************ Sermon on Matthew 5:38-42 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on June 17, 2001

Matthew 5:38-42
"Eyes and Teeth"

Topic: Revenge
Index: 2281
Date: 8/1990.15

Janine Brooks was a dental student when a man ran into her car and drove away. That was 10 years ago. Her damaged car resulted in a considerable financial burden on her student income but the motorist neither apologized nor ever paid for the damage he had done.
Ten years later Janine Brooks, the former student, is now a dentist and guess who came to her office needing a tooth to be pulled? He did not recognize her; she recognized him. She told him it wouldn't hurt; she lied.
Or, consider this:
Topic: Revenge
Index: 2281
Date: 8/1992.10

From the Business Farmer News, Scottsbluff, Nebraska: In the column under "For Sale or Trade" it says:
"Will trade one white wedding gown size 16 -- never worn. Will trade for 38 caliber revolver."
These two stories illustrate the subject of our Scripture reading for this evening: the all to common desire for revenge.

I The Law of Moses
A Throughout our study of the Sermon on the Mount we have looked at the law of Moses, what the Rabbis said about that law, and then what Jesus said about that law. Since the Old Testament speaks in a number of places about "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth" (Ex 21:24; Lev 24:20; Deut 19:21) many people think that the words of our text break this pattern; they think Jesus refers to the law itself rather than the explanation given by the Rabbis. Yet, as we will find out, this is not the case. Jesus again is setting His view against that of the Pharisees.

B "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." In this law of Moses the Lord speaks to us of revenge. You all know what I am talking about here. Unfortunately, we are all guilty of it. If any harm is done to us, the immediate natural instinct is to hit back. Not only that, but the immediate natural instinct is to hit back harder than we were hit in the first place. When natural man is injured he wants vengeance; he wants to inflict bodily injury on the other; sometimes, as we saw with the O.J. Simpson case, he even wants to kill. We see this tendency to wrath and anger, to retribution and retaliation, everywhere. We see it among children and adults. We see it among clans and families. We see it among nations and races. We see it among competing religions. Surely this is one of the most hideous and ugly results of the Fall into sin. Surely this is one of the most awful effects of original sin.

People don't seem to realize how damaging the desire for revenge really is.
Topic: Revenge
Index: 2281
Date: 4/1986.9
Title: Sunk by Own Attack

During World War II the U.S. submarine Tang surfaced under the cover of darkness to fire upon a large Japanese convoy off the coast of China. Since previous raids had left the American vessel with only eight torpedoes, the accuracy of every shot was absolutely essential. The first seven missiles were right on target; but when the eighth was launched, it suddenly swerved and headed right back at their own ship. The emergency alarm to submerge rang out, but it was too late. Within a matter of seconds, the U.S. sub received a direct hit and sank almost instantly.
In much the same way we can destroy ourselves by hostility toward others. The effects of holding a grudge and seeking revenge are very serious. Modern medicine has shown that emotions like bitterness and anger and hatred can cause problems such as headaches, backaches, allergic disorders, ulcers, high blood pressure, and heart attacks, to name just a few. When we do not love our enemies but strike back at them, we actually inflict great physical and spiritual harm on ourselves.

In this light consider the family members of victims who were interviewed this past week after the execution by injection of Timothy McVeigh. Filled with hatred and anger they sounded like twisted, disturbed people. And, too often I have seen the same thing with those who are victims of sexual or physical abuse. They become consumed by their desire for revenge.

C "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." Many people think this law of Moses was given so revenge was both possible and legal. However, the main intent of the law of Moses here was to control excess. The main intent of the law of Moses here was to control anger and violence and the desire for revenge. God wants equity and justice to rule. So, if a man knocks out another man's eye, he must not be killed for it. Rather, it is "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." And, if someone takes my DVD Player or big-screen hi-definition TV, I am not to bash him over the head with a two-by-four. Rather, it is "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." The punishment must fit the crime.

II The Teaching of the Rabbis
A "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." The Rabbis made this law a matter of personal application. They said that any person who had been injured could seek "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." They basically said that a man had the right to take the law into his own hands and seek revenge.

"Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." What does this law of Moses actually teach? This law of Moses does not apply to individuals. This is clear when we look at Leviticus 19:
(Lev 19:18) Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
Rather, this law applies to judges and courts. Individuals do not have the right to punish people who have injured them. Only the authorities have this right. And, in exercising this right judges and courts have to apply the rule of "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." The punishment has to fit the crime. Judges and courts are restrained by this law from horrible excess.

The Rabbis were wrong in making the rule of "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth" a matter of personal revenge. Instead, it was something to be carried out by judges and courts.

B Not only that, but in their legalism the Rabbis said the law of "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth" was a duty; it was something that was automatic; revenge was something the law required.

Of course, the law required nothing like that. The Rabbis took the law and turned and twisted it. The law said this: "Do not punish more than an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." The Rabbis twisted this law into a statement which said: "You are to seek an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."

III The Teaching of Jesus
A Over against the teaching of the Pharisees, Jesus speaks to us this evening about Kingdom living. Those who are Christians do not take the law into their own hands; they may not act as if they are judges. And, those who are Christians do not automatically seek revenge. Jesus drives this point home with three examples.

The first example mentioned by our Lord concerns a case of slapping. Jesus says,
(Mt 5:39) ... Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Why did Jesus speak of the right cheek? In Israel slapping was normally done with the right hand. A man would use his right hand and with his palm slap the left cheek of his neighbor (DEMONSTRATE). However, to slap the right cheek you had to use the backside of the right hand (DEMONSTRATE). Now, the Jews believed that slapping the face with the backside of the hand was far more offensive than slapping the face with the palm.

Now we know what Jesus is saying: Even if you are utterly humiliated, you must not hit back.

I think we all realize retaliation has no end. The "You hit me, I hit you" syndrome leads to a third and a fourth blow. Each blow becomes more severe than the one before. Soon it becomes a big fight. This can only be prevented if someone stops hitting back and is willing to suffer a blow without retaliation. Boys and girls, when someone hits you it is only natural to want to hit back; but Jesus tells you not to do this.

The best example of this is the Lord Jesus. He was before the Sanhedrin. One of the officials struck Him in the face. Jesus' only response was to ask, "Why did you strike me?" (Jn 18:23). Or, consider this:
Topic: Hatred
Subtopic: Condemned
Index: 2210
Date: 6/1988.1

General Robert E. Lee was asked what he thought of a fellow officer in the Confederate Army who had made some derogatory remarks about him. Lee rated him as being very satisfactory. The person who asked the question seemed perplexed.
"General," he said, "I guess you don't know what he's been saying about you."
"I know," answered Lee. "But I was asked my opinion of him, not his opinion of me!"

"Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." Many people today have adopted this as their personal Creed. They always seek revenge for any hurt, any injury, any slight, any insult. The following story from February 11, 2000 was in the news last week.
Topic: Revenge
Index: 2281
Date: 6/2001.101
Title: Dog Thrown Out of Window

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Sobbing as she recounted the death of her beloved dog, Leo, a woman testified Thursday (June 7, 2001) that a man grabbed the animal from inside her car after a fender-bender and threw him into oncoming traffic.
Lawyer Marc Garcia said his client was angered when Ms. McBurnett' s car rear-ended his, and he walked over to confront her. "The dog snapped at him. Bit him right on the hand," Mr. Garcia told jurors. That's when he grabbed the dog and threw it into traffic.
This man wanted revenge for the accident and then for being bit by the dog. But Jesus says,
(Mt 5:39) ... Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

When we succeed in living up to this, our lives become a living testimony to the Lord Jesus.
Topic: Retaliation
Index: 2279-2280
Date: 6/1986.12
Title: The Other Cheek

Richard Weaver, a Christian worker, earned his living in the mines. While working he took advantage of every opportunity to witness to the Lord. While most of the men were indifferent, one became offended by his witness, and finally exclaimed, "I'm sick of your constant preaching. I've a good mind to smack you in the face!" "Go ahead if it will make you feel better," replied Weaver. The man immediately struck him a stinging blow. Weaver did not retaliate but turned the other cheek. Again the unbeliever struck him and then walked away, cursing under his breath. Weaver called after him, "I forgive you, and still pray that the Lord will save you!" The next morning his assailant was waiting for him when he came to work "Oh, Dick," he said, his voice filled with emotion, "do you really forgive me for what I did yesterday?" "Certainly," said Weaver extending his hand. As he told him again the message of salvation, God opened the man's heart, and he received Christ.

Would you and I be able to act in such a way?

B The second example mentioned by our Lord concerns tunics and cloaks. Jesus says,
(Mt 5:40) And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

When Israel's poor took out a loan they sometimes were obliged to give their cloak as a pledge. Yet, according to Deuteronomy 24:10-13, the creditor was not allowed to keep the cloak throughout the night. Because of the cold of the night he had to return the cloak before the sun went down. That way the poor debtor could sleep covered by his cloak and keep warm.

However, some creditors were harsh. When they returned the cloak before sunset they immediately demanded another pledge in its place and said, "Give us your tunic."

Jesus said, "Do not protest if you are treated this way. Do not become angry. Do not strike back. Give him your tunic and your cloak as well. Fill his arms with your clothes, even though you may need them."

Jesus did not say more about this, but we know the result. A bitter quarrel is avoided. Christians who act in this way heap burning coals upon the head of the person who treat them so shamefully (Rom 12:20); that is, those who act in such a fashion become ashamed and embarrassed about their behavior.

Would you and I be able to act in such a way?

C The third example mentioned by our Lord has to do with travel. Jesus says,
(Mt 5:41) If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

It was an unwritten law in Israel that a traveler had the right to ask a village to provide one or more protecting companions as he continued his journey. The parable of the Good Samaritan shows us what could happen when someone travels alone robbers and thieves will steal and beat and destroy.

Jesus speaks of a traveler who demanded more than was customary. Maybe he was scared or lonely or was on the run. Whatever the reason he forced his protecting companions to go with him a mile further than was necessary. Instead of arguing in such a case, says Jesus, it is better to go the extra mile.

It is not Jesus' intention to tell us to give in to the demands of every bully. But we should extend Christian kindness to people who beg for more help than we are obliged to give.

It lies in our human nature to dislike and resent unnecessary requests. However, we should not argue with people who make such requests. Neither should we put them in their place. Instead, we should be willing to go the second mile.

Would you and I be able to act in such a way?

D Let me emphasize to whom Jesus is speaking. Jesus is not speaking to the nations of the world. For if this were the case, we could not have police officers to resist evil. And countries could never take steps to defend their borders.

Also, Jesus is not speaking to unbelievers. For, anyone who doesn't believe in Jesus these teachings seem ridiculous. Also, for those who don't believe these teachings are impossible to keep. Our Lord never asks a natural man, one who is the dupe of sin and Satan, one who is under the dominion of hell, to live a life like this, for he cannot.

Rather, Jesus is speaking to individual Christian believers. He is speaking to people who are new in Christ, people who are born again, people who are filled with the Spirit. Such people, by the power of God, can find it within themselves NOT to seek revenge or bear a grudge.

Topic: Grace
Subtopic: Of God
Index: 1445
Date: 8/1991.2

Someone has offered this penetrating comparison of the difference between revenge, justice, and grace. If someone brutally murders your son and you take things into your own hands, that's revenge. If you're content to allow the law and the courts to arrest and punish the offender, that's justice. But if you pardon the murderer, adopt him, and take him home to live with you as your son, that's grace!
This, of course, is the way God deals with us. He doesn't seek revenge. He doesn't put us under His justice. Instead, He forgives us and adopts us as His children.

Now, God calls us to be like Himself!
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