Questions to Consider
1. Briefly review the “middle parts” (ex: merciful, poor in spirit) of the Beatitudes, the “salt and light” passage, and the “heart of the law” passage in Matthew 5:1-12, 13-16, 14-20. Now read 21-26 in light of those passages.
Summarize, in your own words, the main idea of 21-26.
Divide this passage into two sections, 21-22 and 23-26. Who is experiencing anger in the first section? The second? Who is responsible for doing something regarding the anger in both sections? Can you control or change the behavior of the person you’re angry at or the person who’s angry at you? How does this passage take the focus off what the other person has done (and whether she is right or wrong), and put the focus on you and your responsibility to act in a godly way regardless of the circumstances?
In the Beatitudes, Jesus lists the traits that define Christian character. In much of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount He fleshes out what many of these character traits look like when walked out in “real life”. Which of the traits (the “middle parts” – there could be several) listed in the Beatitudes is Jesus expanding on in each of these sections (21-22, 23-26)? How?
How does ungodly anger, or a brother having something against you dim your light, and bland your saltiness? (13-16) How can crucifying your sinful anger or reconciling with an offended brother make you saltier and brighter?
2. Review from our previous lessons (links above) the idea that the Sermon on the Mount is to the New Testament / new covenant what the Ten Commandments were to the Old Testament / old covenant.
How does Jesus refer back to the Ten Commandments in verse 21? How do Jesus’ phrases “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” verbally transition the people from their focus on outward obedience to the letter of the law to zeroing in on the attitude of their hearts and the spirit of the law? Explain how refraining from sinful anger and reconciling with an offended brother is the heart of the law (17-20) behind the 6th Commandment. Connect these passages with 21-26. Where should our outward, behavioral obedience to Christ spring from?
3. Examine again the “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” proclamation. Who had the people heard it (the law) said by? Who taught them the law? How does Jesus saying, “But I say to you…” establish Jesus’ supremacy over the Pharisees, scribes, priests, etc. Imagine you’re one of these Jewish leaders and you’re hearing Jesus say this. What might your initial reaction be? How does this passage on anger inform how you should respond to Jesus’ proclamation?
Recalling our Sermon on the Mount / Ten Commandments motif, how might Jesus’ “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” proclamation have evoked images of Moses as lawgiver, and signaled to the Jewish leaders and people that the better Moses was here?
Who created and gave the Ten Commandments? How did Jesus’ proclamation and the judgments He declares in verse 22 demonstrate to the Jews His authority as God and His equality with God?
4. Using your cross-references, what kind of court / prison situation is 25-26 referring to? Can you see how this type of situation fits with the situation in 23-24? Does verse 23 say you’ve actually sinned against your brother, or that you’re actually guilty of the the civil action or accusation of debt being brought against you in 25? Could these be situations in which there has been a misunderstanding, a miscommunication, or a false accusation on the part of the offended party? Why is it still your responsibility to take the initiative to make things right with the offended party?
What does making things right with others have to do with our worship (23)? Why does God basically say, “Go to your brother before you come to Me.”?
- What is the difference between righteous anger (which is not sinful) and sinful anger? How can you tell the difference between the two? Is it possible to express righteous anger in an unrighteous / sinful way? Give an example. This week, pray that each time you get angry God will help you distinguish whether you are experiencing righteous or sinful anger and whether you are expressing that anger righteously or sinfully. If you are sinfully angry, repent.
- Is there anyone in your life who has something against you (23-26)? Even if your conscience is clear that you haven’t actually sinned against her, be a peacemaker, take the initiative, and do everything you can to reconcile with her this week.