Loving those that love you only?

June 4, 2023

by Barry Fike

The Rabbinic parallel to verse 45 is found in Taanith 7a, “...for the resurrection is intended to benefit only the righteous, whereas both the righteous and the wicked are benefited by the rain.”


For he makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and send the rain on the just and the unjust- This statement also has a parallel in Rabbinic literature from Rabban Johanan be Zakkai. 


“Once it happened that a Gentile asked Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai saying to him:

“We have feasts and you have feasts.  We have Kalendae, Saturnalia and

Kratesis, (A festival which makes the date of the capture of Alexandria by

Augustus-first of August, 30 BC)  and you have Passover, Pentecost and the Feast

of Tabernacles.  What is the day when both you and we rejoice?  Rabban Johanan ben

Zakkai said to him: “It is the day of rainfall, as it is written: “The meadows

cloth themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing

together with joy? (Ps. 65:13,14).  What is written after these words?  “To the choirmaster.

A Song.  A Psalm.  Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth.”  (Ps. 66:1)  It is not

written, “Priests, Levites, and Israelites,” but “all the earth.”


          Thus, it was not the Jewish people or the privileged group within it that rejoiced on the day of rainfall, but all humanity rejoices with the Jews for everyday benefits.  The joy on the day of rainfall is common to the whole of mankind as the benefit brought by the rain does not discern between Jews and Gentiles.  The rabbinic passage shows that Jesus was not alone in his theological interpretation of the paradoxical universalism of the rainfall.  The saying of the sages represent a powerful trend within ancient Judaism which is intimately connected to the times and the spiritual environment to which Jesus belonged.[1] 


Verse 47


Do not even the Gentiles the same? -  As far as the sources allow us to judge, Jesus had a poor opinion of the non-Jews, the Gentiles.  They are anxious about their material future and do not know that “tomorrow will be anxious for itself” (Matt. 6:32-34).  They “heap up empty phrases” in prayer, thinking “that they will be heard for their many words’ (Matt. 6:7).  They know nothing of the Jews’ command to love one’s neighbor and mix only with their friends (Matt. 5:47). 


Verse 48


Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect- (parallel found in Lk. 6:36) The best way of translating this saying is, “There must be no limit in your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.”  Matthew 5:48 is merely the conclusion to a short homily where Jesus teaches that God reaches out in love to all people, regardless of their attitude and behavior toward Him, “for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”   

          Like Jesus, the rabbis promoted the pursuit of peace between God and all humanity and between each person and his or her neighbor.  Jesus told his disciples that they must pursue peace to be like God.  God is a peacemaker even as the children resemble their parents, the disciples of Jesus should be like him and seek to bring healing and wholeness in a world which has such a great need for genuine shalom.  By pursing peace they will be like God.

              [1] Flusser, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity, 490-492.