Refresh: Open with prayer. Ask God for understanding through the Holy Spirit.
Read: Matthew 5:21–48 (ESV). As you read the English Standard Version, note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Did you enjoy that passage? Were you inspired by it or did you find it overwhelming? It certainly generates some complex beliefs. All through this short series, we have been looking at the Bible and discovering how it is “simply complex,” but when I read these verses I could not help but be stunned by their depth.
Perhaps you have been on a whale-watching tour or been out at sea and had the opportunity to observe these magnificent creatures as they effortlessly glide through the water. I had no idea whale-watching was an item on my bucket list until I was standing on the bow of a catamaran last month and scanning the horizon for a tiny glimpse of an orca or a humpback whale. Our captain had traveled at high speed for more than two hours, crossing the international border with Canada to find whales. When we finally spotted them, I felt like a six-year-old boy at his own surprise birthday party. The whales would dive for 8 minutes at a time and then surface with these spurts of water. When they kicked their tails high into the air, you knew they were about to take a deep dive—but they would return to the surface again for air. That is exactly what we do when studying the Bible. As intense as this series has been, I am sure you would agree that we have only begun to scratch the surface. While at times we have dived really deeply into the text, we have also come back up for air. We have glided along for periods of relaxation, only to dive back down when necessary. This final week, we will look at a hard truth: We struggle to follow Jesus. We would rather have nice, clean-cut and clearly defined, well-articulated rules that are simple to understand and require little or no effort. To be a follower of Jesus, to truly live what the Bible teaches, requires us to dive deep.
Imagine yourself on the side of that mountain, listening to Jesus (without a microphone) addressing thousands, having just blessed them with the famous Beatitudes that turned their world upside down. He went on to call them to be salt and light—to belong and to allow others to belong to them. Finally, he emphasized the law, assuring them that He would fulfill it. Jesus called them—and calls us—to a standard beyond what religious leaders or other moral authorities aspire to.
Recalibrate: What conventional wisdom have you accepted that might benefit from a new perspective?
Respond: Pray for the wisdom to understand complexity while retaining a strong faith.
Research: What was the difference between the Pharisees and the Scribes?