1. Jesus Christ was not a new law-giver. The Jews interpreted the OT wrongly. Jesus interpreted the OT rightly. That is the whole point of Mt. 5:21-48. In these vss. Jesus gives six examples from the OT. Our text is one example, quoting Ex. 21:24; Lev. 24:20 and Deut. 19:21.
2. "An eye for an eye" and "a tooth for a tooth" were principles of civil law, guidelines for civil courts, not of daily personal relationships. For example, if a man murdered someone, the court demanded that his life be taken. If he stole 500 rubles, he had to repay 500 rubles.
3. These civil principles prevented revenge by taking the matter out of the hands of the individual and permitting the civil government to do it. The principle in the NT is clearly taught at Rom. 13:1-9. The civil government does not bear the sword in vain, says St. Paul.
4. In our text, Jesus speaks vs. 38 as a true principle of the civil courts and government. But in vss. 39-42 He gives us four examples of how we should deal with others in everyday affairs.
5. First example, vs. 39: "Do not resist the evil." It can also be translated "Do not resist the evil person." Jesus means: "Do not be vengeful." Do not say: "I'll get him! ! !" or "He'll pay for thisl ! !" Jesus means: "Under ordinary circumstances, return good for evil." Jesus says: "Turn the other cheek when you are slapped." He does not mean this mechanically. At Jn. 18:22 Jesus, when slapped, did not mechanically turn the other cheek. He returned good for evil. He made the man face his sin honestly. When someone attacks my body, my property, my family, I have the right and duty to preserve what is rightfully mine. That is not vengeance. Vengeance means to act like God. Evil must always be resisted. Think of Joseph, Gen. 39:8-9. But he was not vengeful. When he became ruler (Gen. 41:41) he did not punish Potiphar's wife. Our Apology (Art. XVI, 7) rightly says: "Public redress through a judge is not forbidden but expressly commanded, and it is a work of God according to Paul (Rom. 13:1-9)."
6. Second example, vs. 40: "To him who desires you to be taken to court to get your shirt, give him also your cloak." This example is a legal confrontation. The case is not yet in court. You are only being sued. Even then practice love. The Christian has a legal right to fight back but in a negligible matter the Christian should not only not fight for principle, but should even give double. True love produces true moral courage, a courage which yields rather than take vengeance and cause further trouble. By the way, I Cor. 6:1-11 does not forbid Christians from using courts. It means that Christians should take every means to settle differences privately, not publicly in court. Christians going to court with Christians is offensive to the world.
7. Third example, vs. 41: "And, whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two." In the Persian Empire (539-331 BC) marching soldiers had the legal right to compel citizens to carry their pack one mile. The Romans, who ruled Palestine at Jesus' time, did the same. Jesus says: "Don't go just one mile. Go _two_." By the way, Simon of Cyrene (Mt. 27:32) was compelled to bear Jesus cross. The same verb is used there.
8. Fourth example, vs. 42: "Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away." In this life we are only stewards, not owners, of what God lends us. We should use our goods to the glory of God and the benefit of man.
9. Jesus is saying: "Do not be selfish and vengeful. When you feel wronged by someone, return good for evil (vs. 39). When someone threatens to sue you in court, settle the matter to his advantage (vs. 40). When you are requested to do something, do twice what is asked (vs. 41). When others beg or borrow, be charitable, asking nothing in return (vs. 42). Jesus is not inducing poor stewardship of property. He is saying: "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."
10. "Create in me a clean heart, 0 God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Ps. 51:10. Read also Philippians 3:12-14. Lord, have mercy!
Theme: Produce the Fruits of the Spirit Not the Works of the Flesh
Jesus says at Mt. 5:20: "Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." Then, in vss. 21 to 48 Jesus gives six examples (vss. 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43) of how people twist the words of the Bible to justify their works of the flesh. Such people are not on the way to everlasting life, says Jesus. Our text today is one of those six examples.
I. THE EXAMPLE FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT. Vs. 38
The OT says: "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."Ex. 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21. Read these passages in their context. These are not personal deeds. They are acts of civil courts. If a man kills he must pay with his life. If he causes loss of property he must pay a fine to restore such property. But this is not vengeance. It is not personal. It is the work of a court. God is a just God. He establishes governments to administer justice (Rom. 13:1-9). It often happens that injustice is done by a court. But that does not invalidate the principle. The sinfulness of mankind does not invalidate the Word of God. If and when a civil court does its work faithfully, it is a fruit of the Spirit of God.
II. WHAT GOD SAYS ABOUT THESE ABUSES.
A. Do not resist evil. Vs. 39. Jesus is talking about the sin of vengeance, not about protecting your own property. If someone attacks your property, your wife, your good name, you have the rightof self protection. Jesus is not talking about that. He is talking aboutpaying back a sin with an equal sin. That's what He means by saying: "turnthe other cheek." Prov. 15:1 says: "A soft answer turns away wrath,but a harsh word stirs up anger." If you repay sin with sin, it makesmatters worse for you and the other person. Jesus is saying "Repay evilwith good." That's the story of salvation. God loved a sinful, miserableworld of people by giving His own Son. Where there were works of theflesh God gave fruits of the Spirit.
B. Give him also your cloak. Vs. 40. Jesus is not talking about making yourself poor by giving away all your goods. God does not induce poverty. Jesus is talking about a vengeful person who threatens to sue you in court. He wants to sue you over loss of a shirt. That is not very very much. If you let him take you to court, both you and he will lose much, not only property but also there will be hard feelings which are difficult to erase. Do not let it come to this. Yield to the other person. Read Lk. 6:36-38. Be yielding, merciful, kind. Win your enemy by deeds of kindness, fruits of the spirit.
C. Go two miles with him. Vs. 41. During the days of the Persian Empire a soldier carrying a heavy pack could compel a citizen to carry his pack for him. The Romans introduced the same practice in their Empire in Jesus' day. In fact, Roman soldiers did this at Mt. 27:32. They compelled Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus' cross. When this happens to you, says Jesus, go twice as far as you're asked to do. It's a principle in daily living. Gladly and ungrudginly do twice as much as people ask you to do. Go the extra mile. That's a fruit of the Spirit.
D. Be generous to people. Read vs. 42. Jesus does not mean that we should not be careful with our property. There was once a man who painted the handles of all tools red because he had a neighbor who constantly borrowed tools and forgot to return them. Periodically the owner went and collected his tools. Jesus is saying: "Don't be selfish. That is a work of the flesh. Be generous. That is a fruit of the Spirit."
"Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." Luther said: "Faith alone saves but faith is never alone."