Too many people want to take the Ten Commandments (God’s Moral Code) only as it’s presented in the Table of Commandments. I would suggest that this was perhaps Israel’s biggest problem in their union with God. Face value without interpretation. Matthew chapters 5 to 7 is Jesus’ exposition of the Ten Commandments. As He looks at this Commandment, “you shall not murder” … He looks at the emotions and attitudes behind the act.
1) Jesus’ words and the Scriptures need the same treatment. He says:
Mt 5:22 “But I tell you”
Mt 5:26 “I tell you the truth.”
For you and me it is easy to understand that Jesus is God and the Word of God and Words of Jesus are both the very words of God. The people Jesus spoke to did not really know Him. His ministry had just began. Verse 1 informs us there were many following Jesus:
Mt 5:1 Now when he saw the crowds.
He had become popular because He was so different in speech and performance compared to the other religious leaders … but these people did not know He was the Messiah. He wanted the people to hear Him and understand that what He said gelled with the Scriptures … and more, were equal to the Scriptures. In a way, yet not fully, Jesus achieved some of His objective in teaching through what we call the Sermon on the Mount. At the end of this teaching we find:
Mt 7:28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
He had stirred them spiritually and they grasped that His teachings was far superior to that of the religious leaders.
2) Anger is equivalent to murder. This is where the Jews failed in their understanding of the Moral Code … as did their religious leaders in their exposition of it.
(1) Firstly we need to understand that the human being is created by God, in His image and likeness.
Ge 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
(Read verses 26-28). We also need to add that God created man different to the animal kingdom:
Gen 2:7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
When we couple 1:27 and 2:7 together we find that man is made a moral being with a soul (spiritual dimension). This image and likeness will only be fully realized in glory:
Rom 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.
(2) Then we need to link this to murder. God says:
Ge 9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”
Image is so import because of the moral likeness and spiritual dimension. Unlike the animal kingdom, we are able to relate to God and Him to us. We can have a relationship and this relationship is only possible because of “image and likeness”. So, Genesis 9v6 is really saying … “Touch man, who I created in my image and likeness, for my glory and pleasure and you touch me.” Never forget the Creator’s joy and pleasure once He completed creation:
Ge 1:31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
Add into this the fact that God loves man whom He created:
Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
(3) If anger is equivalent to murder, the punishment is the same.
Mt 5:22 “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”
(i) Here we find another relationship … “brother”. This word “brother” could be …
(a) From the same womb … biological brothers from the same parents.
(b) From the same people, ethnicity or nation. Brother here implies a fellow Israelite.
(ii) The word “angry” here means wrath. It is not just a disagreement or disappointment that caused an unhappiness. The picture here is one of being provoked to anger … to wrath. We are not told the cause … so the extreme emotion here would include many reasons. This is the people of God. There is wrath within the heart of an Israelite for a fellow Israelite that would boil over towards the act of murder.
(iii) Jesus therefore declares that the punishment leveled against the act of murder must be leveled against the one fuming with wrath (anger).
3) Jesus now explains the progression of anger.
Mt 5:22 “Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin.”
(1) Saying a fellow Israelite is “Raca”. This word is one of reproach. It means to be senseless or empty headed! Should one address another this way he could be taken before the College of Justices (Sanhedrin – Jewish Ruling Council). The punishment could be as bad as execution.
(2) Calling a fellow Israelite a fool. “But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’” Hearing the word “but” seems as though Jesus took a pause before continuing.
(a) There are two concepts coming out of the word “fool”.
(i) Godless because of refusing the way of salvation.
(ii) Rebel. It seems as though the accuser is accusing the “fool” of being without God because he is rebelling against God and His Laws. This is an accusation, not necessarily a fact!
(3) The punishment for insulting the image and likeness of God … will be in danger of the fire of hell. The origin for the term “fire of hell” carries the memories of
(i) Offering little children to the god Moloch. The furnace was created with arms extending on which parents will place their small child as an offering. The child would roll backwards into the fire of Moloch and be burnt to death.
(ii) Gehenna was a place where the dead bodies of animals and criminals who were executed were burnt.
(iii) Having these in the minds of the people, they would easily understand that Jesus was speaking of the final place of the wicked, rebellious, godless people after death where they would be banished for eternal punishment. Does it seem that Jesus is extreme here? Not at all because man is created in the image and likeness of God. Now we are able to see that Jesus is right when He equates anger to murder, requiring the same punishment. Each time we become angry and call someone fool or idiot, we are actually insulting God because He made man in His image and likeness. This is why He wants us to love our neighbor for when we do we shall not burn against him or her in such boiling over anger.
Our Father in heaven, thank You for making us in Your image and likeness. Thank You for instructing us to love You and our neighbor. Thank You for exposing our anger when we don’t do as You require. Forgive us for our anger. Amen.