; it is a way to appreciate God for himself; we are also being grateful for all that he has done; we can worship God together; each person can worship God too. (Important note: people can worship false gods; they give to a false god what belongs to God only.)
Wycliffe Associates (UK) EasyEnglish© Translation (Level B)
WYCLIFFE ASSOCIATES (UK)
EasyEnglishÓ TRANSLATION (Level B)................................... Mary Read
LINGUISTIC CHECKER........................................................... Sue Hunter
© 1997–2004, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words – new lexicon).
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