Sermon on February 21, 2021

Volker Aßmann, Kirche am Bahnhof, Frankenberg

Standards that challenge – The Sermon on the Mount

Relationships That Heal

Matthew 5: 21-26

This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here


“You have heard that it was said to the ancients:
You should not kill;
But whoever kills will be subject to judgment.
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother
will be subject to judgment;
but whoever says to his brother: Raka, you hollow head!
will have succumbed to the high council;
but whoever says: you fool!
will have fallen into hell with its fire.
If you now make your offering to the altar and remember there that your brother has something against you,
so leave your gift there in front of the altar and go there first,
be reconciled with your brother;
and then come and offer your gift!
Quickly meet your opponent while you are on your way to court with him!
(If you have a debt to pay to someone, come to terms with them while you are still on your way to court with them!)
So that the opponent doesn’t hand you over to the judge and the judge the bailiff, and you are thrown into prison.
Verily I say to you:
You won’t get out of there until you have paid the last penny. ”
(Matthew 5: 21-26)
If your righteousness is not entirely different from that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you cannot come to the kingdom of the heavens either.” (Matthew 5:20)


This is the heading for everything that comes after in the Sermon on the Mount.
Hans Bruns (Theologian, Bible translator)  writes about this: ‘In contrast to the will to be right of the scribes and Pharisees, who understand God or want to show HIM something through good deeds (or keeping the commandments), the disciples of Jesus live completely different …
It’s about a changed life because God changed the heart. Our actions, the bad as well as the good, come from our hearts.
Jesus takes 3 examples from the 10 commandments to make it clear what the righteousness that HE means and lives and that is so much better than that of the Pharisees looks like. In doing so, Jesus by no means abolishes the law of the OT, but rather strengthens and intensifies it. But HE does not only look at the deed, the murder, the adultery, the lie or the false oath, but HE looks deeper, at the origin of the act and the attitude behind the act, i.e. at our heart.
Jesus gets to the root of the problem in our lives. > Radix <is the root, in this sense Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount are “radical”. It is not about a change in the facade, but in our heart, which will then definitely show itself in our actions.
“Man sees what is before his eyes, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:17)
There are two ways to deal with these issues: On the one hand, we can talk about it small and beautiful, “It’s not that bad after all!” And then everything just gets worse. Or we can take these issues as seriously as Jesus takes them seriously and accept the solution and salvation from Jesus and live a changed life.
This is not about the unbearable burden of wanting or having to do better. The good news from Jesus is: Accept my forgiveness and my reconciliation for you and grant them to people as well. Learn from my loyalty to you and then live loyalty in your relationships! It is about the liberation and change of our heart through God’s love, it is about protecting us from loading a new burden of contempt and irreconcilability on ourselves. And it’s about not destroying our own lives and relationships with people. And this is about relationships that will be healed and our own hearts will be healed. In our marriages, families, friendships, in the church, and simply in all relationships in which we live.
Jesus tells his disciples: To be angry and to despise others is murder! Resentment and hatred, hardship and bitterness are also sin, not just killing in the literal sense.
In addition, there are insulting and bad words (raka = hollow head) and fool …) Murder is a crime committed by the heart, not just the hand. (O.Sanders)
To make this gravity clear, Jesus speaks of the fact that there are different stages of judgment: scourging by the local court, stoning by the councilor, and infernal fire after death. (Bruns) It’s not about trifles and my “right” to retaliation. Where does it say that this right exists for me, and that it is even my “good right”? You may think that this is not so hard for us today in church time. Watch out, trap!
Exodus 20:13 (21:12): “You shall not kill!”
“Anyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life; the life that God gives us is not in him. ”(1.John 3:15)
Here John takes up the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount literally. Hate one another is not at all possible for disciples of Jesus! Nobody who hates and despises a person so deeply, denies him the right to life and has already killed him in God’s eyes, lives in a relationship with God. A murderer who does not regret his act and has been forgiven by God has no right and part in heaven with God. The life in relationship with God, which we are given by Jesus through the forgiveness of our guilt, fits just as little with such hatred and such contempt as fire and water, light and darkness go together.
How hard is that? Can’t Murderers See Forgiveness? Can’t hate be forgiven?
As a young woman under drugs, Karla Tucker brutally killed two people in a burglary. She was sentenced to death in the United States. In prison, she met Christians, and she began to trust Jesus and saw that He forgive her terrible guilt. Karla sought contact with the family of those killed and asked their forgiveness. A deep friendship developed with the daughter of the dead. Unfortunately, all requests for pardon were denied and Karla was executed. But she knew and believed that she was going to Jesus who had forgiven her.
What John is saying here is this: a murderer who remains a murderer in his heart and wants to do it again exactly, a person who does not let go of his hatred and does not live reconciliation with God’s help, both of them do not match God and their attitude shows that they do not really know God.
The good news from Jesus is that there is forgiveness, reconciliation and deliverance from even the worst guilt we can imagine. The love of God is greater. And if God’s love could change the heart of Karla Tucker, the brutal double murderer, then HE can do the same in your and my life. And HE has to do it, we have to experience exactly that in order to be healed again and to be able to live liberated, even if this by no means all breaks in our life disappear again.
Jesus addresses areas in which the Pharisees distorted the original meaning of the law and considered themselves good. He speaks in the opposites “You heard what was said about the ancestors” and “But I tell you …”. It involves homicide (murder), adultery, false swearing, vengeance, and malice. >
Jesus leads his listeners from the depths of willingness to murder to the height of love for one’s enemies. (5.44) <(Oswald Sanders – instructor and administrator at the Bible College of New Zealand)
Jesus makes clear the inviolability of life and personality. This is a subject that is very important and great in the Bible. Every person’s life is inviolable. None of us must assume the right to take and end someone’s life. I understand that it’s about murder, of course, but also about euthanasia, abortion, the death penalty, just any form of killing. Okay, then I’ll be through with the subject, because I haven’t killed anyone and I want it to stay that way for the rest of my life. Jesus, we are even, my life is fine. Welcome to the Pharisee Club. But Jesus said to the Pharisees then and now: Stop! Murdering / killing starts much earlier than the obvious act. > Murder is a crime that commits the heart and not just the hand. <(Sanders)
Anger that wants to destroy the other is on the same level as murder. Contempt that denies the other person any right to life and worth is just as much as if you were actually killing that person. That is how precious the life of every human being is in God’s eyes. It doesn’t matter whether this anger is hidden in my heart or expressed in “passionately despising words.” It means: I could / want to destroy / kill the other. > Whether you kill a person’s soul / personality through contempt, or whether you kill them with a knife, both mean death. Racial hatred in our world is a reality that has its roots here. <(Sanders / page 46) Regardless of whether with or without a reason, anger and hatred are punishable by law! And there is no reason to justify such hatred and contempt before God.
In Greek there are two words for anger: the anger that flares up quickly, which soon subsides, or the resentment that runs deep and continues to eat away. The second kind is what Jesus means here. Exactly this word is also used for the Antichrist in Revelation 12:17. It is with this anger that the dragon acts against God’s people here.
What bad company am I in when I despise and hate so deeply. Those who are filled with anger and contempt have the heart of a murderer. “Fool” expresses moral or even spiritual worthlessness and is a more serious insult than “Raka” Jesus totally tightened the law to show the Pharisees their self-righteousness, who thought they were righteous because they hadn’t killed anyone. That’s exactly what we find in our thinking to this day: I’m not a murderer, terrorist, dictator with blood on my hands …
The very different life of Jesus and of Jesus’ disciples, who have a heart changed by Him, does not only mean: not to kill, not to hate destructively, but as the climax in Matthew 5:44 and 48 even love for whoever you are hates and your enemy is: “But I say to you: ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you! With this you prove yourselves as sons of your Father in heaven … You shall be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect! In the second part of our sermon text (Matt. 5: 23-26) the problem that Jesus addresses seems to be much smaller and more harmless. This is not about killing, whether with hands or through thoughts or words, but about the fact that someone has something against you: “So if you bring your gift to the altar and it occurs to you there that your brother has something against you ..” . ” In God’s eyes, worship and worship, including the Lord’s Supper, are very important. But Jesus makes it clear that settled relationships are even more important, that even worship, worship, and the Lord’s Supper are only really possible when we have clarified our relationships with one another.
“Obedience is better than sacrifice!” (1.Sam.15,22) Isaiah had to tell people on God’s behalf: “What should the multitude of your sacrifices mean to me …? If you come to appear before me (worship), who will ask you to tread on my courts (in the temple)? Wash yourselves, purify yourselves! Put away from my eyes the evil that you have done; stop doing evil! Learn to do good …! “(Isa. 1: 11-17)
Even church services and communion celebrations, Bible reading and prayer can be in vain, even dangerous, if we are not ready for ever new reconciliation. The nature of Jesus’ disciples is: ‘Forgive and ask for forgiveness while there is still time.’ (Bruns)
Forget everything pious, even reading the Bible, praying, worshiping, praising God … as long as you are not ready to clarify and put your relationships with people in order!
Maybe that means for us today: Seek fellowship with each other again and share your faith with each other again, even if you have different views on Corona and the Corana rules of the state! No matter what it is, it needs first a clear decision in our heart and then of course the help of God and His Spirit. Not considering that clear and healthy relationships are so important in God’s eyes, and simply continuing to celebrate church services, celebrating Christianity, can be very dangerous because we have the impression that everything is in order. But Jesus says it very clearly: No real relationship with me without intact, clear relationships with people! Yes, I also know about terribly broken relationships through abuse and violence and the almost impossible notion of a healthy relationship with such people.
It may be that some terrible relationships no longer heal in our lives, but that still doesn’t mean that nobody has the freedom to wish the other person dead. Which again makes your own life more difficult. And we should not relativize the clear speaking of Jesus through such terrible relationships, which most of us, thank God, do not, but remember that it is about me and you and our relationships, one another and with God. Mark 11.25: “And if you want to pray and have something against someone, then forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your wrongdoings!”
Jesus wants us to clear our relationships, forgive one another, and ask one another for forgiveness. (5.25-26) Do not insist on your supposed right to another person!
The situation: You are guilty of a person (perhaps the deadly contempt of that person) and you believe you are right. Jesus says: be reconciled to this person! Pay your debt before it’s too late! If you don’t, you will atone for your debt and pay it off down to the last cent! And the message is that you cannot pay the debt, especially before God.
The parable of the debtor who experiences mercy but does not himself show mercy towards others (Matt. 18: 23-35): “This is how my Heavenly Father will treat each one of you who does not heartily forgive his brother” (18:35)
We play with God’s mercy when we feel we are entitled to it and do not understand that it is an undeserved gift. And we do not take the holy God seriously, who says: As long as you do not forgive the other and are reconciled, God will no longer forgive you and you will fall out of reconciliation through Jesus!
Who are the people you don’t want at your own funeral (what a macabre demand!)? Who are the people you no longer speak to? Maybe you think that this sermon from Jesus is too harsh and that you cannot live it. The truth about us (including you and me) is: We are capable of anything, even to kill a person, and also to hate a person from the bottom of our hearts. Jesus wants to protect us from this and says: Your life and the life of everyone is so valuable that no one is allowed to take it and end it. But nobody is allowed to think, speak and act with deep contempt towards another person with impunity. It’s just as bad as killing that person. And on it is the maximum sentence “life imprisonment” in our penal code.
Why this harshness from Jesus? Does HE want to overwhelm and frustrate us? No, HE wants our life to be successful, and that is only possible in love with one another. Those who hate others have long been imprisoned for their own hatred. And the only way out of there is God’s gift of love and forgiveness.
The first step is your and my decision to take exactly this step. It is our responsibility to love and forgive one another! And it is God’s promise: I want to forgive you and make your relationship with me heal by healing your relationship with your brother, your sister. It is so difficult and so easy.
God bless you on your way!




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