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THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT or in your Heart

The Pharisees had probably started with good intentions and were sincere in their endeavor to please God, at least in the beginning. They were so zealous for God that they wanted to protect his laws. What they decided to do is build a wall around the law, the 613 commandments. This wall consisted of 100 to 1,500 additional man made laws added to the former commandments. Their logic was like this, by putting a fence, a protective barrier around the Holy Law one would first have to break this law before they would break God's law and become guilty and be punished. The problem was that as time went on the Jewish people become more familiar with and obedient to the fence laws of the Pharisee’s than to God's law. After all there was so much more to study before one could break through and become actually guilty from God.

In the New Testament period Jesus' whole ministry was a contention with the Pharisees traditions. They wanted him to validate and approve what they called the tradition of the elders (the fathers) Mk.7:1-9 Matt.15:1-4. Contention grew between Jesus and the religious leaders as they wanted his approval of their traditions to be considered equal with Scripture. Jesus was clear he was not going to approve of their man made traditions saying,” you lay aside the commandment of God and hold higher the tradition of men.” The Pharisees with their laws set up a barrier between God and man making the commandments of God to no effect. Because they stopped people from seeing the word of God and they were not convicted of their sin.

It is for this reason Jesus rebukes them saying  “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”  And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things,  lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him.” (Luke 11:52-54)

The Pharisees knew much (but not all) and they did not care to tell the regular people who were not in their religious club. Jesus comes along and explains the things of God to the common people and the Pharisees see that they are losing control. They were to feed the people the word and instead they hid it from them. Jesus went even further and gave the disciples the understanding of the parable, the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Mt.13:11)

When we come to the New Testament  Jesus defines what true law keeping is in his sermon on the mount. The sermon on the mount in Matthew chapter 5 was not meant to be the “golden rule” for Christian ethics for today. Yet many think we need to obey this sermon for salvation when it was actually a rebuttal against Pharisaic Judaism and the true intention of the law as given to Moses.

Mt. 15:1-3: “ Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying,  “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” Mark 7:2-5 adds, “ Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches.
5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?”

 Jesus answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” They put their traditions above the commandments of Moses thereby nullifying them.

According to the Pharisee's principles, some of their laws  involved heavier guilt than sins against the revealed Law of Moses. The  tradition of the elders said he who rejects hand washing is like a murderer their judgment will be poverty. (Mk.7:1)

Their Judaism had the tradition with decrees, intended to separate the Jew from all contact with Gentiles who were considered unclean. Any contact with a heathen, even the touch of his cloths, would mean defilement, so coming from the market the orthodox Jew would have to immerse in water. Earthen vessels that had contracted impurity were to be broken; those of wood, horn, glass, or brass immersed; while, if vessels were brought of Gentiles, they were to be immersed, put into boiling water, purged with fire, or at least polished. 

They washed their hands (rubbing them) vigorously”-that is, not merely dipping the finger or hands in water as a sign of ablution, but rubbing the hands together as a ball or fist,   the usual  manner is water  poured over them. So the phrase comes to mean “diligently, carefully, sedulously.”  The were to pay the utmost attention to washing and do it carefully and according to rule.

Jesus always brought their traditions to the ultimate authority the word of God, He  quotes Isa.29:13 in Mk.7:6: “These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me and in vain they worship me teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.” By adding traditions alongside the word they watered down the truth. Their traditions became more important than what God said through Moses.

The Pharisees were meticulous in keeping the law of God especially around other people. Jesus used them as an example of righteousness.

Matt. 5:20:  “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

How can we have a greater righteousness than those who were so zealous in keeping the law? The righteousness Jesus is speaking of is from the inside, a heart change. Something the Pharisees lacked since It can only be apprehended by faith. Faith is superior than all the law keeping. This does not mean we dispense with the commands but scripture says they are established by faith. True faith will produce the works that are required but it must come from inside not just the outside.

Matt. 23:25: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.” They looked right from the outside on everyone else but Jesus knew what was inside. This is how our righteousness must exceed theirs by having Christ's righteousness not by our works alone but by faith foremost of all.

Christ clearly explains the fundamental principle of His own interpretation of the Law.
Mark 7:17-23 :When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, “because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, “thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.” All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

If it does not reach or affect the “mind”, or the “soul,” it cannot pollute, it cannot make him a “sinner”.  What is thrown out of the body non-nutritious, the food taken into the stomach is support for our physical life. 

Jesus, is not declaring all food to be 'clean', setting aside the Levitical distinction between the clean and unclean  This does not happen until he dies on the cross.

Matt 15:18-20 states our words show our thoughts. The heart was the seat of our emotions. the heart is the center not only of spiritual activity, but of all the operations of human life. “Heart” and “soul” are often used interchangeably (Deut. 6:5; 26:16; comp. Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30, 33) but not always. The heart is synonymous with the Spirit of man.

It is out of the heart that defilement comes (Jer.17:9-10)  The heart is wicked, full of iniquity.

The heart is also the seat of the conscience (Rom. 2:15). It is naturally wicked (Gen. 8:21), and hence it contaminates the whole life and character. This is why there is need for a change of nature that will change human behavior.

Our words are the expression of thoughts and feelings;  they defile the person  making us really polluted or offensive in the sight of God. This is what really makes the soul corrupt and repulsive in his sight.  This is why Jesus said  in Mark 7:23 “All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

Luke 11:39-42 But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. “Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you.  “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others.

The Pharisees laws were burdens that God never intended, it brought them into bondage because it went beyond scripture. This is why Jesus quoted Mt.11:28 to relieve the people of laws that were not instated by God. They annulled the mosaic law by their interpretations which was strictly an outward conformity instead of from the inside.

Jesus not once spoke good about traditions, neither did Paul as he said in Col.2:8: “Beware of philosophy and tradition of men, according to the tradition of men not according to Christ he says to let the word of God dwell in you richly.” In their case it was the law which was the word of God in the Old Testament covenant.

The Pharisees kept the letter of the law outwardly. They thought if they did not steal or kill they were not guilty of breaking the law of Moses. Jesus went further showing them that the true righteousness of the law is how one acts on the inside. What it really demanded was not just an outward obedience but it had an inward intent, from the heart. Someone would violate the righteousness of the law of Moses long before they commit the physical act. If one hated his brother they would be guilty of murder in the heart long before they committed the act. However, the Pharisees considered themselves not guilty because they never did the physical act of murder. They made the law of no effect because it did not affect the inner man. They were concerned with outward actions only. The true conformity to the Law of Moses was internal not just external. It was the spirit or the principle of the law that needed to be adhered to and accepted for one to obey correctly on the outside. Deut. 6:4 was memorized as the faith of Judaism yet right afterward it says “ to love the lord your God with all your heart, mind soul, and strength. They excluded the heart and soul they very intent of the law. Their heart was hardened and it showed externally in their lives as Jesus rebuked them for tithing their mint and cumin but neglected the weightier matters of the law, JUSTICE and MERCY. They were unjust and denied others who the law was to be fulfilled to mercy, (Mic.6:8)they did not exercise mercy to those who truly needed it.. When we look at the NT we find people came to Jesus crying out for mercy and he was always willing to quickly give it to them. But those who came to him confident in their self righteousness he challenged or rebuked.

Paul who was a Pharisee writes in Rom 10:2-3: “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. In other words by outward works not by faith. Certainly there were different degrees of hypocrisy among the Pharisees.

Again the point of the law was to convict the inner man but they would not allow it and were actors making themselves look righteous to men by Jesus saw their lack from the inside.

Luke 18:9: Also He spoke this parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. but the self righteous in their own works will not be accepted by God. Only those who come humbly depending on his mercy seeing themselves as sinners will be accepted.

Luke 5:32: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” The Pharisees saw themselves as righteous not as sinners. Why? Because they considered themselves as keeping what God required. But they obeyed it only on the outside, and on their terms. So they believed their own laws superceded Moses’ law.

Today the church makes its own numerous rules and regulations that are neither in the law or in principle found in scripture. They exert conditions that do not help but actually can restrict and stumble those they actually want to be helped.

Have we learned anything from the past, I wonder how much we have become like the Pharisees today?


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  y2k, the aftermath  Cleansing Stream Suicide  


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