Monday, February 21, 2011

The Sermon on the Mount: Raising the Moral Standard II

The Hebrew religion with all the prescribed rituals would have to appeal to the senses, that is, it was physical in nature and its observances had to be exact. All this was to symbolize man's lot in relation to God. To be sure, the Lord had not abandoned mankind completely but his fellowship with him was strained. In many ways, God assumed the role of a master instead of a Father. All this because the Sons of God (Seth's descendants) chose to marry the Daughters of Men (Cain's descendants); in so doing they signaled their faith was secondary thereby taking a fateful step away from their Creator and Friend.

If, after reading the Old Testament, God seems severe and even caustic at times, it was because man had created this relationship. But God, who is a loving Father, did not let man walk wander too far off the path.

Some time had passed when the descendants of Noah and his three sons wanted to make a name for themselves by building the famous tower of Babel. This enterprise, however, was displeasing to the Lord. He subsequently intervened and divided humanity along ethnic lines into seventy-two nations. Confusing their language, God has prevented this enterprise from going forward.

It wasn't until Pentecost that the Holy Spirit once again descended upon humanity to restore both its moral power and fraternal unity. This would be realized only through Jesus' relationship with the Father; and this divine relationship would not only be revealed by the Spirit who binds them together but men, women and children would be invited to partake of this relationship.

With this backdrop in mind, the significance of the Sermon on the Mount can be better understood. Jesus fulfilled his Father's will with perfection; and he did this in the Spirit. Knowing that his followers would possess the same Holy Spirit he possessed, he would then elevate the demands of the moral law. In other words, he raised the bar and demanded more than what was previously demanded by God in the Old Testament. For instance, he said, “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.'” Our Lord continued: “You have heard it said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

More on the next blog-