Epiphany 7 23rd February 2014 Year A
This week’s excerpt from Matthew completes the series of antitheses from the Sermon on the Mount with which we began last week. ‘You have heard it said….but now I say to you.’ In such manner we have already seen Jesus tells us of how while in the past there was to be no murder, now there is to be no hatred; while there was to be no adultery now there is to be no lust; how in the past divorce was permitted with a certificate, now marriage is indissoluble (a protection for a woman’s dignity in that society) and last how in the previously there was a prohibition on swearing false oaths while now there is to be no swearing of oaths at all. Now we turn to the final two of the antitheses, the giving of an eye for an eye being replaced by a turning of the other cheek and the going of the second mile and last the past call to love one’s neighbour and hate one’s enemy being replaced with the call to love one’s enemy. Jesus is both deepening and intensifying the Law or Torah but at points is also prepared to break it. This is no mean feat in a context where the Law or Torah was becoming ever more strongly the identity of the Jewish people. Cast by Matthew as a new Moses upon a mountain with a new Law Jesus is seen as one by Matthew who is even greater than Moses. This was indeed a high call given Matthew’s readers who, though being followers of Jesus, were still so firmly established within the Jewish tradition.