Reading through the Bible together

Saturday, November 8, 2014

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In Jewish oral tradition, there is this story recorded. On one occasion it happened that a certain gentile came before rabbi Shammai and said to him, "Make me a believer, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah (law) while I stand on one foot." Rabbi Shammai, with the shovel that happened to be in his hand, used it to turned the man away. Then this gentile went to rabbi Hillel, and asked him the same question, "Could you teach me the whole law while I stand on one foot?" Rabbi Hillel looked at him and said, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary; go and learn it."

In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus presents this universal truth saying, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12, NRSV). Interestingly, the preceding verses talk about how we like to judge and criticize others. In fact, the very first phrase in Matthew 7 is, “Do not judge.” It is very important for us to understand that it is not an appeal nor is it a request. The statement is much stronger: it is a command.

For many of us it is so easy to judge and criticize when we are not judged and criticized back. That is why perhaps our harshest criticism is done in the form of gossip when the doors are closed. Jesus, on the other hand, encourages us to free ourselves from trying to live the lives of other people. He wants us to live our own lives and focus on our own relationships with Him and with others.

John Stott, English preacher of the 20th century, once said: "The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best-known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguably it is the least understood, and certainly it is the least obeyed."

Undeniably, these teachings of Jesus go against our very nature, but let our focus remain on the most important teaching of the Law and the Prophets that Jesus emphasized: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.”



Oleg Kostyuk
Host of Cross Connection
Hope Channel