What does Matthew 5:41 mean?
ESV: And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
NIV: If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
NASB: Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
CSB: And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
NLT: If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.
KJV: And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Verse Commentary:
Jesus is giving a series of examples to show what it would look like not to "resist" an evil person, the standard He has just set for His disciples. If someone slaps you in the face, He said, offer them your other cheek. If someone sues you for your inner garment, just give it to them, along with your outer garment (Matthew 5:38–40).

Now Jesus describes a forced march, of sorts. This example was a clear reference to Israel's Roman occupiers, who were often harsh and unfair in their treatment of the Jewish people. Apparently, Roman soldiers could grab any Jewish citizen they chose and force that person to carry luggage or other items for a standard mile. That kind of oppressive, invasive act would naturally inspire a hunger for revenge. Culturally, it would entice people to violently overthrow the Romans.

Some of Jesus' original audience thought His goal as Messiah was to overthrow the occupiers and drive them out of Israel. That would make His next command shocking: don't refuse, and do even more than you were asked. Depending on how one translates this phrase, it might even mean "walk with them another two miles," adding up to a total of three miles.

Taken out of context, and with cynicism, some hear appeasement and weakness in these words. Human nature jumps to the assumption that Jesus means weakly surrendering to bullies and invaders. Instead, Jesus is describing a person strong enough to take control—strong enough to give to an enemy more than they asked for. In Romans 12:21, the apostle Paul will say it this way, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Jesus does not tell His followers to shrink and wither, even to the slap or the lawsuit or the abuse of authority. He tells them to demonstrate strength by freely giving away more than an enemy can take. This is a demonstration of power in the guise of submission. This kind of response makes it possible for God to demonstrate His goodness even in the face of those with the most evil intent.

Such a response is literally invincible: it entirely refuses to allow the evil person to control the situation. It shouts, in clear terms, that their abuse and insults can't overcome the power and influence of Christ in our life.
Verse Context:
Matthew 5:38–42 is part of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus teaches about how to respond to insults and persecution. Old Testament law established a legal principle of ''eye for an eye,'' intended to prevent excessive revenge—punishments were meant to be proportional to the crime. In personal matters, however, Jesus sets a very different standard. In response to insults and unfair treatment, Christians are to endure, not retaliate. The following passage, speaking on loving one's enemies, adds an active component to this concept.
Chapter Summary:
The Sermon on the Mount contains some of Jesus' most challenging teaching. It begins with the unlikely blessings of the Beatitudes. Jesus' disciples must do good works in order to be a powerful influence: as the salt of the earth and light of the world. The superficial righteousness of the Pharisees is not good enough to earn heaven. Sins of the heart, such as angry insults and intentional lust, are worthy of hell just as much as adultery and murder. Easy divorce and deceptive oaths are forbidden. Believers should not seek revenge. Instead, God intends us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. In short, we should strive to be perfect, as God is perfect.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 5 follows Matthew's description of the enormous crowds that were following Jesus (Matthew 4:25). One day, Jesus sits down on a hill to teach them, in an address we now call the Sermon on the Mount. He describes as blessed those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, and who are persecuted. Christ also explains how God's standards of righteousness go far beyond behaviors and speech; they also include our thoughts and attitudes. Meeting God's standards means perfection. Chapter 6 continues this sermon, with more examples of Jesus clarifying God's intent for godly living.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
Accessed 3/1/2024 3:02:33 AM
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