Hard Truths about the Kingdom of God
Jesus then says something unexpected that his hearers probably found difficult to accept, indicating that he was not there to incite revolution or the overthrow of any temporal power, but to teach and exemplify the Law of Moses (see Matthew 5:17–20). The wording suggests that Jesus' listeners may have been waiting for a new world order, a delivery from Rome's totalitarian oppression, but Jesus assures them near the beginning that he's no revolutionary or Zealot, though he advocates zeal toward the Kingdom-of-God lifestyle; in other words, fulfilling the commandments received by Moses and the prophets' teachings, for not a “jot or tittle” would be set aside.
What is the difference between the “Kingdom Of God” and the “Kingdom Of Heaven”?
Scripture indicates that Jesus used the terms interchangeably. In Matthew 19:23 he states, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven,” and in Matthew 19:24 he reiterates, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
In the original manuscripts, the word “jot” was “iota,” one of the smallest Greek letters, and “tittle” (
Jesus especially stresses that “anyone whoever shall teach men” to not keep the commandments will be regarded the lowest in the Kingdom. By citing the “righteousness” of the scribes (people who transcribed and continually studied the Torah) and Pharisees (the “strict constructionist” party of the Law of Moses), he urged his hearers to exceed the efforts to be (or appear) holy of the most conspicuous “holy classes” in the Holy City.
The gospels teach that it was a common fallacy in the time of Jesus that the Messiah would be a political figure able to lead those waiting for him into a new secular kingdom safe from the pagan kingdoms surrounding them, and routinely taking them into various forms of captivity. Jesus' kingdom offers spiritual, not political, independence and lasting peace.
Jesus continues the sermon with warnings against holding anger or demeaning your brothers and calling them derogatory names, then emphasizes reconciliation with anyone in the community who may hold a grievance against you or against whom you hold a grievance: “if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:23, 24). This teaching referring to the altar in the Temple has generally been interpreted as being equally applicable to Christians taking Holy Communion or the Eucharist.