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12. An examination of the Sermon on the Mount
In the beginning, I claimed that all Jesus’ teachings have the goal of enabling a person to attain and maintain a state I said he called “the Kingdom,” which I call peace of mind; and that the principal means thereto is the practice of presence, keeping one’s attention on the here and now and on what one, oneself, can do.
The time has come to test that thesis.
The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5—7, includes the highest concentration of authentic Jesus sayings of any portion of the Bible; perhaps the bulk of his actual teaching, as opposed to reports of things he did. Matthew brought these all together from various sources, as we can tell because almost all of them also appear in Luke, but in widely scattered contexts. Matthew added material of his own to bind them into a coherent “sermon.”
And Matthew had an agenda: to exalt Jesus over his opponents the scribes and Pharisees, portraying Jesus as the premiere and foremost expositor of Torah (“the Law”), in effect the heir and successor to Moses, whom Jews did and do exalt more highly than Christians can ever imagine. After all, it is said that “the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11, Numbers 12:8, Deuteronomy 34:10).
Jesus had a wry streak. He was not at all times the serious, stern, perhaps judgmental person some folk sometimes take him to be. He had a sense of humor, as fits his career in healing; as a cold, dogmatic person cannot be used of God to heal. He sometimes said things for shock value, sometimes used hyperbole, sometimes said things he never meant to be taken literally. Even with the word “Kingdom” itself, Jesus engaged in a kind of word-play, using this word that everyone else was using and thought meant one thing, to mean something completely different.
The Beatitudes themselves provide our first example of an utterly shocking speech.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
The Beatitudes exist in two versions, one at Matthew 5:3-12, the other Luke 6:20-26. We will examine Luke’s version rather than Matthew’s.
There are many good reasons to believe Luke’s version is closer than Matthew’s to what Jesus may have actually said.
(1) Luke’s version includes four blessings and four woes, establishing a symmetry. Matthew’s version includes eight blessings and no woes. Luke’s version suggests Jesus may have meant this speech as a re-enactment of the event reported at Joshua 8:30-35 and mentioned at Deuteronomy 11:29 and Deuteronomy 27.
(2) Matthew apparently belonged to, and wrote his Gospel for, a large congregation of wealthy ethnic Jews, possibly at Antioch. The woes describe his people, and he may not have wanted them to hear them.
(3) Luke has Jesus say, “Blessed are you poor,” and “Blessed are <strong>you who hunger and thirst.” Matthew has Jesus say instead, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” and “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” (Emphasis added in each case.) (a) Albeit Luke’s words are certainly more shocking, they are closer than Matthew’s to what a real person might actually say. (b) Matthew may have sought to soften the shock for his people, to whom Luke’s version of these sayings did not apply.
From Luke chapter 6:
20Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
The Tao can be summed up in two words: Shit happens.
Most people find this hard to accept. So it was in Jesus’ time also.
Jesus tells us how the cosmos operates: not what should happen, but what does; not what should be, but What Is.
Most people subscribed to a “revealed God” ideology that assumed the poor deserved to be poor, and the rich deserved to be rich. To them, Jesus’ words here were immeasurably shocking. But Jesus participates in no such value judgments. Every day, we see people who have worked diligently all their lives, only to lose it all in some disaster and through no fault of their own.
That does not mean that through these changes, God is executing judgment. Jesus’ God does not mete out rewards and punishments, as we shall further see below. It is for each person to determine to be happy no matter what one’s circumstances are and no matter how one’s circumstances change. The poor person is a child of God and beloved of God, as the rich person is also.
Returning to Matthew 5:
13“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
This parallels Mark 9:50 and Luke 14:34-35.
I have no idea what it means.
14“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Verse 15 has parallels at Luke 8:16 and Luke 11:33.
For decades, this has been my favorite Bible passage.
Everyone can be light; everyone is light, now. No matter how handsome or ugly, bright or dull, weak or strong or even criminal, there is no end to the good things each one of us can do. This is by virtue of the nitzotz, the “divine spark,” that is at the core of one’s being, as to every sentient creature. Living as Jesus taught can only make one’s light brighter and brighter.
What good things can you think of to do? What loving things, for yourself or others?
Don’t put it off; start today!
Related: Light inside
(1) “Reformed” Christianity is a major movement begun with John Calvin in the 16th century. It rests in five core doctrines, known by the acronym TULIP. The first is “Total depravity,” based on Pauline expressions like Romans 3:10. Now: Does Jesus here sound as if he thinks people are depraved?
(2) John 1:12 says, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” Here, one’s child-of-God-ness is contingent. Jesus’ words set forth no such contingency. Jesus calls all people God’s children — now.
17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
This is a Matthean addition. See the Introduction, about Matthew’s agenda. The word “breaks” in verse 19 is properly “annuls;” this passage may be in part a reaction against Paul and Paul’s notorious reputation, accurate or not, for “relaxing” the demands of “the Law” (that is, Torah) (Acts 21:21, Romans 3:19). Several places in Matthew suggest that the compromise reported in Acts 15 had not been universally accepted; there was a faction in Matthew’s congregation that did not want to accept gentiles who remained gentiles, as Christians.
Greatness will be discussed below.
The scribes and the Pharisees will also be discussed below.
21“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Matthew 5:23-26 corresponds to Luke 12:58-59. It is well to be reconciled to one’s accuser. Pious acts must take a back seat to making peace with others.
In verses 21-22 and 27-28, Jesus teaches that feelings, in effect, constitute behavior. So one may be less concerned about how one chooses to act, than how one chooses to feel. And Jesus seems to think one has complete freedom to choose and change one’s feelings at will. This is free will.
Presence is the gateway to that freedom.
As to those of us who have not yet perfected our choosing: making a mistake is no great sin, and having untoward feelings from time to time is no great sin, either. The Jesus of the Synoptics was not much concerned about sin anyway, and his posture toward sinners was consistently one of mercy, not judgment.
29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
This parallels Matthew 18:8-9, which will be discussed more at “Offenses must come,” below. For now, here I believe Jesus used hyperbole. The point: as discussed in “Seek peace,” above, peace of mind is paramount, and any obstacle to it must be eliminated.
For example, at this writing I have just cut off FaceBook contact with two church members, Blocking one and un-Friending another. The record of their comments is, they take offense at every thing I say. They never talk this way in person. Someday, when I have greater emotional maturity than I do now, such speech may not offend me. For the moment, I have done what I needed to do.
31“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
This text parallels Matthew 19:9, Mark 10:11-12, and Luke 16:18.
I don’t understand this.
In part, it may speak to the patriarchy of the times: a woman had no rights, no protection under the law, apart from her relationship to a man. Divorce would normally thrust her and her children straight into abject poverty. But if that were all, there should be no prohibition against marrying a divorced woman. Jesus is saying a sexual union is forever.
33“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
One who lives in the Kingdom walks his or her talk.
Don’t talk talk you can’t walk.
Heaven can’t guarantee you will keep your promise. Jerusalem can’t guarantee you’ll keep your promise. You yourself can’t guarantee you’ll keep your promise, though the person of faith (integrity) will surely do one’s bottom best to do so. Keep your focus on what
do here and now; and talk that talk.
Here come two of the most important passages in the Bible.
To Matthew 5:38-42, there is a parallel at Luke 6:29-31.
38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;
Matthew 5:39 is parallel Luke 6:29.
Who will direct your course in life? You? Or the enemy?
Cheek-turning is first of all an act of self-determination. It tells the enemy, “I pursue my chosen course in life, and nothing you can do can possibly deter me.”
Chapter 17, “About organized religion,” below, discusses the karmic effects of retaliation.
Some decry cheek-turning based on the injustices done to their ancestors. Peace of mind requires one give up all resentments. All.
Actually, I experience that resentments vanish when I focus on the here-and-now.
By analogy to how one deals with offensive feelings that may rise in meditation — neither resist nor react, but merely let them leave — I may similarly let my enemy’s offense meet no resistance nor reaction, but merely pass through and exit my experience, with no damage done.
40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well;
As to verse 40, in 21st century language, we would not say “cloak,” but “shirt and trousers.”
The situation in which this would normally occur is like the repossession of a car or foreclosure on a house. A borrower must put up collateral, also called a “pledge” or “surety,” to guarantee repayment of a loan. If the borrower fails to pay, the lender can seize the collateral. Now, pledging one’s coat was such a common practice that the Law includes specific provisions to protect poor people from abuse in these situations (Deuteronomy 24:11-13). Proverbs 20:16 and 27:13, however, recommend one take advantage of gentiles in like straits.
41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.
Any Roman soldier had the right to pull up any Jew and force him to carry the soldier’s pack a mile, 1,000 paces. This posed an inconvenience to the Jew, who without warning had to quit his own tasks and walk a mile out of his way — and then the mile back. Jesus here counsels walking two miles instead of one.
I need social justice activists to tell me why Jesus never confronted Rome, unless it’s part and parcel of “Resist not evil.” See the link above.
42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
This may be hyperbolic; or it may be that the perfect person can do this. At this time, I can’t.
Eight references to “rewards” occur in Matthew 5:46-6:18. Now, I was raised not to expect rewards for good acts; the reward inheres in the act itself. Rewards for good conduct are a big, big thing in Judaism.
I said earlier that Jesus’ God does not mete out rewards and punishments. Judaism holds in contrast that God does, and the Jesus of Matthew seems sometimes to hold to that same position. Other times, he seems to play with it: the reward is not what you’d expect. Piety for show is its own reward.
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew appears to have used some poetic license here. There is no commandment in TaNaKh to hate one’s enemy; but there’s certainly no commandment to love them, either. Not in Torah.
Actually, for one who consistently practices Presence and so becomes adept at choosing one’s feelings — as per the Strategies and Tactics I’ve set forth above — love for enemies becomes increasingly easy and simple and clearly the wisest of all possible choices.
There are exceptions. My church has a half-acre public prayer garden, and some of those who’ve come to frequent it in recent years have been very hard to love. We work at it.
It is currently easy for me to regard verse 45 as perhaps the most important verse in the Bible:
45[Y]our Father in heaven … makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
This is what we see in real life.
This is What Is.
This is the beginning of “hidden God” theology, directly contradicting the “revealed God” theology set forth for example in Deuteronomy 28:
If you will only obey the LORD your God, by diligently observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth; * * * 12The LORD will open for you his rich storehouse, the heavens, to give the rain of your land in its season and to bless all your undertakings. You will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow. 13The LORD will make you the head, and not the tail; you shall be only at the top, and not at the bottom — if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today, by diligently observing them, 14and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I am commanding you today, either to the right or to the left, following other gods to serve them. * * *
Jesus’ God does not mete out rewards and punishments.
I observe that prosperity belongs not to the righteous, but to the wise — those who are adept at managing one’s feelings and desires. Poverty pertains less to sin than to folly, though fools do foolishly often sin. Prosperity and poverty are not rewards or punishments from God, but rather the natural results of one’s free-willed choices.
Wisdom and folly pertain not to the mind, but the soul; not the brain, but the heart; not to cognition, but affect. Growth in wisdom, growth in love, is a lifelong process for anyone.
Jesus’ God maintains goodwill toward all people. You and I can, too.
“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you [openly].
No elaboration is needed.
Matthew 6:5-15 has a parallel at Luke 11:2-4.
5“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you [openly].
Verses 5-6 continue the previous discussion about piety for show.
7“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
The “empty phrases” that the gentiles “heap up” have a couple aspects, both pertinent excuses for unanswered prayer, excuses not that much unlike those many people use today. (1) How do you get God’s attention? Call God’s name, of course. But which name? for God has as many names as God has attributes. And which name will God answer to today? So they would begin by calling off every name for God, or every name for every god, they could think of.
Related: Ancient Amulet Discovered with Curious Palindrome Inscription. The script begins, in fact, with the proper name of the God of the Jews, knowledge of which was surprisingly widespread, given that Jews hold it too holy to even utter.
(2) I prayed the prayer, but did God hear me? Let me pray it again, and maybe God will hear me this time. So one recites it over and over. Even Christians do this, sometimes tweaking the wording again and again hoping one set of words will accord with “God’s plan” and get traction.
9“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11Give us this day our daily bread. 12And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
In the very different context in which this appears in Luke, the story begins with disciples asking Jesus, “Teach us to pray.” This cannot be the whole of what he taught them. To equip them to heal and cast out demons, he must have taught the prayer of silence, as I do.
With great reluctance, I have concluded that the Lord’s Prayer, of all things, is inauthentic. Verses 14-15 give the core of Jesus’ teaching here:
14For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
This is a restatement of verse 12.
See also Mark 11:25, Luke 6:37 and “17. About organized religion,” below.
16“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,18so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you [openly].
The text speaks for itself.
19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Who will steal a homeless man’s socks?
It touches me to suppose Jesus may have seen first-hand some of the same things I have seen, as to how some people create poverty, how the poor stay poor and keep each other poor, how the rich sometimes become poor.
Jesus’ counsel here is prudent. There is, again, nothing wrong with wealth per se, nor with the desire for wealth, per se, but —
Feelings. Love. Relationships. They can be one’s treasures.
Related: Treasures in heaven
22“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light;23but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
This parallels Luke 11:34-36.
A bizarre utterance gets a bizarre interpretation.
It may be like the Three Wise Monkeys, See-No-Evil, Hear-No-Evil, Speak-No-Evil. One’s affect filters what one sees. If one “sees” — admits into experience — light — happiness and joy — then those things will fill one’s experience. If one “sees” darkness — malice, anxiety and fear — then those things will fill one’s experience.
Jesus tells us how the cosmos operates: not what should happen, but what does; not what should be, but What Is.
24“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
Which do you serve? The choice is yours.
A Twelve Steps slogan:
It’s crucial for recovery.
25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown in<>to the oven, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
The parallel is at Luke 12:22-31.
At this writing, I have lived in total immersion in poverty for twelve years, seven of those years homeless. It is extremely rare for one to be completely without food or clothing.
Most of the men I meet who call life a struggle to survive, choose consistently to make and keep their lives that way.
If I focus on today, I may do today the concrete, practical necessary to meet my needs today. If I obsess about tomorrow, I may not act today.
Actually, anxiety about the past and future disappear if I keep my attention here and now.
This saying occurs at Matthew 6:33 and Luke 12:31.
Peace of mind entails an unobstructed path to any thing one may desire; but one must seek it, peace of mind itself, first. Thereafter, the presentation of one’s best self in every circumstance; the choice by means of free will, of feelings appropriate to each need; effect that “all these things will be added unto you.”
The parallel to Matthew 5:33, Luke 12:31, reads this way:
31Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew’s addition of the words “and his righteousness” suggests that Matthew still clung to “revealed God” ideology and its systems of taboos.
Presence is a crucial survival skill for the addict who seeks recovery. Resentment or regrets about the past may be enough to trigger relapse today — any day. Fear of events that may trigger relapse in the future can likewise trigger relapse today. One’s task is to maintain sobriety today.
7 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
Luke 6:37-42 is parallel.
Another Twelve Steps slogan:
Keep the focus on you.
It’s important to recovery.
I don’t know why, but it really is easier to find fault with others — focus on what one thinks they’re doing wrong — than to seek the best in life for oneself — focus on what one can, oneself, do right. There may be an inherent proneness to such error, when souls are incarnate in the material world. It may pertain to avoiding indecision, risk and uncertainty. Jesus here instructs us as he does.
Another Twelve Steps slogan:
Live and let live.
It’s important to recovery.
Pastor and I don’t see eye to eye about social justice, and for many months I was very angry about it. I finally saw: he doesn’t have to think like I do. He can think like he thinks, and I can think like I think. Live and let live.
Again, from 2014 to 2016, I was much distressed over the relentless demonization of people of my skin color. And it came to me: They can think like they think, and I can think like I think. There is little point in seeking to “fix” bigots. One needs to be the change one seeks.
When I have peace of mind, I don’t find fault with others. When I have peace of mind, nothing anyone can do can offend me.
6“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.
On the one hand, “dogs” and “swine” are both racial slurs against gentiles. Recall my previous remarks about Matthew’s ethnocentrism.
On the other hand, I have personally lived among people who busy themselves creating poverty; who seem bent on destroying any good thing that comes into their possession. They vandalize their own dwellings; any home they live in, they will make a slum.
The Serenity Prayer:
For the normal person, it may be enough to entrust such people to God’s care. For me, that’s not enough; my calling is to do more. Not to impose my personal beliefs upon this text: On the one hand, if I believe that God is What Is, then this is as much as to say that God is ALL. To love the Lord one’s God with one’s whole heart, etc., one must then thus love ALL. That includes these people.
On the other hand, if I am to be Light, I must be Light also to these people. It is incumbent on me to love them, to recognize the child of God, to perceive and glorify the nitzotz in each one; no matter how repulsive his or her appearance or conduct may be.
It’s not necessarily what everyone is called to, but it seems to be God’s calling upon me.
7“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
There is a parallel at Luke 11:9-13.
The job search is long and hard, a job in itself. Don’t I know it? But one isn’t likely to find a job unless one looks. One must walk one’s talk.
Those who seek peace find it — or create it. Those who seek turmoil find it — or create it.
Jesus tells us how the cosmos operates: not what should happen, but what does; not what should be, but What Is.
The key to answered prayer may be purity of heart, or faithfulness — coherence in one’s desires, and thoughts and actions consistent with one’s desires. This is further discussed at “Your faith has made you well,” below.
There are those who live in a world of peace and beauty because they sought — or created it — by their desires, thoughts and actions. There are those whose worlds are “ratchet” because they seek — or create — them that way, by their desires, thoughts and actions.
Either way, they have the answer to their prayers.
Choose the best.
12“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
This parallels Luke 6:31.
I prefer the view expressed at Matthew 22:40.
13“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
This parallels Luke 13:24.
I question the authenticity of this remark. My impression is that the Kingdom is wide open to anyone.
15“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus you will know them by their fruits.
There is no shortage of such people among us today.
21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’
This parallels Luke 6:46 and Luke 13:26-27.
The next two chapters here below deal with the apocalypticism of the early church, that cannot possibly be Jesus’ own. Inasmuch as this passage participates in that mindset, it cannot be authentic. The same applies to any passage that has Jesus refer to people who “do my Father’s will.”
24“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.25The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”
Note what we have just read, from Matthew 5:1 until now. This Jesus doesn’t proclaim himself Son of God. He is not concerned with what happens when you die. He has no concern with what folk believe; only with what they do — here and now.