Good morning! If you have a bible, would you please open it to Matthew chapter 5.
We are preaching through the Sermon on the Mount, and our last for today is verses 38 to 48. Jesus here is once again challenging us in our lives. For those of you who haven’t been here before, he is trying to reshape our attitude by working on our hearts. See the teachings you find here are meant to change the inner man and they probably don’t compare to anything you might previously have seen!
Last week I was hearing about a book written by a radical feminist. The title was “The Revolution from Within!” The author Gloria Steinam tried to redirect the lives of people and to do that she claimed that self-esteem was the thing people needed to work on! At first glance it sounded good but then when I heard of the context I changed my mind.
Sounds a little self-centered doesn’t it? And by now you may see my point. We live in a world where people are very, very self-centered. They go about change in the wrong way. Do you know the problem with self-centered people?
People who are all wrapped up in themselves make a very small package. Jesus calls us to change by getting out of ourselves. He tries, in here, to teach the joys of a selfless life. Now let’s read this passage. v. 38-48 “…”
You have heard that it was said “eye for an eye” and “tooth for a tooth” from Jesus. We often call this law the ??????? law. Moses was the first one to tell this principle to the Jews in Ex. 21:24 (Ex). If a Jew killed a man, he would be killed. If he caused injury, he would receive an injury. Now many of us would think this law savage, merciless or blood-thirsty. But in fact when you look at it, it was a good law! It provided against injury, pain, loss of time, and indignity. Unfortunately, it had the same limitations like any other law!
See our country’s law restrain wickedness. The law of Moses prevented people from acting in an evil way, but it failed to create morality. And what must be realized is that no law has the power to make one a moral person. Rules and codes regulate the actions of the outer man but they don’t regulate the intents of the heart. There is no law written that can make me love you, or make you love me. Nor can any law punish me if my heart isn’t right when my actions remain good. I can hide what I feel inside and no magistrate will be able to condemn me. So, What we need is laws that say “you can’t hurt me!”. Laws that say “you can’t kill me or take advantage of me!” Laws aren’t around to make us good, they are around to restrain evil. They simply can’t make me a moral man, you see?
But Jesus can and he gives me the way by telling me. Here is what you do when someone injures you. You let it go; you forgive; you love; you pray for your enemy; and you do good to him. It’s not simple about restraining the outer man, it’s about controlling the inner man and the heart.
Now don’t think Jesus was talking just about small and insignificant injuries that are easy to forget. Look again in v. 37. He says, “If someone strikes you on the cheek!” Did you know that there are two things you could do to infuriate a Jew? If you desired to humiliate him, you could either: 1) spit on his face or 2) slap him across the face. Those two things were equally humiliating. Now let me ask you, Have you ever been slapped in the face? Has someone ever hit you with an open hand or spit on your face? If so, you are aware that it’s one of the lowest insults you could receive. It’s the ultimate act of contemptuousness! Jesus was talking about the times when your dignity was totally degraded. He said that when this occurs, you don’t retaliate or seek vengeance. Easy to say right? But is it not what Jesus did? Turn to Matt. 26: 67 and read with me. “…” Jesus endured the two worst humiliations and when he was degraded, he forgave!
There is another illustration of this in v. 40 (Matt. 5) Jesus said, “…”. In that day people wore garments, a tunic and a cloak. A tunic was a long sack line garment. It was fairly inexpensive so even the poor of that day had several in their possession. On the other hand, the cloak was an expensive garment. It was a great big blanket like piece of cloth worn as a robe by day and used as a blanket/cover by night. Most people could only afford one of them. Often times it was the only shelter they had from the cold.
Now God had a fairly strong point of view regarding the cloak. No man could permanently take away someone else’s cloak. Look if you will in Ex. 22: 26-27 “…”. The idea you have here is a Christian should not fight for his rights. Sure, things that belong to you will be taken away , and some things will happen that are not right, but let it slide. God will provide. He will judge and prevail. A Christian should not think of his rights but of his duties, and not of his privilege, but of his responsibilities.
Look at 1 Cor. 6:7 “…”. Remember this, the only time the apostles claimed their right was when the cause of Christ could be furthered by their actions. But now someone comes along and says , does this mean Christians are to be door mats? Are we to lie down in front of the wickedness on a silver platter? Where do you draw the line? That’s a tough question! We all have to struggle with the answer. I am not certain that I fully know yet. I know when the apostles were brought to the courts, they always defended themselves. I know at one time or another Paul rebuked a judge as in Acts 23: 3 “…” But at the same time he didn’t want to be disrespectful. I also know that when unrighteous judgment was passed, they wouldn’t kick, fight, curse, or become ungodly. So, I think at times it’s alright to speak when wrongly accused and it’s alright to try to rebuke. Of course, I also think it’s alright to run away. Many times Paul and even Jesus, had to run away from people who wanted to harm them. But once you are caught, do not become ungodly. Someone said, that life is really lived in three levels. There is the hellish level where one returns evil for good. There is the human level where one returns good for good and evil for evil. Lastly, there is the holy level, the heavenly way where one returns good for evil! We are called to the holy level in this passage. This is what Jesus did and what we should do as well. May God help us when we go through that!
Now let’s look again at v. 41. I want to spend the remainder of our time with this verse “…”.
What is this mile all about? I think it is kind of hard to understand unless you know what went on in the Jewish land. The Jews had been defeated by the Romans around 100 BC and now, the Romans were ruling the land of Palestine. If you’ve ever studied history you know that the Romans were a formidable people. When they went in a country not to destroy everything, but the learned from the people everything they didn’t know. All the new technology or skills they didn’t have, they adopted. Thus, their society and their army showed excellence in most everything. Well, you see, the Romans had learned good principles from the Persians who ruled the world earlier on. The Persians, when they conquered a new nation used the people to do their menial tasks. All they didn’t want to do, they gave someone else. For instance, if a soldier was on his journey to a new outpost and saw a native of the conquered land, he could stop and say, “You, you come and carry my bags!”. For a whole mile the requisitioned man had to do that! Now the Romans thought it was a wonderful idea and therefore adopted it for themselves. They created a law that stated that any Jewish citizen, even civilians, had to carry their bags for a mile if asked to! Now, think of the Jewish reaction to that! They hated this rule with all their might. They were forced to carry another man’s burden for a mile, not even a Jew, but a conqueror. It must have been frustrating to put their own lives on hold to do this. What a humiliation! What an outrage! I have been told that Jewish men were so frustrated that they marked out each mile post, so they knew exactly how far they were to go. They refused to take a step further.
Now this rule caused so much resentment, fuss, and resistance that the Roman soldiers took enormous pleasure in administrating it. They never passed up an opportunity to do so.
Now, Jesus brings the matter up! He is dealing with a touchy matter, a sore subject. I bet people rarely fell asleep while he spoke. They most likely became angry, not bored. I wonder if they had hope when he said, “When you are asked to go one mile…” But then he continued and rattled their cages by saying, “you go two miles”. I can see them choking on whatever they may have been eating, wondering and asking each other “did I just hear that properly?”. “Did he say two miles?”. Folks that’s exactly what Jesus said! The principle he was laying down here, ( and listen to this, I am giving you the modern day application) is “You do more than what is simply required of you!” Do more than the bare minimum. Folks how many times do we do more than mere minimum, at school, at work, in our homes, at church? I remember a time when I was in high school, I would take my test results, add them and say I only need a ten or a twelve out of one hundred to pass the class. Sometimes I would just do the minimum required of me. All my friends the minimum. We lived/live in a world that does only the minimum. Have you ever gone to buy a car? They give you the minimum for your money, don’t they? I once heard about a farmer who got tired of that. One day, a car salesman came to him to buy a cow. This is how he priced the cow: He said, for the ???? cow it will cost $400, for an extra stomach $75. A produce storage department an additional $60. A dispensing device and spickets costs $10. For genuine cow upholstery, it’s an additional $125 and dual horns will be $15 more. For an automatic fly swatter, it’s $55. The entire package will then cost $855. Amusing but it isn’t the way we are. We give the minimum we need to for the price. We often even in our mortality won’t go an extra inch! The principle here is do more than what is required and miracles will happen. You could call this “second mile”, the “miracle mile”.
3 things, at the very least, will happen as a result.
Now don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying to work twelve hours here. If you do that you’ll neglect your kids, your wife, your God. What I’m saying is go the extra mile to succeed! Don’t be a clock watcher!
Jesus was talking about morality and spirituality. In their spirituality some people say. “I am going to do 5 minutes of devotion per day!” They do this, but when the 5 minutes are up, they don’t go an extra inch. They close their bible, they are finished, they can mark it up and say. “ A dos a day keeps the devil away!” “Reading the bible in one year!” Their hearts are wrong and they do this out of duty, not out of love. They will never excel and grow. You don’t grow when you simply do what is required or when you simply punch the card. Here is what a man said, “If you only do what is required, what you are paid for, you will never be paid for what you have not done!” Profound statement if you think about it. Do you remember Henry Ford? The man who built the great Ford Co. He was a genius but also an eccentric! He would buy failing companies and turn them around. Well one day, he brought the Lincoln business in Detroit. They were not doing well, in fact they were losing thousands every month! So, Henry Ford bought it and he went to work to revive it. One night he had an idea. He went with a friend to cut a tree. He trimmed this rather large log and took it to the Lincoln factory (headquarters). He laid it down in front of the elevator, in the way of all the workers. The next day people came in. They saw the log but all the secretaries, executives and others just stepped over it. They commented on it, but nothing more. Day after day the log remained in it the same place, and the workers continued to step over it. Everyone thought, “ I don’t know why it’s there, it should be removed, but that’s not my job. This is for another department.” Finally, Henry Ford called a meeting. All the workers were summoned and he said this, “I am the one who put the log there. Not one of you inquired about it, no one ever lifted a finger to remove it in 3 weeks and all of you are fired! That’s why this company is failing!” He fired all of them, replaced them and started to make money! You know I am thankful that in the church we don’t simply have one milers. We have people here who do more than what they’re supposed to do. Not only do they do more, Folks, they are the ones who carry the work of the church, and make us a success!
Listen, the second mile will change your attitude. The first mile you are controlled, you are a victim. The second mile you take control. You walk, you smile, and you whistle. You encounter joy. Furthermore, you encounter success. If none of this, God is still pleased with you.
Picture another man. This one has heard Jesus preach! A Romain soldier comes along. He says, “Hey you! Come here!” The man looks up and says, “Are you talking to me? I’ll be right there. I bet you need some help with those bags.” The soldiers says, “Yeah.” “Alright” the man says. He then asks the soldier, “Where are from?” Tell me about where you are going? And how long have you been in the army?” Now the soldier thought, “What is wrong with this man?” He decides to be polite and carries on with the conversation. And before you know it , they are at the mile post. The Roman stops and says, “thank you for carrying my load! You’ve been different than most people. The man replied to him, “Wait, you are tired. I am sure you are thirsty, I am too. Down the road three-fourths of a mile there is a well of water that we can both drink from. I will carry this there, and tell me more about your home. The second mile quickly became better than the first. They started becoming friends and to converse more intimately. Soon, they reached the well and the again the Roman soldier stops. He says, “I’ve got to confess something! I’ve had the wrong idea about your people! I thought you were all self-centered! Today, I’ve been proven wrong. Please forgive me! I’ve been ignorant and unkind! I can see you have a heart like mine, a family like mine and hard work to do, just as I do. I ask you, why did you go this far? You could have stopped after one mile!
At this point, the farmer see his opening and answers the soldier, “Have you ever heard of Jesus? Many of us think he is the messiah. Well, I heard him preach an incredible sermon. It really changed me. He preached that when I’m asked to do one mile I should do two out of love! Now the Roman soldier is interested, and says “Jesus said that. Tell me more about him. I’ve never heard anything like that!” Don’t you think that would open a door to witnessing. Don’t you think that would make a difference.
What would happen tomorrow at work if you began acting that way? What would happen in your homes, in your schools. You know it would be amazing the change we would see if we did two miles, if when they slapped me on the cheek and I’d turn and show them my other. If I loved my enemies and gave my coat to them. People let’s live Jesus’ way! Jesus, the son of God always went the second mile. God also has always gone the second mile. Be perfect as God is perfect. Today would you give your life to him? Would you let him change you? If you need any way to respond to his invitation, do so as we stand and sing!