But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44 ESV
This morning the world is in shock after yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Paris. Last night and today, seemly endless images of the dead and wounded fill our screens. Updates chronicling the carnage clog news-feeds and talking heads on the news channels speculate as to who is responsible.
In times like these thoughts of fear, hatred and revenge can easily fill our minds. Such thoughts are only natural. Yet, we have been commanded by our Lord and Savior to think and act differently. Radically different. Supernaturally different. Divinely different.
It’s natural to think thoughts of revenge. Jesus Christ commands us to “pray for those who abuse you.” Luke 6:28.
It’s natural to curse those who curse you. Jesus Christ commands us to “bless those who curse you.” Luke 6:28.
It’s natural to dislike those who hate you. Jesus Christ commands us to proactively “do good to those who hate you.” Luke 6:27.
It’s natural to strike back when punched in the face. Jesus Christ commands us to “offer the other [cheek] also.” Luke 6:29.
Lord, I am tempted to hate my enemy. I am tempted to think thoughts of vengeance and retribution. Forgive me. I beseech you to empower me through your Spirit to love those who hate me. To pray for those who persecute me. To turn the other cheek when struck. Lord, I ask you to eradicate my thoughts of revenge and to forgive me for failing to bless those who curse me.
Editorial note: Originally published November 14, 2015 at assemblyHUB.com
“Thus says the Lord…” Jeremiah 2:2 ESV
“I say to you…” Matthew 5:18 ESV
Throughout the long history of the Nation of Israel God sent many prophets to speak His words to the people.
A prophet was simply a human messenger. A mere mortal chosen by God to speak the words given to him by God. A prophet’s authority did not come from himself, rather it came from God. A prophet’s words did not come from himself, rather his words came from God. To underscore this truth, prophets often prefaced their prophesies with the phrase “Thus says the Lord.” In fact, this phrase is repeated well over 400 times in the Old Testament.
Then came the Lord Jesus Christ.
Not once did he ever utter the phrase “thus says the Lord.” Rather, He often prefaced His words with the phrase “I say to you.” Some 87 times He boldly proclaimed this astounding phrase!
Jesus Christ was not just another prophet. Jesus Christ was not merely a human messenger sent on behalf of God! No!
Jesus Christ was, and is God incarnate! Jesus Christ did not need to say “thus says the Lord” because He is the Lord! He is God! Every time Jesus Christ said “I say to you” He was boldly declaring that His words ARE God’s words.
“And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority.” Mark 1:22 ESV
Editorial note: Originally published May 3, 2015 at assemblyHUB.com
Commenting on Matthew 26:56:
Let us learn from the passage lessons of humiliation and self-abasement. Let us resolve by God’s grace to cultivate a spirit of lowliness, and self-distrust. Let us settle it in our minds, that there is nothing so bad that the best of us may not do it, unless he watches, prays, and is held up by the grace of God. And let it be one of our daily prayers, ‘Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.’ (Psalm 119:17.)
J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1860), p. 370.
Commenting on Matthew 26:41:
If we desire to walk with God comfortably, and not fall, like David or Peter, let us never forget to watch and pray. Let us live like men on enemy’s ground, and be always on our guard. We cannot walk too carefully. We cannot be too jealous over our souls. The world is very ensnaring. The devil is very busy. Let our Lord’s words ring in our ears daily like a trumpet. Our spirits may sometimes be very willing. But our flesh is always very weak. Then let us always watch and always pray.
J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1860), p. 366.
On Matthew 26:47-56 ~
We see in these verses the cup of our Lord Jesus Christ’s sufferings beginning to be filled. We see Him betrayed by one of His disciples, forsaken by the rest, and taken prisoner by His deadly enemies. Never surely was there sorrow like His sorrow! Never may we forget… that our sins were the cause of these sorrows! Jesus was ‘delivered for our offenses.’ (Romans 4:25.)
J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1860), pp. 366f.
Commenting on Matthew 24:16 ~
For one thing, we see that flight from danger may sometimes be the positive duty of a Christian. Our Lord Himself commanded his people under certain circumstances ‘to flee.’ The servant of Christ undoubtedly is not to be a coward. He is to confess his master before men. He is to be willing to die, if needful, for the truth. But the servant of Christ is not required to run into danger, unless it comes in the line of duty. He is not to be ashamed to use reasonable means to provide for his personal safety, when no good is to be done by dying at his post. There is deep wisdom in this lesson. The true martyrs are not always those who court death, and are in a hurry to be beheaded or burned. There are times when it shows more grace to be quiet, and wait, and pray, and watch for opportunities, than to defy our adversaries, and rush into the battle. May we have wisdom to know how to act in time of persecution! It is possible to be rash, as well as to be a coward—and to stop our own usefulness by being over hot, as well as by being over cold.
J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1860), pp. 318f.
In the cross I see God humbling Himself—the only One of all greatness making nothing of Himself for my soul—the only One who commands all becoming a servant of the very vilest. A person cannot receive the truth of the cross without having in measure his walk in accordance with the spirit of it. Yet saints of God have regarded the cross, not so much as that power by which the world is crucified unto them and they unto the world, but rather as the remedy by which they are set free from all anxiety, in order to make themselves a comfortable place in the world. The Christian ought to be the happiest of men; but his happiness consists not in what he has here, but in what he knows that he will have with Christ. Meanwhile, our service and obedience are to be formed according to the spirit of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. Man’s evil and God’s grace thoroughly came out in the cross; all met there: and it is founded upon this great truth that it is said so often in scripture, ‘The end of all things is at hand;’ because all was brought out in moral ways and in dispensational dealings between God and man.
William Kelly, Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew, (London; Glasgow: G. Morrish; R. L. Allan, 1868), p. 342.
As ISIS sweeps through Syria and Iraq we are hearing daily reports of beheadings, executions, kidnappings, and other atrocities. Many of their victims are Christians– specifically targeted because of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ instructed His followers to Love their enemies and to pray for those who persecuted them (Matthew 5:22). For me, this command is largely theoretical… the worst “persecution” I have personally “suffered” is someone laughing at me or telling me that I am naive to believe that the Bible is God’s word.
However, for many of our brothers and sisters in Christ persecution is all too real. Some are being forced from their homes, others tortured and executed.
Let’s bear up our brothers and sisters in fervent prayer as we have been told to “remember… those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Hebrews 13:2 ESV
On Matthew 23:5-12 – “The New People of God have one Teacher, the Christ; one level, all are brethren; one Father before whom all bow, the Father in heaven; and one measure of greatness, that of being servants who humble themselves in service. This is a remarkable outline of worship and relationship in the ekklēsia, among those called by Christ to be His disciples.”
Myron S. Augsburger, Matthew, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 24, ed. Lloyd J. Ogilvie. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1982), p. n/a.
But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Matthew 23:13 NKJV
Recorded: Sunday March 16, 2014 Bethany Gospel Chapel, Worcester, MA.