In The Gospel of Matthew, we have an unusually clear picture of how a gospel writer shapes his portrayal of Jesus’ life and teachings according to the writer’s particular beliefs, audience, and purpose. There are several very important examples of how Matthew is doing this in the “Introduction to The Gospel of Matthew” in your textbook. (Please read this Introduction carefully!) Matthew is trying to make the case that Jesus represents the true and authentic line of Moses, the prophets, and Israel as a whole – over and against the other Jewish sects/groups of the time (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc.). This is why Matthew repeatedly inserts sections of scripture from the Hebrew Bible (called “Old Testament” by Christians) – to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of those ancient scriptures (even if Matthew sometimes makes a complete mess of things in the process. For example: Read Matthew 21:6-7 to see that Matthew has Jesus riding on both a colt and a donkey at the same time in his slightly misbegotten attempt to have Jesus fulfilling a passage found in Zechariah.)
In our Discussion Forum for Matthew, we are going to consider the Sermon on the Mount. This Sermon is one of the most beloved and well-known messages of Jesus. Our textbook says, “The famous Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5 – 7) sets forth a Christian interpretation of the Jewish Law.” But really, this statement is not quite accurate because Jesus was a Jew who was often speaking to largely Jewish audiences – and there WAS no Christianity and that time. Therefore, Jesus’ re-interpretation of Jewish Law was Jesus’ own interpretation – not a Christian interpretation (see 5:21 – 48 for examples). And it is worth noting that sometimes Jesus’ teachings are not the same as Christian Church teachings. For example: Many churches take a very hard stand against homosexuality as being against Christian principles. However, Jesus never spoke about or against homosexuality, but he did speak constantly of love and compassion for ALL people – most especially marginalized people.
Jesus paid no attention to social or religious boundaries, he violated Jewish purity laws, and he demonstrated over and over that the compassionate spirit of God’s law is far more important than the letter of religious laws (especially given that religious laws are sometimes cruel and exclusionary). Clearly, Jesus was opposed to hypocrites of every size, shape, and color and he called his followers to live according to higher standards.
Please read Chapters 5 – 7 very carefully, and then do the following:
- Write a summary (including chapter and verse) of how Jesus says we should live and how we should not live. What things are necessary and what things are not necessary?
- What are some of Jesus’ main points (including chapter and verse) about religious hypocrisy?