Man's Relationship to his Fellowman
June 26, 2020
by Barry Fike
(vs. 24-26) Notice that since Jesus has begun the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom what has been his emphasis. Man’s relationship with his fellow man. Notice how he now brings this to a high point here.
The Rabbinic parallel to v. 24 is found in Yoma 85b, “The transgression which a man commits against God, the Day of Atonement expiates. But the transgression which he commits against his neighbor, it does not expiate, unless he has satisfied his neighbor.”
If you bring any kind of offering...leave it and be reconciled- If you bring any kind of offering to the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you - that there’s some kind of disharmony and discord among brothers - then you leave your gift on the altar and go and be reconciled unto your brother and then come and offer your gift. If you’re not in fellowship with your brother, you’re also not in fellowship with God, and God’s not going to accept your offering.
“Agree with your adversary while you’re in the way with him lest at any time the adversary delivers you to the judge, and the judge delivers you to the officer and you be cast into the prison.” What does it mean your adversary? One that is disagreeing with you. You’re having an argument. It doesn’t mean someone that is out to harm you. Make yourself acceptable with someone that you are having a disagreement with. If you are having a disagreement with your brother try to come to some kind of a conclusion before the thing gets out of hand and it winds up in court, and you may be coming out on the losing end of the stick.
The important thing to remember here is that it’s talking about a brother. It’s not talking about someone who is a pagan. When you go to v. 25 you see that you try to settle these disagreements, or arguments, with your brother that is alienated from you or else he’s going to bring you to court. If he’s attacking you for no reason you can go to him and try to be reconciled. If he refuses to be reconciled then the problem is now upon his shoulders. There is nothing here that says that he’s going to reciprocate. If he doesn’t he becomes a brother who doesn’t want to be reconciled.
What constitutes a just cause? If they have done something that has removed them from the relationship of brother to brother, and it’s untrue or not right, then you’ve got cause to be angry. In that case, and in the Jewish legal system, you had a recourse. (This is difficult for us to understand because we don’t understand the system of courts and laws that they had in Judaism then) Every congregation had its own court. That court was called a bet din. If there was any kind of problem that was taking place between individual members of that congregation then that was brought before the judges of the bet din to deal with. In many instances the court consisted of three members. If there was a just cause then that congregational court was there to help mediate. A lot of times these things are just items that are blown out of proportion and there’s not any justification behind it. If it gets out of hand, what we need to do is go to our brother and get these things settled and get reconciled before it gets so far out of hand that now a judge has to step in and it might be costly for one, or both, or us. If that person refuses to be reconciled then you don’t have any alternative but to use legal means, or legal matters, to get the situation reconciled.
The Jewish legal system is essentially the same today as it has already been. The problem is that we don’t have it in the church so almost none of this is applicable as far as we’re concerned. Even if we had this congregational court nobody would go to it. We probably couldn’t find anyone qualified in the church to sit as a judge in the first place, and if we could find someone that was qualified to sit in on the court you couldn’t get anyone in the congregation to go to it. So what are you going to do? You’re going to have to use the secular courts.
Among other things this verse ought to tell us something about how God views relationships. It’s interesting where the emphasis is here. Does he come and tell us much of anything about himself? Do you ever hear Him telling us about God...about the nature of God, and if we just knew this about God and who God is, and where He is, and what he’s like, then we would know how to better worship him? Does he talk about praying, singing, worshipping, etc.? He doesn’t even mentioned such things. Why? Because Jesus is more concerned with our relationships with each other than with God. What Jesus is talking about is the very practical way that man has a relationship with his fellow man. Notice as we continue in the study of Matthew 5, Jesus says little about vertical relationships: man’s relationship to God. He’s always talking about horizontal relationships: man’s relationship to his fellow man.
Jesus says that if you come to bring any kind of offering to God to offer upon the altar and you are out of fellowship with your fellow man, you might as well forget it because it’s going to be meaningless. God is not going to accept your offering.
It would seem from our study of Matthew 5, so far, that Jesus is more concerned with mans’ relationship with his fellow man He is about man’s relationship with God. If man doesn’t have his relationships worked out here then he’s wasting his time trying to gain a relationship with God.