After Isa al Masih (PBUH) was tempted by Shaytan (Iblis) he started to minister as a prophet with a unique teaching. This is especially seen in what is now called his Sermon on the Mount recorded in the Injil. You can read the complete Sermon on the Mount here. I summarize some highlights, and then we make a startling connection from what the Prophet Musa predicted in the Taurat. Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught the following:
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
Eye for Eye
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The Masih and the Sermon on the Mount
You can see that Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught with the form “You have heard that it was said … But I tell you … ”. In this structure he usually quotes first from the Taurat, and then extends the scope of the command to motives, thoughts and words to a degree that is astonishing. Isa al Masih taught by taking strict commands given through the Prophet Musa (PBUH) and made them even much more difficult to do!
But what is also remarkable is the reason that he extends the commands of the Taurat. He does so based on his own authority. He says simply ‘But I tell you…’ and with that he increases the scope of the command. This is one thing that was very unique about Isa al Masih. As the Injil states when he had finished this Sermon
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matthew 7:28-29)
Indeed, Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught as one who had great authority. Most prophets were only messengers that passed on a message from Allah, but here it was different. Why could Isa al Masih do this? As the ‘Masih’ which we saw here was a title given in the Zabur of a coming one, he had great authority. Psalm 2 of Zabur, where the Title of ‘Masih’ was first given described Allah speaking to the Masih in the following way
and I (Allah) will make the nations your (Masih’s) inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. (Psalm 2:8)
The Masih was given authority over the nations, even to the end of the earth. So as the Masih, Isa had the authority to teach in the way he did.
The Prophet and the Sermon on the Mount
In fact, as we saw here, in the Taurat, the prophet Musa (PBUH) had predicted the coming of ‘the Prophet’, who would be noted in the way he taught. Musa had written
I (Allah) will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that The Prophet speaks in my name. (Deuteronomy 18: 18-19)
In teaching the way he did, Isa was exercising his authority as the Masih and fulfilling the prophecy of Musa of The Prophet who would teach with great authority. He was both Masih AND The Prophet.
You & me and the Sermon on the Mount
If you study carefully this Sermon on the Mount to see how you should live then you are probably confused. How can anyone live these kinds of commands that lay bare our hearts and our motives? What was Isa al Masih’s intent in giving this Sermon? We can see the answer from his concluding sentence.
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
Notice that this is a command, not a suggestion. His requirement is that we be perfect! Why? Because God is perfect and if we are to be with Him in Paradise nothing less than perfect will do. We often think that perhaps simply more good than bad deeds – that will be sufficient. But if that were the case, and Allah let us enter his Paradise, we would destroy the perfection of Paradise and turn it into the mess that we have in this world. It is our lust, greed, anger that destroys our lives here today. If we go to Paradise still holding onto that lust, greed and anger than that Paradise will quickly become like this world – full of problems made by ourselves.
In fact, much of Isa al Masih’s teaching focused on our inner hearts rather than outward ceremony. Consider how, in another teaching, he focuses on our inward hearts.
He (Isa) went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23)
So what is going on inside us is very important and the required standard is perfection. Allah will only let the ‘perfect’ into his perfect paradise. But though that may sound fine in theory it raises a huge problem: How will we get into this Paradise if we are not perfect? The utter impossibility of us being perfect enough could cause us to despair. And that is what he wants! When we despair of ever being good enough, when we stop trusting in our own possible merits then we become ‘poor in spirit’. And Isa al Masih, in starting this whole Sermon, said:
“Blessed are the Poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)
The beginning of wisdom for us is not to dismiss these teachings as not applying to us. They do! The standard is to ‘Be perfect’. As we let that standard sink into us, and realize that we are not capable of that, then we are starting down the Straight Way. We start down this Straight Way because, recognizing our inadequacy, we may be more ready to accept help than if we thought we could do it by our own merits.