Friday, February 01, 2008

The Sermon on the Mount, Part VII of XL


TEXT: Continuing with Mt. 5:
18. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

COMMENTARY: Jesus wanted his audience-- all religious traditionalists-- to open their hearts to his message of Love. So he made concession to their fanatical Biblicism by noting that the ancient documents did contain some truth. But the fanatics lived scrupulously by the minutest adherence to these "laws of Jehovah," and Jesus obviously rejected this extremism, for it is nowhere found among later Christians. He did not reject everything in Judaism, and wanted his audience to know this. But he did reject their Jehovah, and a large number of "His" laws.

19. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

COMMENTARY: The ideas behind much in Judaism, and Jewish Law, were good. They had a civilizing effect on the desert-nomads and barbarian-tribes to whom they were given. The Ten Commandments is a good example. Most of them would have a civilizing effect on any person, not just the Jewish culture. Jesus did not want to "throw out the baby with the bath-water." He wanted his disciples to respect the Scriptures of all faiths, but not necessarily scrupulously to arrange their lives around them.

20. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

COMMENTARY: The "scribes and Pharisees" were the ministers, preachers, and religious leaders of that time. So, Jesus used them as a bad example; while fanatical about "obedience to the laws of Jehovah," they lacked essential goodness. They turned deeper spirituality into mere religion, and transformed that religion into mere legalism.

Obedience to laws does not create goodness. It does not lead to enlightenment or "salvation." This legalism is useless in the face of ignorance.

Instead, the people of Love always obey Love as their living, interior Master. Early Christians were notorious for ignoring the ancient texts of the Jewish Bible, and obeying their Lovetrained conscience instead.

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