2020 Reading Plan
Stuck at home with nothing to do? It’s never been better time to binge read about the life and teachings of Jesus. It's so easy and interesting with the the The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan. So turn off the TV and open your Bible and your heart to Jesus.
The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 15 – April 13-17:
Monday – Luke 6:43-45 (Matt. 7:15-20; 12:34-37): Continuing with His Sermon on the Plain, Jesus begins this warning with a horticultural axiom: “For no good tree bears bad fruit, not again does a bad tree bear good fruit” (v. 43). In other words, the tree determines the fruit (v. 44). This being the case, the human axiom is easily understood, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil” (v. 45a). Significantly, Jesus emphasizes here that the mouth is what provides the primary evidence of the state of one’s heart, “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (v. 45b). In other words, the heart determines the words one speaks. A person can attempt an external veneer of goodness, but the truth will become known through their words.
Make a list of your most used words, topics of discussion, and the comments you often make throughout the day. If your list was all the evidence someone had to decide if you were a Christian or not, what would they say? How would they come to their conclusion? In what ways will you turn your heart toward Jesus so that the words you speak will reflect Him?
Tuesday – Luke 6:46-49 (Matt. 7:21, 24-27): Luke concludes Jesus’ sermon to the disciples, as does Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount (7:24-27), with the parable of the Two Builders. As a lead up to His sermon, great crowds clamored to seek Jesus’ healing touch (ref. Luke 6:17-19). Now He provides an illustration of the importance of adding obedience to an eagerness to hear His message. The parable is introduced with the disciples giving lip service to Jesus, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I tell you?” (vv. 46). So what is the antidote to false faith and discipleship? The answer is given in the three present tense verbs: coming, hearing, and doing (v. 47). These three qualities lay the foundation for genuine discipleship. The parable that follows illustrates the importance of acting on what one knows and hears from Jesus. Matthew’s version of the parable is about where one builds – on rock vs. sand. Luke’s version is about how one builds – with or without a foundation. Whoever builds their house (or life) on Jesus Christ and His words will not be shaken. Think about people you’ve known throughout the years.
Write about someone you know who built their life on the foundation of doing the Lord’s will. How did that firm foundation sustain them through life’s trials? Conversely, write about someone you know who didn’t build on the foundation of Jesus’ words they had heard taught. How did their world fall apart?
Wednesday – Matt. 8:5-13 (Luke 7:1-10): “When [Jesus] entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to Him, appealing to Him, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home suffering terribly’” (v. 5-6). In this time period, the Jewish lands of Israel were occupied by the hated Roman legion. While it was not unusual for someone to request a healing, this request came from a most unusual source. The centurion would have been a Gentile, the commander of a division of the occupying imperial force. Yet, with such authority backing him, the centurion approaches Jesus with remarkable respect. He submissively calls Him, “Lord.” He demonstrates a deep concern for the great suffering of one who was merely a “servant.” Jesus affirms His willingness to help, “I will come and heal him” (v. 7). But recognizing his own unworthiness for the Lord to come to his home, he amazingly believes in the Savior’s ability to cure his servant from a distance, merely by a word of command, “Only say the word and my servant will be healed” (v. 8). The centurion bases his belief not on Old Testament scripture or witnessing such a healing, but on his own experience with the military (v. 9). God has such authority, He can give the order for illness to be cured instantaneously and it will be done. “When Jesus heard this, He was amazed” (v. 10) at the depth of the man’s faith. “Truly, I tell you with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” Sadly, those closest to the truth faithlessly take it for granted whereas those who have had the least exposure to it more often readily recognize its power.
It wasn’t often that Jesus was “amazed” (cf. v. 10; Mark 6:6; Luke 7:9), or complimented someone’s faith (v. 10; Matthew 15:28). Looking at your spiritual life, would Jesus compliment your faith? Would He be amazed at your lack of faith or your faithfulness? Explain.
Thursday – Luke 7:11-17: The death of a child is certainly one of the greatest agonies possible in this life – a burying of a part of oneself. It’s a burden that all parents dread to consider. Such untimely pain was the emotional context of Jesus’ next healing. Of the all gospel writers, Luke alone captures this intensely poignant scene of a mother burying her only child. He clearly narrates this miracle as a sequel to the healing of the Centurion’s servant. At a distance of twenty-five miles, Nain lay a full day’s journey from Capernaum. As Jesus and His retinue approach the gate of the city, they meet a funeral procession coming out of the town. At this decisive point in community life, a grief-stricken widow and Jesus meet. “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep” (v. 13). All of our Lord’s actions center on the plight of the mother rather than the son, much as in the preceding story where Jesus focused on the Centurion rather than the servant. With a touch and a word, Jesus gives life back to the young man and gave the young man “to his mother” (v. 15). The two crowds, first mentioned at the beginning of the scene, are present to witness, to interpret (v. 16) and to report this great miracle of resurrection (v. 17). And what a great miracle it was!
There is no request for help, no outward sign of faith from the widow. (Quite different from the centurion.) What do you learn about Jesus from how He responds to the widow’s plight?
Friday – Luke 7:18-35 (Matt. 11:2-19): As Jesus’ ministry expanded, that of John the Baptist suffered literal confinement (cf. Matthew 11:2). As John languished in prison, he became increasingly perplexed by the reports he heard of Jesus’ ministry. “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (v. 19, 20). Exactly why John questioned Jesus’ Messiahship is not revealed to us. Nevertheless, Jesus was not put off by John’s doubts. He responded with an eye-popping display of spiritual power (vv. 21). The Lord informed the messengers that His actions were fulfilling Messianic prophecies given to Isaiah (cf. 26:19; 29:18ff; 35:5ff; 61:1). The only hint of encouragement comes with the beatitude, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (v. 23). The sense is, don’t be disappointed in the way I choose to work, just believe I am He who is to come. More than ever, we need to live out this beatitude. Then, lest anyone wrongly begins to depreciate John’s ministry, a situation the Savior would not let go unchecked, He issues this praise, “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John” (v. 28a). Even the greatest, most faithful man ever, could doubt.
Reflect on Jesus’ response to John’s doubt. How does it reveal His sympathy for John’s spiritual crisis? Have you ever experienced a spiritual crisis? If so, when? How did Jesus help you through that experience?
The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 11 – March 16-20:
Monday – Matt. 7:7-11 (cf. Luke 11:9-13): When you pray, do you make your petitions with timidity as if you’re requesting something from a grudging giver or with impudence as if you’re requesting something from a generous giver? In our reading today, Jesus calls for us to approach the throne of our Father with boldness. Now, carte blanche approach to prayer taught by prosperity preachers is not supported from scripture. Perhaps it is wise to read the unqualified offer of vv. 7-8 against the backdrop of Matt. 6:11, 16-24, 25-34. But for all the necessary caution, there is a sense that Jesus invites not merely a resigned acceptance of what the Father gives, but a willingness to prayerfully explore the extent of His generosity. The point Jesus is making is not that human persistence wins out in the end, but that the heavenly Father who loves His children will certainly answer their prayer… if only they would ask, seek, and knock.
What encouragement does Jesus give those who ask, seek and knock? How can we be assured of these promises?
Tuesday – Matt. 7:12 (cf. Luke 6:31): “Therefore, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” For ninety-one verses Jesus has been teaching us what He expects from His disciples. Yet, in one verse He summarizes His whole sermon, not to mention all of the Old Testament. In these few words, our Lord gives us a guide to how unselfish love should work itself out in our relationships with others. Our actions, He teaches, are not supposed to be dictated by the actions of others. If a person is mean to us, then we’re to be good to them because that’s how we want to be treated. The person who consistently lives according to this rule is totally excluding selfishness and replacing it with love and care for others. An ancient Jewish teaching stated in the negative, “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else.”
How does Jesus’ positive rule go beyond this command? In what ways would your life change if you followed Jesus’ teaching from this verse?
Wednesday – Matt. 7:13-14: The concluding section of the sermon is taken up with impressing upon hearers the difference between real and nominal discipleship. In four short warnings (vv. 13-14, 15-20, 21-23, and 24-27) Jesus calls for wholehearted commitment to Himself and the Father’s kingdom. To start, Jesus makes it clear that there are only two paths in life that are set before people; therefore it is important that the right choice be made. He presents a scene where a broad road leading to a splendid gate is obvious and easy to be seen, whereas a way that brings a traveler to the unimposing gate is inconspicuous and is perceived only by those who look for it carefully. The first road “leads to destruction,” a fact that doesn’t alter its popularity. While the second road is “narrow” (or “difficult” NKJV) and few find the way “to life.” (We must not press “few” too hard, for elsewhere in Matthew Jesus speaks of “many” that are saved cf. 8:11; 20:28.) The contrast is stark and clear between the two roads in their character, popularity, and in their destination. Without using the words, this saying sets before us the alternatives of heaven or hell. Those are our only two choices, choose wisely.
In what sense is “the gate wide and the way easy” that leads to destruction? Conversely, in what sense is “the gate narrow and the way hard” for those who follow Jesus? Which road are you on?
Thursday – Matt. 7:15-20 (cf. Luke 6:43-45): The second warning focuses on the danger posed by false prophets, who are, by implication, contrasted with true prophets who may be trusted. How can followers of Jesus recognize false teachers? From their fruits; their fruits will in the end betray them. It is not outward appearance that is important (ravenous wolves may be dressed in sheep’s clothing) but the things that the false prophets teach and the manner of their life. For their teaching and lifestyle proceed from what they are in their hearts. The fruit is the test of the tree; if there is no good fruit, there is no good reason for the tree to exist. And the fruit is the test of one who claims to be a prophet (or in modern terms, preacher, pastor, etc.). “Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” Jesus asks. Obviously not, if there is no fruit there, then there’s no good reason for the person to be treated as a prophet worthy of an audience.
List several “fruits” a false teacher would produce and several “fruits” a true teacher would produce. (You might think in terms of opposites.)
Friday – Matt. 7:21-23 (cf. Luke 6:46): In the third warning, we’re confronted with a profoundly searching and disturbing scene for all professing disciples. Here we meet people who confess their allegiance to Jesus as “Lord” and who can back up that claim with impressive spiritual achievements, all carried out explicitly in the name of the Lord. Nevertheless, Jesus says to them, “I never knew you, depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness” (v. 23). Even good works by themselves are not enough. There are good people who claim to follow Jesus as “Lord” and who do good works, nonetheless they are on the broad way leading to destruction. Despite their good deeds, they were carried out by people who still lacked the relationship with Jesus which is the essential basis for belonging in the kingdom of heaven. While the words and actions may be good, their lives were lawless denying Him in their hearts. Since they didn’t really know Him, He didn’t know them.
In spite of their admirable statements or actions, why does Jesus condemn these people? Why do you think people so often confuse religious activity with knowing and doing the will of the Father?
In the first section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees (they only obeyed the letter but not the heart of the Law) and greater also than that of the pagans. Now, in this week's reading, Jesus draws the same two contracts regarding our religion. He teaches we shouldn't be hypocritical like the Pharisees, nor mechanical or materialistic like the pagans. Remember, so long as you're breathing it's a good time to start The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan.
The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 10 – March 9-13:
Monday – Matt. 6:5-15: Just as in the case with almsgiving, there is a tendency for people to use their prayers as a means of impressing others with their piety. Prayer is to be communion with God, not a means of increasing one’s reputation in the manner of the “hypocrites” (vv. 5-6). Rather, Jesus calls on praying disciples to, “Go into your inner room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (v. 6). He further instructs believers to not pray in the manner of “Gentiles” heaping word upon word as a means to entice a reluctant God. Jesus turns this image of God as a grudging giver on its head, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (v. 8). Jesus’ example prayer (vv. 9-13) guides us to see God as the source of glory and supplier of our spiritual and physical needs. Lastly, our Lord supplies one bit of commentary on His prayer, in short He says, only the forgiving will be forgiven. In a way then, prayer is a transformative exercise that aligns the disciple’s heart to God.
In what ways do your prayers need to: align with Jesus’ instructions on how to pray (vv. 5-8), more closely resemble His model prayer (vv. 9-13), and a proper heart (vv. 14-15)?
Tuesday – Matt. 6:16-18: In his third, and last, example of the proper practice of piety, Jesus turns to the act of fasting. In biblical terms, fasting is never about health or weight loss, but rather it was about “afflicting” oneself before God to entreat His favor. As with almsgiving and prayer, it is assumed that disciples will fast; the issue is not whether to do it but how. In a culture where few now give serious attention to fasting as a religious discipline this assumption can cause surprise. Fasting is often mentioned in the Old Testament as a response to a distressing situation, whether by an individual or a group (2 Samuel 12:16-23; Daniel 9:3; Ezra 8:21-23; Jonah 3:5-9 to just name a few). Several fast days were prescribed for the people the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31; 23:27-23) and later, during the exile, the fast established in memory of the destruction of Jerusalem (Zechariah 7:3-5; 8:19). It’s not until New Testament times that we read about the weekly fast of the Pharisees (Luke 9:14). However, their faux fast were not to draw the favor of God, but the favor of men (v. 16). The sort of fasting Jesus envisions here is presumably of choice, not routine. Whether individually, or in a group, for the disciple, during a fast everything is to be outwardly normal. Fasting like almsgiving and prayer, is to be between the believer and God.
Jesus’ instructions assume His followers will fast (for spiritual reasons, not health reasons), describe a time when you fasted. Why were you fasting? How did this spiritual discipline help you? If you’ve never fasted why not?
Wednesday – Matt. 6:19-24: Jesus’ words on money and treasure strike at the core of human selfishness, challenging both the well-to-do who have possessions to guard and the poor who wish they could acquire them. He challenges us with three truths: If disciples really trust God, they will live as if treasure in heaven is what matters most (vv. 16-21). Second, the person whose perspectives are distorted by materialism is blind to God’s truth (vv. 22-23). Lastly, one must love God or money; there is no middle ground (v. 24). Perhaps the greatest threat to Christians in America is not Islam, spiritualism, or atheism, but rather the all-pervasive materialism of our affluent society. Our Lord demands from His followers a wholehearted devotion to Him. Therefore, whatsoever tethers one’s heart to the earth should be released.
Why is it impossible to serve two masters? How does this principle connect with the Lord’s teaching on laying up “treasures on earth” verses laying up “treasure in heaven”?
Thursday – Matt. 6:25-34: In our last reading, Jesus has exhorted His disciples not to value earthly treasure of heavenly possessions (vv. 16-24). Now He goes one step further, He also exhorts us not to value possessions enough to worry about them (vv. 25-34). Christians must not agonize over seeking material gain, but should trust God’s power to provide our needs. If God cares for the birds, lilies, or grass, how much more for people created in His image and for His blessed children? Anxiety will not add even a single hour to one’s life (or cubit to one’s stature as some translations read). Indeed, worry does just the opposite; it shortens life. Yet when Jesus forbids His disciples from worrying about tomorrow this does not suggest that He expects us to ignore whatever concerns arise. Rather, He expects us to express dependence on God in each of these concerns, praying for our needs (ref. Matthew 6:11). The pagans, Jesus says, seek after the necessities of life in a worried pace. In contrast, the believer seeks God’s agenda instead, fully trusting He will provide.
From your perspective, how will the crucial choices we make between serving God or money (Matthew 6:24) affect our ability to live free from worry?
Friday – Matt. 7:1-6 (cf. Luke 6:37-42): Moving from materialism, Jesus addresses interpersonal relationships. “Judge not, that you be not judged” (v. 1). Judging others assumes a divine prerogative. The final judgment belongs to God alone, and those who seek to judge others usurp God’s position. Nevertheless, Jesus is not opposed to offering correction, but only offering correction in a judgmental attitude, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (v. 3). Consider the absurdity of walking around with a thick beam protruding from one’s eye, totally ignorant of one’s grotesque state. In spiritual terms, one must first pluck out any impediments to their own sight before they can see well enough to help others remove the source of their blindness. However, even when one is right, one should not impose the truth on others against their will (v. 6).
How does vv. 3-5 help define the kind of “judging” Jesus is talking about in vv. 1-2?
Just like it did 2,000 years ago, the Sermon on the Mount challenges disciple's resolve to live the distinctness of the Christian counterculture. Jesus calls us to us fidelity in marriage no matter what, truth telling at all cost, humiliation in the form of nonresistance, and above all to show our attitude of total love even to an enemy. His words here are both most admired and most resented. Yet, despite the difficulty of living our these teachings, our Lord's word is good - intrinsically good for individuals and society. If you haven't already, it’s always a good time to start The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan.
The Life and Teachings of Jesus - Week 9 – March 2-6:
Monday – Matt. 5:31-32: The third teaching of Jesus follows naturally from the second, inasmuch as sexual sin often leads to divorce. Again, Jesus requires a more exacting standard of His followers than was the norm of His day. The process for divorce under the Law of Moses is outlined in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. The bill of divorce, demanded by Moses and mentioned here by Jesus, was a protection for the woman that freed her to marry someone else. The religious teachers of Jesus’ day wrongfully assumed divorce was a part of God’s will and simply sending away one’s wife with a divorce certificate satisfied the Law’s demands (this is especially clear in Matthew 19:1-12). It’s against such a backdrop that our Savior calls on people to appreciate the true meaning and solemnity of marriage. For Him, marriage is intended to be a lifelong union of one man and one woman, and it is not to be dissolved lightly. Jesus’ teaching on divorce clearly contrasts with His and our culture.
Why do you think our Lord has such a high view of fidelity to one’s spouse? What would make your Top Ten List for how to avoid divorce?
Tuesday – Matt. 5:33-37: The fourth, “You have heard…” statement doesn’t actually appear verbatim in the Old Testament, but is perhaps a conflation of Leviticus 19:12, Numbers 30:2 and Deuteronomy 23:23. The situation described is one in which many Jews viewed swearing an oath by “heaven or earth, “or by “the temple,” or even by “one’s head” was not as binding as swearing “by God.” Jesus stresses that each one of these items belongs to God, so that the conventional distinctions were spurious. The point of our Lord’s teaching is not avoiding oaths all together (Paul makes oath statements on several occasions i.e. Romans 1:9; 9:1); rather the issue is telling the truth because God witnesses every word one speaks. Therefore, Jesus says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one” (v. 37; cf. James 5:12).
According to Jesus, what’s the problem with making oaths? Why should oaths be unnecessary for the Lord’s followers?
Wednesday – Matt. 5:38-42: Revenge comes easily to us, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” the saying goes. However, in this fifth saying, the Lord Jesus calls His disciples to a higher ethic that transcends tit-for-tat retribution. His teaching stresses the need to decisively break the natural chain of evil action and reaction that often characterizes human relationships. Jesus invites His hearers to grapple with the application of His points. Nonresistance means disdaining one’s honor (vv. 38-39), one’s most basic possessions (v. 40), one’s labor and time when others seek them by force (v. 41), and one must also disdain these things in view of the needs of the poor (v. 42); then, when the kingdom comes, one’s deeds, rather than one’s wealth and honor will matter (cf. Matthew 25:34-46). One’s vested interest must be in heaven, not on earth; if one cannot value the kingdom that much, one has no place in it.
Looking closely at vv. 39-42, how would you contrast our natural responses in such situations with the responses Jesus expects of us? What do you think is accomplished by turning the other cheek or going a second mile?
Thursday – Matt. 5:43-48 (Luke 6:27-36): With this, His sixth and last commentary on how the Law of Moses had been taught, our Lord teaches that one whose righteousness would surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees (ref. Matthew 5:20) must exemplify a higher standard of virtue than loving those friendly to one’s own interest. We all love our friends, but love for our enemies is quite another matter. As disciples of Jesus we are not to take our standards from our human nature but rather, from the God we serve. Our God is a loving God who indiscriminately gives good gifts to all, regardless of whether they are friend or foe. Therefore, we must be like Him loving even our enemies.
How is Jesus Himself an example of what it means to “Love your enemies” (v. 44)? How might you reflect the Lord’s character when you are mistreated? Focus on the one person who could be considered your chief enemy and, this week, reach out to him or her with some practical act of love.
Friday – Matt. 6:1-4: Today’s reading begins a new section in the Sermon on the Mount. In the next three readings, Jesus will teach on the proper practice of piety: Almsgiving (vv. 1-4); Praying (vv. 5-15), and Fasting (vv. 16-18). The overarching thesis of this section is: Do your righteousness for God to see you, not others (v. 1). In all three examples, Jesus warns us to not be like the “hypocrites” seeking public praise (vv. 2, 5, 16). Rather, our focus should be on God’s glory, which in turn will solicit His praise (vv. 4, 6, 18). Jesus begins this teaching with almsgiving. It’s an accepted fact that it is a religious duty to help the poor but, as in all ages, some are more interested in public reputation rather than relief of poverty. Our Lord teaches that it is indeed important to give, just not to be known to give.
According to Jesus, how are we to do acts of charity? Why is it important that we give this way? It what way(s) are you tempted to violate this principle?
Without question, the Sermon on the Mount is the best known sermon in history. Throughout the centuries untold numbers of people have dissected, analyzed, discussed, taught, and wrote about this magnum opus of Jesus. Yet, its message continues to challenge readers today. For the next few weeks we'll explore this great teaching of our Lord one section at a time. It's always a good time to start The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan.
The Life and Teachings of Jesus - Week 8 – February 24-28:
Monday – Matt. 5:1-12 (cf. Luke 6:20-26): Without question, the Sermon on the Mount is the best known sermon in history. Throughout the centuries untold numbers of people have dissected, analyzed, discussed, taught, and wrote about this magnum opus of Jesus. Yet, its message continues to challenge readers today. After the scene is set in vv. 1-2, Jesus begins His discourse with a series of nine Beatitudes (vv. 3-12), a declaration of blessed happiness and joy. The sharply paradoxical character of these statements runs counter to conventional values. Thus, the Beatitudes call on those who would be God’s people to stand out as different from those around them.
The Beatitudes describe the qualities Jesus requires of those who will follow Him. How would your life look different if you lived out these sayings to their fullest?
Tuesday – Matt. 5:13-16 (cf. Luke 14:34-35): Coming out of the Beatitudes Jesus summarizes Christianity and its relationship to the unbelieving world through the elements of salt and light. “You are the salt of the earth” (v. 13). Believers flavor the world in which they live and help prevent its corruption. “You are the light of the world” (v. 14). The world needs the light of the gospel of Jesus, and it is through the disciples that it must be made visible. Ultimately, the disciple whose salt is diluted or whose light is hidden is worthless. Nominal believers who do not live a life of discipleship will be “thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (v. 13); the phrase is intentionally graphic.
How are you “salt” and “light” in your community? List any areas in which your “salt” has lost its taste or your “light” may be hidden. What can you do today to change?
Wednesday – Matt. 5:17-20: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (v. 17). In this manner Jesus begins the second section of His sermon (5:17-48). Here He clarifies that He will neither give a new law nor modify the old, but rather explain the true significance of law and the prophets. Furthermore, Jesus “fulfills” the law by keeping it perfectly and embodying its types and symbols. With strong words, He warns against anyone breaking even the least of the commandments and teaching others to do the same. Lastly, the statement that the righteousness of those who enter the kingdom must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees must have come as a very surprising, if not alarming, piece of news to His audience.
Looking ahead at vv. 21-48, how does Jesus illustrate that one’s righteousness must exceed that of the religious elites of His day, the scribes and Pharisees?
Thursday – Matt. 5:21-26 (Luke 12:57-59): Once Jesus has made it clear that He is not opposing the law but fulfilling it, He shows how the customary practice of the law in His day, as interpreted by the scribes and Pharisees, is inadequate. Jesus uses six varied topics to illustrate the concept of a righteousness which goes beyond the legal correctness of the scribes and Pharisees (see v. 20). Each is presented in the form of a contrast between what the people had heard, “You have heard that it was said…” to Jesus’ more demanding ethic, “But I say…” The principle of vv. 21-22 is that the actual committing of murder is only the outward manifestation of an inward attitude which itself is culpable before God. Angry thoughts and contemptuous words deserve equally severe judgment Jesus declares; indeed, the “the fires of hell” goes beyond the human death penalty which the Old Testament declared for murder.
In what way(s), are Jesus’ words about anger shocking? Why do you think that it’s important to come to terms quickly with those who have “something against you” (v. 23)?
Friday – Matt. 5:27-30: In this second saying, Jesus addresses adultery and lust. His warning against lust challenges many. Of course the Lord is not referring to noticing a person’s beauty, but to imbibing it, meditating on it, harboring a desire for an illicit relationship. This, Jesus says is tantamount to adultery. We should note that Jesus squarely places the blame and responsibility for lust on the person doing the lusting. Thus, Jesus declares in a graphic manner that by whatever means necessary, the lust-er should cast off the sin of lust. He doesn’t mean that one literally plucks out an eye or cut off one’s right hand to combat temptation. Rather His point is this, do everything you can to not sin; a partial loss, however painful, is preferable to the total loss of the body (and soul). Jesus graphically illustrates the importance of dealing with sin in one’s life.
What difference might His teaching make in the way that you consider your own personal conduct and decisions?