July 2007


(Mt 5-7)

Chapters five through seven of Matthew are like no other in the New Testament and among the Good News books in particular. The bearer of good news Matthew presents, in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, a collection of Jesus’ teachings some of which are not found in the other Good News books or are scattered in various passages, mostly Luke, some in Mark.

The Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-11, Lk 6:20-25)

The basic meaning of the beatitudes is that we, the people of light, must be patient in cultivating the fruits of the spirit in a world where many freely choose to pursue their own will, based on impure understanding, and cultivate fruits which are other than those of the spirit and in malproportion with the blessings of the material world. The Lord provides justice as He sees fit and blessed are those who seek Him and wait for Him, and the pure in heart will “see” Him.
In contrast, those who are greedy will be turned upside down, even on this earth, some sooner, some later.

Salt and Light (Mt 5:13-16)

The pure in heart give good taste and light to the world. Men may rot in their impurity, but in the face of adversity, in all circumstances, we must continue to do good works, the will of God, providing light to the world. This theme is repeated elsewhere in the New Testament, and also by the Stoics.

Teaching about the Law (Mt 5:17-20)

A type of impure person is one who knows the law, especially those in positions of social authority, and who preaches the law to others, but he himself does not practice the law. Such a man, though he may escape the justice of his fellow men over whom he holds sway, will be held accountable to the letter of the law down to its last detail, according to God’s justice.
Instead the person who is pure in heart practices the spirit of the law and forgives his fellows. This too is a regular theme in the New Testament.

Teaching about Anger
(Mt 5:21-26)

Those who harbor anger toward their fellows, who insult them, who hold something against them, will be subject to the same anger, insults, and grudges, their hearts will be impure, and their prayers will be useless.

Teaching about Retaliation (Mt 5:38-42)

Take a chance and be the one to break the chain of insults and injustices; it is a hard lesson, but if you truly seek purity of heart, you will learn it. Consider the injustices you have perpetrated in life and see how they have come back to you. As it stands, your heart is a stained glass, letting through some light, a smudged mirror, reflecting a distorted person, but whose goodness is still visible; go to extra mile, then, and try to be a purer person, transparent as glass, a smooth mirror reflecting the true image of goodness. You can continue to participate in the tit-for-tat that is typical among men too obsessed with the material world, but you cannot cultivate the fruits of the spirit by sowing corrupt seed. Break the chain of corruption and plant pure seed, if you are up to it, if you have the will and the discipline.

Love for Enemies (Mt 5:43-48)

Jesus is telling us that if we really want to be perfect, not only do we have to go the extra mile, and not retaliate, insult, and hold grudges against those who treat us unjustly, we must go two extra miles and love and pray for them: your job is to be pure in heart before yourself and before God – this is wealth; God’s job is to dispense justice as He sees fit, on earth as it is in heaven.

Teaching about Prayer (Mt 6: 5-14)

Prayer must be sincere, from the inner depths of one’s heart. If the heart is not aright, then the prayer will be off the mark too.
First, we must recognize God the Father, and ask that He reveal to us His will. The more pure in heart one is, the clearer the will of God is to him. Second, the work we do on this earth is as much spiritual as it is material. We seek of God the fruits of our work, both that in heaven and that of the earth. Third, human beings must be humble with one another and treat one another as each one would want to be treated, and God will treat each one accordingly. Yet remember the teaching about retaliation and loving one’s enemies. We must responsibly assume the risks of creation. Pray, then, also to avoid evil, pray for the strength to maintain the discipline, to avoid falling into the traps set by those who, granted free will as the essence of creation, choose to will what is contrary to the will of the Creator. Pray to fulfill the work of His creation, not to deviate from it or destroy it. Do not participate in the wasteful endeavors of a twisted generation, but make straight the paths of the Lord.

Treasure in Heaven (Mt 6:19-21, Lk 12:33-34)

Do not consider valuable what mother nature and men can impair, confiscate, and destroy. What you consider valuable is a reflection of the purity of your heart. The everlasting value is your relationship with the Holy Spirit, therefore store up value in that. Why let the purpose of your action be anything less?

The Light of the Body (Mt 6:22-32, Lk 11:34-36)

Jesus says that the lamp of the body is the eye. But the eye must be a metaphor for the heart and soul.
If there is evil in your heart, then the body is worthless. As we enter the inner depths of our being we should see the ray of light that is life. The enlightened soul should be the helmsman, giving true life also to the body, and making sense out of this life on earth.

God and Mammon (Mt 6:24, Lk 16:13)

The meaning of the teaching is clear, regardless of the exact rendering we give to the term μαμωνάς. We must keep our priorities straight: when it comes to storing up real treasure in our hearts, we cannot be a jack of all trades, but rather the master of one; real mastery is being a servant of God, making the material world subservient to the purposes of the spirit and using it only to the extent that it serves those purposes. Do not waste resources on what is not important, but hold fast, be loyal, to what is.

Care and Anxiety (Mt 6:25-34, Lk 12:22-34)

The context for this teaching is man’s obsession with the material world and, worse, greed for material things, for it is not from the overflow of one’s possessions that life is, we do not cultivate the fruits of the Holy Spirit in an excess of possessions. Therefore, do not worry your soul over these things, the Lord knows what you need and will provide. The priority work is discovering the kingdom of God within you. This the greatest gift; do not let it be obscured by the plentitude of the creation which is not yours to keep, but keep a bright light focused on it, in proportion to your faith.

Judging Others (Mt 7:1-6, Lk 38:41-42)

In the attempt to achieve purity and to have the best relationship possible with the Holy Spirit, one of the most valuable tools you have is your ability and free will to measure yourself. Be careful how you measure yourself, then, and be especially careful of how you measure others; do not apply your standards of judgment on others, because they will turn around and apply them to you. This is true justice. Secure an accurate measure of yourself and be humble about it, and be humble in your consideration of others. No one is better than the other; in the best case scenario, the student can be as good as his master. Men, who are spiritually blind, or immature at best, cannot righteously judge one another, especially in spiritual terms. If you unjustly judge, especially in the pursuit of material gain, then you will be subject to the laws men and pay the consequences according to their whims.

Ask, Seek, Knock (Mt 7:7-12, Lk 11:9-12)

We cannot know what it is that we should be seeking until we set our own hearts aright and we treat our fellow men with the same righteousness. Then we can seek the Lord’s goodness in abundance and He will give it to us. Until then, it is only in proportion to the purity of our hearts and our faith.

The Narrow Gate
(Mt 7:13-14, Lk 13:24)

There are many ways to lose focus and dissipate our souls. There are few ways to maintain focus, it is difficult and only few will work hard enough to have the harmony of wills to achieve it.

A Tree Known By Its Fruit (Mt 7:15-20)

A man is like a tree with several branches, some bear fruit, others bear no fruit at all, still others are simply rotten. Is it possible that the entire soul of one man be completely rotten? The point, however, is to take pains to discern what is fruitful, what is pure, from what is fruitless, impure and rotten, and do not let what is rotten and impure into your heart, while at the same time do not judge the soul of another man, only be careful not to let what is rotten in his heart into your heart: you cannot change the nature of what is fruitful and what is fruitless.
Therefore, safeguard what is fruitful and good and pass it on to future generations; what is fruitless, rotten and impure, let it be thrown into the fire.

I Never Knew You (Mt 7:21-23, Lk 13:25-27)

It is possible to speak the name of the Lord, to predict the future in the name of the Lord, to provide instant happiness to people in the name of the Lord, even perform great works in the name of the Lord, and yet not do His will.
It is not enough to call on His name and do things in His name, for we can still be in the wrong if we do not do His will, and to discern His will we must seek to be pure in heart and put His commandments into practice.

The Two Foundations (Mt 7:24-29, Lk 6:47-49)

Now that we have these teachings set before us, we have two choices. The first, we can use these teachings as the bedrock on which to build the foundation of our lives, and how on such a foundation our lives, our souls, can withstand any of the trials and tribulations that the vagaries of the world, both material and psychological, can throw at us (Psalm 107).
Second, we can choose not to implement these teachings as the bedrock on which to build the foundation of our lives, and instead build our lives on less solid principles. In that case, in the face of adversity, which is bound to happen in a complex universe, especially one in which the created creatures are endowed with free will, a main’s life, a man’s soul, will be scattered by the wind, be dissolved by the rain, and sink into the quick-sand with little hope of reconstituting itself except through renewed faith and a reconstruction based on the teachings of the Lord.

Conclusion on Repentance, Baptism, And The Basic Teaching

We as men are eminences of God’s Holy Spirit, life and light. The purpose of our creation is to freely do God’s will, to sow the seeds of the Holy Spirit which are love, peace, joy, kindness, goodness, patience, faith, gentleness, and discipline.
What a man freely considers valuable is a reflection of the purity of his heart, but the mind’s obsession with the material world renders his heart impure. The laws of men are designed to curb the corruption of mind and body, of errant free will, while the laws of God are designed to keep the heart pure: we cannot cultivate the fruits of the spirit by sowing corrupt seed.
The more pure in heart one is, the clearer God’s will is to him.

Take pains, then, real pains, to be pure in heart, to discern the fruits of the spirit, even as symbolized in the work of our hands on the material earth.
Be patient in the face of adversity, in the face of pain, in the face of men who work to do their own will which is other than God’s will.

This is the real work, the most serious business: for what profit is it to a man to gain the material world, which is an illusion, and lose his ephemeral soul, the most concrete reality? The soul, the eminence of God’s Holy Spirit, life, and light.

(Mt 4:12-17)

The bearer of good news Matthew states that Jesus came to a town on the lake at the foot of the mountains because from there the prophet had said would come the great light that the people living in darkness, in the shadow of death, would see, a light that would dawn on them.

This is the same light that the bearer of good news John (Jn 1:1-18) writes about at the very beginning of his testimony. What emanates in and from Logos, God, is life, and life was the light of men. The use of ‘was’ here is important because he then says that the light appeared in the darkness and the darkness did not understand it. This implies that men had lost their focus on what is important, they had lost their minds, hence John the Baptist’s preaching of the cleansing of one’s focus so that men could once again see the light that emanates from the Logos, from God, from the Holy Spirit, the giver of life, and the agent of purification is faith in the light. This is what is most valuable, especially for those who perceive no value in the pettiness of the affairs among men determined by their will and laws which are out of focus; men who passionately engage in this kind of behavior do not know and understand the light.

(Mt 3:1-6, Lk 3:1-9)

John the Baptist reminded people, as it were, to change their minds, to focus on what is really important, the kingdom of God. Losing one’s mind, then, means losing focus of what is really important.
The first step in changing our minds is to admit that we are off the mark, to admit that we have a problem, to admit that we focus our minds on lesser things, that we are lesser beings than we might otherwise be. Instead, repent and be baptized, do the fruits worthy of the changed mind.

At this point (Jn 1:19-28), men with social power, men with the power to regulate relations among human beings, intervene, men who use the laws of men as their measuring stick, and they ask John, “who are you?” For men with social power who use the law of men as their measuring stick when it is convenient for them to do so also know that there is soul power above their own which socially manifests itself through individuals, and even groups, from time to time which the men in social power perceive as threatening to their own.

We are going to attempt to do this the old-fashioned way, commenting on select passages of the New Testament without the aid of computers and so on.