A Second Mile Religion

A Second Mile Religion
March 26, 2023
Passage: Matthew 5:20
Service Type:

Today we're going to be looking at a passage from the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew chapter five. And really to 

Today we're looking a passage from the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew chapter five. To introduce this passage, we have to go back to verse 20, where Jesus said, "For I say unto you that accept your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."

  • Matthew 5:20

A Superior Righteousness in Religion

And so He's talking about righteousness. The Pharisees and the scribes were known for keeping the letter of the law. They would not go one jot or one tittle beyond the law. They were very strict in adhering to the letter of the law, but they ignored the more important things, those weightier matters. Jesus even talked about that in Matthew chapter 19. How they ignored the weighty matters while focusing on the little insignificant things. And so our righteousness, he says, must exceed simply following the letter of the law. And really the true import, the true message, of the sermon amounts to the the spirit of the law. It gets down to our attitudes.

The Importance of one's Attitude Toward Others

He talks about, several times here in chapter five, there are six times he makes a statement. You've heard that it was said by them of old, but I say unto you. There, he talked about the letter of the law, but he got down to the important matter, which is the spirit of the law and our attitude toward our brother.

  • Matthew 5:21

That idea that in my heart, that's where the crime begins and we need to change the heart. Just because I don't murder my brother does not mean that I don't hate him and wish him dead. And if I hate and wish my brother dead, I might as well kill him. As far as the law is concerned, as far as God's law is concerned, I'm guilty of sin either way. 

  • Matthew 5:38-42

Rightousness in The Spirit of the Law vs. the Letter of the Law 

So what does this passage hold for us as instruction from the Son of God? You know, as we apply the principles Jesus taught here, how do we live and what changes do we need to make in our own lives? This is all involved in studying about going that second mile or going the extra mile. And so, he began with that. 

"You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ " — Matthew 5:38

This passage was often misapplied. There are really three times in the Old Testament. This passage is mentioned, or this idea of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.

  • Exodus 21:22-24

Now, there's a whole sermon right there on abortion if you want to literally get into that and God's view of abortion. If a man causes a woman to have a miscarriage and the child survives, the man still is going to be punished. If the child dies as a result, then it's life for life. God considers that child, that life of that child. 

Here though, it's used as a guideline for judges to determine the punishments or restoration of one who has injured another. 

  • Leviticus 24:17-21

Moses was commanded to tell the people that this would be God's law for them. Again, it is the idea of an eye, for an eye, a tooth, for a tooth, an equal justice really is the idea. 

  • Deuteronomy 19:16-21

And so again, this was commanded for the false witness to do unto them as they would've done unto the one they are falsely testifying against.

Now some feature of this law as found in the Old Testament, it was intended to be used as a guideline to judges to be used with wisdom and discretion. It was not always to be literally carried out. It was a limitation on the unlimited vengeance of a victim and family. It limited the punishment to that, which is like in kind.

And so if someone, you know punches you in the face and gives you, a bruise in your face, a black eye, you don't have the the right to take revenge and kill him. In other words, that's really what it's talking about. It is a law of equal retribution known in legal terms today as the lex talionis. 

There was a trial also before the punishment was set. The injured person could not take vengeance on the other individual. On a personal level, if he lost then the penalty could be the loss of the other man's eye, but not necessarily. It was given as a deterrent to those who would defy laws of justice and lie or cheat to obtain their own ends. It was such a law.

It was actually as much a law of mercy as it set down standards of just punishments. And so, basically, the idea is that the punishment fits the crime. But there were some problems with a misunderstanding of this law, the misapplication of it. It could be taken as a license for personal vengeance, though it was never stated as such in the Old Testament.

It was always limited to the judgment of the judges and their discretion. It could be both unjust and cruel if it was applied completely and without mercy. It was a kind of law that people would try to construe to their own advantage, and no doubt often did.

This is very much what, the scribes and the Pharisees love to do. They, love to take the law and apply it in such a way as to give them an advantage. You know, the eye for an eye principle was changed by Jesus who taught the principle of non-resistance.

  • Matthew 5:39

And so as we look in verse 39, he says, "But I say unto you," again, showing his authority over the authority of the Old Testament, the scribes, the Pharisees, and their improper application of the Old Testament law. 

What does it mean, first of all, to resist not evil? You know, the word resist, anthistēmi, comes from two Greek words, derived from anti, and istēmi, one which means to stand and the other, which means against, to stand againstto set oneself against, to withstand, to resist, to oppose, to set against.

  • Acts 13:8
  • Galatians 2:11
  • Ephesians 6:13
  • 1 Peter 5:8-9

We see that it translated as; withstood, to withstand, to resist, to resist in the faith, to resist steadfast in the faith. Now what Jesus is saying is not inconsistent with the rest of these scriptural teachings. It's got to be taken in its context. 

One commentary makes the point that being struck on the face on the right cheek was described as the worst kind of insult. And so, what we have here, being struck upon the face with an open palm is not so much an attack that seeks to kill maim, or harm you in some physical way it is really an insult. There's a difference between how we handle a personal insult and how we handle evil, which is directed against truth or God's will. 

When we see that, like in Elymas's case, he withstood Paul, he withstood Barnabas. They, you know, they struck him blind with the power of God because he was opposing them. We've got to stand up to folks like that, who do wrong, who oppose God's will, and oppose God's word, or who lead others into sin. Like, the case with Peter there mentioned in Galatians chapter two.

The Righteousness of Turning the Other Cheek

We're told to instead of seeking personal revenge again, the eye for an eye, the tooth for a tooth, instead of seeking personal revenge, we're told to turn the other cheek. 

  • Lamentations 3:30

In the context of Lamentations, the prophet describes the contrite man; the man who has that penitent heart, the one who is filled with humility and remorse. Of course, the attire book of Lamentations is written by Jeremiah as he looks upon the destroyed city of Jerusalem and sees the results of the sin that they would not repent of.

He says the only way that we can be restored to God's favor as a nation is to turn toward God, to be filled with humility and remorse. The only way a person could do this is if he was humble and self-controlled. 

Jesus teaches us how to deal with personal insults. We learn in Him to be so unconcerned with self that we forget to be insulted and we humbly give up self to be His and His alone. We let vengeance be His and not ours. A slap does not endanger our life. 

We may, as Christians, if somebody is attacking us violently to harm or kill us to harm or kill our families, then we have the absolute right to stand against them. To stand up against that, to stand up against wicked and lawless men to protect our families and ourselves. But a slap on the cheek does not endanger life. So turn the other cheek.

  • John 18:22

Jesus turned the other cheek on that occasion as He was there before the high priest on the night of His arrest. As He is facing a mock trial. At that mock trial, He turned the other cheek. 

  • Matthew 5:40
  • Exodus 22:26-27

Righteously Giving the Cloak Along with the Coat

The cloak was an indispensable part of someone's clothing and was not meant to be borrowed or taken unless returned by nightfall. This means the cloak was far more important to a man than his coat. Its owner had a legal right to keep his cloak. So Jesus is saying, that if one takes the coat, give him the cloak also, which is even more important.

The Importance of Not Standing on Personal Rights

You think about what we do about our rights. We think about Paul on several occasions talked about the rights that he had that he did not exercise, perhaps, because he was more concerned about the needs of others than himself. And when it comes to our rights, a lot of people argue about the rights that they have. They're often ready to fight for the personal rights that they feel they deserve, without denying that such rights exist and have been set up in this case, by God. 

Yet Jesus teaches us not to stand on these rights and make demands based upon them. 

Many church members are ready to do harm or speak evil of those who have in some way infringed on something they perceive as being theirs, their place, their work, or something like that. They are the ones who know little about what Jesus teaches here. They stand on their rights and they demand their rights. You know, a concept of rights often is not based on a sense of justice as much as it is on a sense of self-entitlement, or self-interest. This is really what Jesus is condemning.

  • Matthew 5:41-42

Being Righteous in Going the Extra Mile

They, [the Hebrews], in the first century, were a conquered people. They were ruled by the Romans. The Roman military was really the government, the Roman military was the government, of the people. And so there was a law in which military men often compelled civilians to serve or to carry a burden up to one mile. Even if they didn't want to. 

  • Matthew 27:32-33

And so here the Roman authorities forced this man to carry this burden for Christ. It was a custom, really it goes back to the Persian Empire, was put into practice by the Greeks and also by the Romans, that anyone could be compelled by the government to carry a load or a burden for up to one mile.

Jesus Calls Us to go Beyond the Minimum

Now you think about it, if this was you, and somebody came along and they said, you will gotta carry this for one mile. You know, what attitude might you be tempted to have, or what kind of attitudes might you have? You know, someone could say, well, I'm just gonna do the very least I can get away with so that I don't get in trouble further. And I'm gonna do no more, no less than I absolutely have to. You know, a person can do a good job, but make it clear that they hate every minute of it and they resent being forced to do it. Or, the person can count it a privilege, even though it might be unpleasant to be of service, to work cheerfully, cheerfully and diligently, even under adverse conditions, doing his absolute best. 

This is what Jesus demands of us. This third option, you know, the Jews probably thought, well, he's gonna make it easier. Maybe he would get a petition against the one-mile law. You know, maybe he'd get thousands of signatures from people who despised and hated this law. Maybe he could lead a protest group to Harris's Palace with signs and have a big protest rally.

But this isn't what Jesus did. He said, go with him two miles. He doubled the burden. You know, he came not to change the laws primarily, but to change the people. What is required is cheerful obedience in the first mile. Jesus gave us the example to follow and he went the second mile in his life. Every opportunity, Jesus went the second mile, He went the second mile for you, and I didn't He? He went far beyond even that, so let's make a few applications when it comes to turning the other cheek.

Ways to Go the Extra Mile

  • Don't feel insulted, first of all, when there is no insult intended. 
  • When an insult is intended, learn to practice self-control. 
    • 1 Peter 2:21-23
      • To glorify God, we must behave like Christ. 
  • We are not free from constraint to do what we please when it comes to giving up the cloak. 
    • Matthew 5:42
  • We must go the extra mile while being in submission to the civil government.
    • Romans 13:1-6
    • 1 Peter 2:13-15
  • Going the extra mile will help to have, a peaceful family relationship. 
  • Children can learn to go the extra mile in obedience to their parents. 
  • Go the extra mile by being willing to offer forgiveness.
    • Matthew 18:21-22
  • Go the extra mile by working in the church; teaching the lost, helping the needy, visit those in need. 
  • Going the extra mile is worth it. 
    • 1 Corinthians 15:58

 Encouragement to Abound in the Work of the Lord

And really, the idea of abounding is going the second mile, abounding, going above and beyond, abounding in the work of the Lord. Don't be fussing about how little we can get by with while doing the bare minimum. Let's do as much as we can for the Lord and then try to do even more, to abound even more. 

Jesus taught some things that were hard that the people considered to be harsh or rough. 

  • John 6:66, 67

Only through Christ Jesus can we enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Only through Christ Jesus and our faithful adherence to Him and following Him and our love for Him will keep us on that path.

That will lead us eventually to Heaven. We urge if you are not a disciple of Christ, to become a disciple, and believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Based on your belief, repent of your sins, confess that you, without shame, that you are a believer in Christ Jesus and be baptized to have your sins washed away.

If you have not done so, become a child of God today. 

If you are a Christian who has not been faithful to God, you can repent today.

If we can help you in any way please contact us.