Matthew 5:21–26: “You Shall Not Murder”
In the previous section, Jesus gave a general overview of his authoritative teaching on the law featured in the Old Testament. There, Jesus said that he had not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). As a part of fulfilling that law, Jesus now begins to unfold the full requirements of the law—requirements that had been misunderstood, neglected, ignored, or even denied by the religious teachers of the day. In Matthew 5:21–26, Jesus offering what Bible commentators call his “antitheses,” where he teaches contrary to the prevailing understanding of the day. As Jesus teaches on the Sixth Commandment, he reminds us of the full requirement of the law, to love your neighbor as yourself.
1. What does “murder” refer to in the Sixth Commandment (v. 21)? How had the Sixth Commandment been traditionally understood and taught by the religious leaders? Why does Jesus find that interpretation so unsatisfactory? What does Jesus mean when he says that anyone who is angry is liable to the judgment of the death penalty (v. 22)? How does this teaching underscore our utter guilt before God? How does this teaching call us to live instead?
2. In Jesus’ first illustration, how does the Old Testament background of the scene at the major festivals fill out the great inconvenience it would have been to leave an offering at the altar (v. 23–24)? What does this illustration teach us about our relationships with others? What does this illustration teach us about our relationship with God? What is one relationship where reconciliation would require you to inconvenience yourself?
3. In Jesus’ second illustration, what does the threat of debtors’ prison symbolize? What might harden someone from seeking to come to terms with an accuser, as Jesus here suggests? Why does the Sixth Commandment condemn pride that would keep us from reconciling with a neighbor? What is one relationship where pride has gotten in the way of settling with an accuser in your own life? What step might you take to lay down your pride this week toward reconciliation?
4. How does Jesus exemplify what he teaches here? How does he love his neighbor as himself? In the illustration of the worshiper leaving the offering to go reconcile with his brother, what role does Jesus play? In the illustration of the debtor coming to terms with his accuser, what role does Jesus play? How does the love of Jesus fulfill the Sixth Commandment? How does the love of Jesus affect your love for him? How does the love of Jesus affect your love for others?