The Self-Understanding of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount

We’ve already had a series done here on the Sermon on the Mount. Tonight, we’re going to take an interesting look at it as a whole though to see the self-understanding of Christ based on what he said. We can so often look to the sermon as offering good teaching on morality, which it does, but if we only stop at that point, then we deprive ourselves of the true benefit. 

Let us begin with the understanding of Torah. If you are a Jew in the time of Christ, you believe the first five books of Torah at least came from God written by the hand of Moses. You hold that this Law is sacred. You and your ancestors have been copying it down for centuries. You are willing to die for these traditions and these teachings that have come from this.

You raise your children every day telling them about the Law of Moses. You quote the Shema every morning and every evening. You make sure you honor the temple rituals as you’re supposed to. You pay close attention to the Law, especially with the experts on the Law who are around you. Such great care is spent in understanding the Scripture that one rabbi spent two years exegeting the text, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”

You know that to go against this book is to go against God himself. You are one who knows the story of how your ancestors were in Egypt and also how they went to Babylon. You have become a unique group in that no one believes anything like you do in the ancient world and all around you, your customs set you apart.

Now here comes a new teacher and what does he say? He takes this beautiful Torah that you believe to come from God ultimately, and then when he speaks of the text he says, “You have heard it was said” and at this point, you are in agreement. Yes. It was said, and it was said by God himself through Moses. It is his next words that stun you.

“But I say unto you.”

But?

BUT?!

Who the heck do you think you are? You are going to take the very words of God to Moses and say that your words should be put on such an authority?

William Lane Craig speaks about this in his book “Reasonable Faith.” The following is a statement in his book. It is a revised edition published in 1994 and the quote is on page 247.

Jews believe in the Torah of Moses….and that belief requires faithful Jews to enter a dissent at the teachings of Jesus, on the grounds that those teachings at important points contradict the Torah….

And therefore, because that specific teaching was so broadly out of phase with the Torah and covenant of Sinai, I could not then follow him and do not now either. That is not because I am stubborn or unbelieving. It is because I believe God has given a different Torah from the one that Jesus teaches; and that Torah, the one Moses got at Sinai, stands in judgment of the Torah of Jesus, as it dictates true and false for all other torahs that people want to teach in God’s name.”

Citing this time Robert Hutchinson, Craig points out that the question Neusner wants to ask is, “Who do you think you are—God?” As he says Neusner goes on to say:

No one can encounter Matthew’s Jesus without concurring that before us in the evangelist’s mind is God incarnate.

I agree. While I do not agree that Jesus contradicts the Torah but rather fulfills it, Neusner is right in taking the claim of Jesus seriously. It would behoove us all if we would do the same.

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