Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
The religion of Israel is a great theater. Moses goes up on the mountain and the clouds close underneath him like curtains. He brings down the commandments, and the children of Israel are unimpressed. Solomon builds a huge temple. Inside, behind a great curtain, is the Holy of Holies, where the high priest, like Moses before him, communes with the Lord. He returns from this holy communion with the most precious gift, the forgiveness of sins, the healing of the broken covenant.
Jesus takes this theater for granted. He does not tell his disciples to keep the commandments; he assumes that they will. He also assumes that they will want to go beyond the commandments. Like any observant Jew, they will want to serve their neighbor by giving alms, worship God by praying and live a disciplined life by fasting. Jesus does not say “if you fast” but “when you fast.”
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