“And He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases…” Luke 6:17-18
What was happening in Yeshua’s ministry on earth when He spoke the messages in the “Sermon on the Mount”? What we know from Scripture is that the Pharisees were angry with Yeshua because His teachings did not follow theirs and because He was drawing large crowds wherever He went. So what was He teaching that was so radical, and that went against the Pharisees’ teachings? Yeshua was teaching about the Kingdom of God (also called the Kingdom of Heaven) and how they could not only be a part of the Kingdom on earth, but that the Kingdom was now within them!
Yeshua spoke about righteousness as the main theme of the Kingdom in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”. Also in Matthew 5:6,10 and 13:43, Yeshua says that “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” The Pharisees spoke about righteousness, but their form of righteousness was from following the Law (Torah) according to their interpretation of the Law, which included all of their man-made laws. Yeshua wanted to clearly distinguish between the righteousness that God expected in His gracious Kingdom and the righteousness of the Pharisees’ legalistic (man-made) kingdom.
Yeshua followed the Torah instructions in every way, and told us that He still wanted us to follow them. In Matthew 5:18 Yeshua states that not one jot or tittle will pass away from the Torah until heaven and earth pass away. Yeshua had a very different interpretation of how an obedient follower was to keep the Torah. For instance, the oral law of Moses said that a man could divorce his wife by simply giving her a certificate of divorce (see Matt 5:31). However, Yeshua said that “whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery” (Matt 5:32). Obviously Yeshua did not follow the oral law or any of the codes of law that were added to the Torah by the Pharisees (since He already said above that nothing in the Torah would or could be changed).
The Pharisees believed in keeping the Law with their heads but not their hearts. Yeshua said in Matthew 12:34 that the Jewish leaders were speaking and doing good, but at the same time thinking evil in their hearts. Yeshua, on the other hand, was teaching Abba Father’s interpretation of the Torah: that His children are to keep His Torah in their hearts and not just in their minds. Here are a few examples of heart obedience that Yeshua gives in Matthew and Luke:
- Matthew 5:21-26: murder begins in the heart
- Matthew 5:27-31: adultery begins with lust which comes out of the heart
- Luke 6:36: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (speaking of loving our enemies)
Yeshua’s underlying guidance on how to live our lives is the same as the Father’s – follow Torah with our minds and our hearts. Our gracious God has not only given us instructions for living life to the fullest, but He forgives us when we slip up. He wants us to have a genuine relationship with Him and with each other. A true relationship involves the heart as well as the mind.