The Rev. Paul Dunstan, Superintendent Minister for Tynedale Methodist Circuit, comments on Matthew 5 v 21-37:

The ‘Sermon on the Mount’ is much loved.

It’s also massively challenging!

Jesus has just told his followers that God’s law (in the Old Testament) hasn’t been abolished, and they must be more righteous than the most righteous of the day.

He now takes examples of the Old Testament law and makes them not less demanding, but more.

Homing in on murder and adultery, to those who may be complacent that they have never committed such sins he says to beware not just the act but what goes on in your heart to give birth to them.

So anger is the seed of murder, lust is the seed of adultery.

If anger and lust were dealt with better there would be less divorce, and finally Jesus calls for us to be so honest that we don’t need to back up our words with a promise or an oath.

Jesus’ words are utterly uncompromising.

They move beyond our outward show of respectability to the depths of the human heart and all that it hosts.

Who doesn’t fall short of these standards?

In view of them, all we can do is acknowledge that we need God’s mercy and help.

And maybe bringing us to that point is what the teacher intended, knowing that the sacrifice God desires is a broken spirit, and that God will not reject a broken and repentant heart (Psalm 51:17).