But I Say Unto You …

Matthew 5:21-48 (ESV)

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’
22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,
24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.
26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’
32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’
34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,
35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This is a very serious thing that Jesus is saying here.  We miss the significance because we don’t have such a respect for the Old Testament and Moses as the Jews did.  Can you imagine a preacher / teacher today saying something along the lines of “You have heard it said “Blessed are the pure in heart, but I say unto you …”?

See the seriousness?  Look at it through the eyes of a Jew sitting upon the mount.

1)  Jesus takes a direct quote from Moses and says “but I say unto you…”.  This would be blasphemous to the Jews to take the law Moses gave from God and change it or add to it.  Jesus wasn’t even a scribe or Pharisee that was allowed to give commentary on the Law of Moses.

2)  Jesus is placing Himself as a lawgiver equal to or above Moses.  Not only is Jesus giving law, but He is giving it upon a mount almost a reenactment of the law given on Mount Sinai.  The only real difference is the smoke and thunder is missing. 

Exodus 19:16-19 (ESV)
16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.
17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain.
18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.
19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.

3)  The Jews knew the Law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments, were verbally given by God to them and to Moses.  Many of us today don’t realize that the Ten Commandments were given to the people verbally from Mount Sinai, not just to Moses.

Exodus 19:9-11 (ESV)
9 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord,
10 the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments
11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.

Then God gives the people and Moses the Ten Commandments and look at what happens.  They no longer want to hear from God directly.

Exodus 20:18-19 (ESV)
18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off
19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”

So here is Jesus giving His “But I say to you…” statements from the mount but there is no voice of God. 

Or is there?

See the Jews haven’t come to realize that Jesus is the Son of God, but they do realize that He is teaching as if He had authority.

Matthew 7:28-29 (ESV)
28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.


2 thoughts on “But I Say Unto You …

  1. I must admit, that the magnitude of what Jesus was doing here is not something I had given much thought.

    Your post shines a light on a truth that was obviously there all long, but most of us, having no context with the Jewish faith in which to place this, gloss over it.

    This was very much like a “re-enactment” if you will allow me to say, for lack of a better term, of the issuing of the Law from Mt. Sinai.

    I will never read the sermon on the mount quite the same way again.

    Thanks, BW.

    Berean Wife Reply:


    I’m glad you found this different way of looking at the Sermon on the Mount helpful. It is hard to get everything I’ve learned down to a concise verbal format. 🙁 It makes sense to me, but expressing it is much harder. I don’t think I’ve even barely conveyed the seriousness with which the Jews, especially the leaders, looked at what Jesus says in His earthly ministry. Even as believers we don’t get as upset as say a Muslim would if someone changed Mohammed’s writings. If any other person had gone around saying and doing what Jesus did they would have blasphemed. The key was in knowing who Jesus was, which is revealed to them by the Father. There is that Sovereignty of God again. 🙂

    Matthew 16:16-17 (ESV)
    16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
    17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

    The reason I was hesitant to call the Sermon on the Mount a re-enactment is because I think I would have to take it much farther that that. See from what I’ve studied the Mount Sinai giving of the Law is a shadow or a type of the Law given in the Sermon on the Mount. It is foretelling of the future Law of Christ, just as the sacrifices are foretelling of the future Sacrifice. I know that gets a little deep and off the well beaten path. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share more which will explain it better. I actually have a comparison chart started.

    But no matter what be Berean and check it all out according to the Scripture and see if it be so.

    Berean Wife

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