Good News

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But 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. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come 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. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:21–26)

The Pharisees had thought long and hard about who deserved to go to Hell. They had come up with an obvious list of crimes: for instance, murder.

But Jesus indicated that it wasn’t a question of who deserved judgment. The question was, is there anyone who doesn’t deserve judgment? Jesus explained that even the best people of all still deserved God’s condemnation. Everyone has been angry with someone. We’ve all called people “fools” or worse. The word rendered “fool” simply means, “empty headed.” Calling someone “stupid” or “idiot” is not okay just because we didn’t call them “fool.” You’re just being worldly–that is, legalistic, you know, like a lawyer or a politician. Jesus’ point was that it was wrong to insult people at all. Doesn’t fit in with the whole loving people which is the whole point of the Bible (Matthew 22:37-40, Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8, Matthew 7:12, Colossians 3:12-14).

Then Jesus turned up the heat. Even if we’re not angry with someone, there might be someone who is angry with us, so we’re still in trouble with God. We’re simply never free of guilt.

Jesus wants us to understand that we all deserve God’s judgment. No matter how well behaved we are, we still fall short of perfection and there is nothing we can do about it. But God has a solution. He came up with a way for us to avoid his judgment: by punishing someone else in our place: Jesus Christ, his Son. Thanks to Jesus dying on the cross, God forgives us of all our bad deeds and even our bad thoughts, which are legion. He knows we’re bad. So he took care of the issue:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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