Nepaug Bible Church - - Pastor's Prayer Meeting Lesson Notes -

Matthew: Jesus As Israel's Messiah And His Kingdom
Part XI: Christ As Israel's Messiah By His Surpassing Righteousness
H. The Biblically Consistent Righteousness Of Christ's Subjects Regarding Public Justice
(Matthew 5:38-42)
  1. Introduction
    1. When Jesus said that one's righteousness had to exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees if he were to be a part of the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20), He had to clarify to His Hebrew listeners how that could be, for the Pharisees adhered to the principle of Halacha, "concern for every jot and tittle of performance" regarding the Mosaic Law, Zondervan Pict. Ency. of the Bible, volume Four, p. 748.
    2. Matthew 5:21-7:6 provides many illustrations of Jesus' point, with Matthew 5:38-42 commenting on how His kingdom righteousness regarding public justice far surpassed the righteousness of the Pharisees:
  2. The Biblically Consistent Righteousness Of Christ's Subjects Regarding Public Justice, Mtt. 5:38-42.
    1. When Jesus spoke on the "lex talionis," the "law of retaliation" in stating the Pharisees' teaching of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," He alluded to the teaching of Leviticus 24:19-20 in the Law.
    2. This matter did not concern personal revenge, for issues of personal revenge were to be handled entirely by God since He had asserted, "To Me belongeth vengeance, and recompense" in Deuteronomy 32:35.
    3. Rather, the "lex talionis" regarded public justice (Ryrie Study Bible, KJV, 1978, ftn. to Lev. 24:20), and, in the context of the laws of the pagan Ancient Near East, this law was meant to end feuds between people by providing for "exact justice" as opposed to historically typical over reactionary vengeance, Ibid.
    4. However, in the Messianic Kingdom, Jesus offered a better way to end feuds, that by His righteous followers not even claiming their public justice rights (as follows), Matthew 5:39-42:
      1. Jesus urged that the upright not resist the evil person in regards to personal rights in reference to public justice as applied to various realms of life, Matthew 5:39a NIV:
        1. In the realm of personal dignity, instead of slapping one back who harms his dignity by slapping Jesus' follower on the cheek, the believer must turn the other cheek, Matthew 5:39b; John MacArthur, The MacArthur N. T. Com.: Matthew 1-7, 1985, p. 333.
        2. In the realm of security, instead of suing one who sued Jesus' follower for his undergarment tunic, Jesus' follower was to give his opponent his outer garment of the cloak needed to keep warm at night, Matthew 5:40 ESV, NIV; Bible Knowledge Com., N. T., p. 31; Ibid., MacArthur, p. 334.
        3. In the realm of liberty, Jesus' command on going the second mile needs clarification, Matthew 5:41:
        4. (1) By law, a Roman soldier could compel a Hebrew to carry his pack for a mile in any direction.
        5. (2) What made this law especially hard for Hebrews was being forced to carry the weapons the soldiers used against them, Ibid., p. 334-335. (3) Thus, if robbed of a cherished liberty, Jesus' followers were to surrender it rather than retaliate, Ibid., p. 335.
        6. In the realm of property, if a party merely begged something from the upright when that party did not have the legal power to enforce his request, Christ's follower was to give him what he asked as a means of easing tensions that could lead to later retaliation, Matthew, 5:42a. Going even further than that, Jesus taught that if another party who did not have the means, but who merely requested to borrow an item that Jesus' follower had, that believer was not to refuse to loan it to him as a means of eliminating potential future retaliation, Matthew 5:42b; Ibid., p. 335-336.
    5. [To balance this instruction, 2 Timothy 3:1-5 directs us to shrink back from oppressive people to avoid being needlessly mistreated in any realm. However, if we are mistreated, we are not to retaliate!]
Lesson: Jesus urged His followers to exceed the "lex talionis" law that had been given to end public feuds in limiting damages in punishment to the damages suffered, and that by having His followers decline to claim their rights for just public retaliation. Rather, they were to let themselves suffer injustice without retaliating, thus ending feuds with no further costs to anyone else.

Application: May we followers of Christ realize the calling of God to function as instruments of peace in selfless ways as best to exemplify the righteousness of our Lord, cf. 1 Peter 2:23.