One of the disciples once asked the Lord, “Will those who are saved be few?” (Luke 13:23) The Lord responded saying, “Strive to enter by the narrow door,” and here in this section we see that same teaching being repeated in a slightly different manner. Here the Lord is saying we need to “Enter by the narrow gate.” He says that there will be many who take the wide and easy path that leads to destruction, but the gate and the path that leads to life are narrow and hard. Finally he says that those who even find it will be few, let alone those who enter by the narrow gate.
(Matthew Chapter 7, Verse 12)
In this one verse (vs. 12) the Lord has shown us a summary of what was contained in the Old Covenant law and the words of the prophets. “Whatever you would wish that men would do to you, do so to them.” This one verse provides both an insight into what the Lord is seeking from us as well as a maxim to live by.
There are several focal points of Christianity and this scripture provides one of those points. The first point is about worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ and creating a relationship with God through him. The second point is about our relationship with our fellow man and learning how to live in harmony with one another. What we see in this scripture is the key to this second focal point of the teachings of Christ. How to live in relationship with other men.
Consider for a moment the Old Covenant law. There are in excess of six hundred laws that were given to the children of Israel by which they were to live. When you distil the essence of these laws we find that at the bottom of them is this precept spoken of by Jesus, which is to do unto others as you would have them do to you. In the Ten Commandments for example we see that they speak entirely about relationships. First about our relationship to God and then about our relationship with our fellow man. The third level of relationship contained in the old law was about our relationship with ourself. As an example there were laws and precepts about what to eat and wear, and the wisdom contained in these laws would keep us healthy and free from sickness if we followed those laws.
So the entire scope of the teachings of the law and prophets comes down to relationships and that is in essence what Jesus was telling us in this single verse. We need to learn how to get along with each other. When you consider the ultimate reward for following Christ this becomes apparent. After all things have been concluded and all sin is washed away, the Lord will rule his people into eternity. In that time he wants his people to be able to get along with each other. He does not want people to argue, back-bite and fight with each other as that would certainly not be a pleasant place to live. Instead he wants his people to be at peace and in harmony with each other and this is what this verse is telling us. How do you want to be treated by other people? Then do the same to them. If you do not like to be spoken against and upset and stressed and so on, then don’t do these things to others.
Easy to say, but not always easy to do. Fortunately the Lord has provided us with teachings and processes through the Holy Spirit to enable us to learn how to live this way. When we learn to walk in the spirit we can truly find the way to live in peace and harmony and truly fulfil the truth of this scripture.
Another set of wonderful promises in this section of scripture. Beginning with, “Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened,.” These are such positive messages to the Christian who is really looking for the truth. There is no if, but or maybe about this passage, but rather a positive statement that says, “Do this and you will get what you are after.”
We are called to have a positive relationship with one another as brethren. In any positive relationship there is no judgement of our fellow man. At the start of this chapter Jesus points out that we are not to judge one another. The fundamental principle here is that the basis of our judgement is completely flawed for man judges according to his own perception, whereas God judges according to the heart. Man judges with only part of the facts but God judges according to the truth. Man’s judgement is clouded by a host of issues including his own limitations, biases and environment, but God looks at all things from a position of perfect knowledge and judges according to a standard based on his own perfection.
Jesus continues his teachings about not doing things to be seen by men in verses 16-17 saying when you fast you should not look dismal, but rather go about your business as if all were normal.
We begin to see Jesus teach about our behaviours in front of others in this section. He tells us that being a Christian is not like a spectator sport. We should not prance about as someone or something important nor do things that draw attention to ourselves. Our aim is not self-aggrandisement but rather it is to do the will of God. Thus when we do things in public it should be done quietly and without pomp and ceremony. If we are doing good for someone we do not have to shout it from the roof tops and nor should we be like that boy in the nursery rhyme, little Jack Horner who said, “What a good boy am I.”
Continuing on from the previous post, we see verse 31-32 continues the theme of the previous section where Jesus is teaching the elements of the higher call under the New Covenant. In this section he speaks of divorce and it is evident that this is not something to be taken lightly. Unchastity, that is, sexual relations with someone other than the marriage partner, is clear grounds for divorce. However he likens divorce for other reasons as being like adultery. Adultery under the old covenant law was punishable by death, so it is clear that the Lord had a dim view of divorce. Elsewhere the bible shows that if a couple are to separate then they should either be reconciled if possible, or remain single. Divorce was certainly accepted under the law, & even in this section it talks about a certificate of divorce being given. In some cases divorce may be a necessary option to gain freedom from a violent or destructive relationship, but it is not carte blanche to run off and marry someone else if a person is just tired or bored in the relationship as happens too often in today’s society.
We see in verse 13 it says, “You are the salt of the earth.” How often do we hear this said as a description of someone who is considered a good person in some way? And yet today salt is often condemned as causing high blood pressure and other cardio-vascular problems. However this is due to the excesses of salt used in our modern highly over-processed foods. But this was not so in the Lord’s day and it would not be an issue today if salt were used sparingly. At one time salt was very precious, and indeed it was sometimes used to pay people for their work, which is where the word “salary” is derived. Salt was precious and highly regarded. Even under the old covenant they spoke of a “covenant of salt” which was an eternal covenant and binding. Jesus was saying in this section that those people who followed him were like salt. As a light sprinkling of salt can turn some food from dull and bland to a taste sensation, so too those who hear and do Gods will “season” mankind and bring life in God’s eyes where there is none. In God’s eyes those who follow Jesus are like salt as it was viewed in Christ’s time: they are both valuable and precious to Him.
It occurred to me that there is an order to the preaching of the word by Jesus that I had not seen before. In the previous chapter we saw the beginning of his preaching which starts with repentance. Repentance was the focus of John the Baptist’s ministry and also the starting point of the disciples ministry after Jesus had been put to death. The essence of repentance is that it is a state of preparation. Repentance is meant to prepare a person so that they turn away from an old life of sin, ready to commence a new life with Christ. In essence it is like “turning over a new leaf” to start afresh. So we see that in each case the three key ministries of the New Testament begin by teaching the people to come to a state of preparation for what is to come. In particular we note that John the Baptist’s primary ministry was to fulfil the prophecy that said he was to prepare the way for the Christ and his focus was repentance from sin.
This chapter is interesting for we see in it the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and this is interesting because we also see that before he began he was attacked by Satan and tempted in the wilderness. Also note that the devil mocked Jesus for he began his first two temptations with the words, “If you are the Son of God…” The devil knew full well that Jesus was the Son of God and that there was no “if” about it. But using such mockery was an attempt to goad Jesus into doing the devil’s will rather than the will of God. We see this same thing as Christians. People will say, “…and you call yourself a Christian…” when they mock or stand opposed to us. As the devil sought proof’s from Jesus with his mockery so too the devils servants do the same thing to the servants of the Lord. Don’t fall into that trap for that is what it is. Jesus was tempted and attacked at other times too, but this first occasion is interesting as it was to test his faith in a number of key areas.