32: The Law of Love
Jesus went through all of Galilee with His disciples. He proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom that was coming, and He healed the sick.
The news of His miracles went beyond Israel's borders. More and more people came to Him. Whenever He approached a village, they waited along the road and followed Him in great numbers.
It seemed as if a king were passing through the land with a great retinue of followers. He was indeed a king—but a different kind of king from what people expected.
The people knew so little about Jesus! Not even the disciples knew Him well. Because the people had received much instruction from the scribes and the Pharisees, they expected strange things of Jesus. They had been taught that the Messiah would establish a new, powerful kingdom and drive out the Romans. He would then rule all the nations with strength. The scribes and Pharisees taught that anyone who wanted to be a good citizen of that kingdom would have to live as they did and keep all the laws they had made.
Despite all their learning, those wise scribes really understood nothing of the new Kingdom that Jesus was bringing.
One day, when there was a great crowd of people surrounding Him again, Jesus decided to speak to His disciples and followers about His Kingdom. He climbed up a mountain and sat on the slope. His twelve disciples were at His feet. The others sought places for themselves on the grass or on a rock. All looked reverently toward Him.
The sun was shining. A bird was singing in the bushes. The voice of the Savior was calm in that peaceful setting.
In a long, beautiful address, Jesus taught His disciples that His Kingdom was not of this earth. It was the Kingdom of heaven. It was not a kingdom of power and force but a kingdom of love.
There would be no Pharisees among the citizens of that Kingdom. The Kingdom was not for the proud, who felt themselves richly blessed. It was for the poor in spirit, who awaited all things from God.
The Kingdom was not for those who lived carefree, thoughtless lives. It was for those who mourned on account of their sins.
It was not for those who were satisfied with themselves. It was for those who yearned to be delivered from their sins.
The Kingdom was not for cruel, callous people. It was for the merciful.
It was not for deceivers. It was for the upright, the pure of heart.
It was not for troublemakers but for peacemakers.
It was not for those who oppressed and persecuted others. It was for martyrs, those who suffered on God's account. All such people would be blessed as citizens of the Kingdom.
Jesus declared, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people scorn you and persecute you and speak all sorts of evil against you on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. So, too, they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
The Kingdom of the Messiah would be a much different kingdom from the one the wise rabbis talked about. The rabbis taught that there were many laws. In the Kingdom of heaven there was only one law, the law of love. That law requires that we love all kinds of people, good and evil, friends and enemies.
The scribes said to the people, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. If someone hits you, hit him back. If someone hates you, you should hate him."
Jesus taught, "You have heard that it is said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist evil people. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other cheek to him also.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies, and bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father Who is in heaven. Your Father makes the sun shine on the evil and the good, and He makes rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous.
"If you love those who love you, what reward do you deserve? Don't the tax- collectors do the same? If you greet your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don't the pagans also do so?
"You must strive to be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."