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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 5: Matthew 5:13-20, by Kevin M. Williams

From Pneuma Review Spring 2002Matthew

After the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10), there does not appear to be any break in the chronology of Matthew’s narrative. It seems that Yeshua1 (Jesus) continues teaching on this mountain in Galilee (see Matt. 7:28-29). There is however, a break in the context. If the assertions made in the last edition of the Pneuma Review were correct, the Beatitudes were more than a mere list of encouraging words. They were—for the student of the Hebrew Bible—a message from Yeshua proclaiming, “I am the long awaited Messiah.”

In the last Pneuma Review, we discussed why the Messiah would speak His message so covertly. First, He did so to avoid outright dismissal as a fraud (there were many documented false Messiahs at that point in history). Secondly, to avoid the Temple and Roman courts through self-incrimination. And third, to show the Jewish public that during this first visit, the Messiah was not the conquering “King David” they were anticipating. He was not going to throw off the yoke of Roman oppression. No, the yoke He would overcome was sin and death, conquering one heart and bringing one repentant soul at a time to the Father.

So then, if the Beatitudes covertly identify this man, this Nazarite, as the Messiah, why the sudden break in context? Why does he go about talking about Himself, and then direct his comments toward His disciples and the masses around Him?

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty [again]? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do [men] light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

In a sense, it may be similar to one of John F. Kennedy’s phrases, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” Yeshua has said, and if they had ears they heard, that He was the Messiah. This came with fantastic expectations. Rome would be conquered. Israel would be the seat of government for the world. The Jewish people would be the head and not the tail. And on and on.

Yeshua’s statements help put things into perspective. He was the Messiah, but the kingdom of God depended on people. So far, Israel’s salt had lost its taste and its light had grown dim. It was not preeminent among the kingdoms of the earth—it was a laughing stock. Why? Because the people had lost their flavor. If they were going to realize the manifestation of the kingdom of God, they would have to regain their flavor and regain their light.


“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches [them,] he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses [that] of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20).

This is often a troubling passage for many New Testament believers. We have heard through much of our lives that the Law—the Torah—has been abrogated by Christ and we are under no obligation to keep its lists of sundry rules.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Spring 2002

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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