Month 2:18, Week 3:3 (Shleshi/Bikkurim), Year:Day 5936:047 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Tuesday 8 May 2012
Late Chag haMatzah 2012
4. Turning the Other Cheek
Continued from Part 5
Contrary to what many ignorant people teach, Yah'shua (Jesus) is not here inviting the perpetrator of a violent act to commit a second violent act. How do we know? Because Yah'shua (Jesus) was Himself subjected to this indignity and His response is particularly noteworthy:
"Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also" (Matt.5:39, NKJV).
Please note that Yah'shua (Jesus) did not invite the official to strike His other cheek. Indeed, He told the man off!
"The Cohen Gadol (High Priest) then asked Yah'shua (Jesus) about His talmidim (disciples) and His doctrine. Yah'shua (Jesus) answered him, 'I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Judeans always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.' And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Yah'shua (Jesus) with the palm of his hand, saying, 'Do You answer the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) like that?' Yah'shua (Jesus) answered him, 'If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?'" (John 18:19-23, NKJV).
Now ask yourself this question: if you were to strike someone facing you across the face, which cheek would you strike? Unless you were left-handed (the exception), the cheek you would naturally strike with an open palm would always be his left cheek, not his right one! Whereas in Luke 6:29 no distinction is made between left and right cheeks ("To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also"), in Matthew the "one" is specified as the "right" making the "other" the left.
To strike a man on his right cheek is not a reflexive action for the reflex is to strike the left. Therefore it is premeditated and not done out of the passion of the moment. To strike the right cheek is to deliberately dishonour and humiliate. So why, then, does the Saviour offer the cheek of dishonour? As a testimony against what they have done!
The right-hand side is the side of glory and honour (e.g. Ex.15:6). To strike someone on the cheek is to reproach him - to accuse or blame him. To strike them on the right cheek is to strike at their honour, integrity and glory. To strike a man's face is to strike the image of Elohim (God).
Once struck on the right cheek of honour, all that remains is the left cheek of dishonour - offering it, the victim is telling his assailant that he is both without honour and that the victim has nothing left to lose. This, therefore, was not something done in the heat of the moment, but born of evil design. It was therefore a testimony against the sinner, not an invitation to further violence.
In doing this, the victim fulfills the mitzvah (commandment) not to seek revenge but to indicate that Yahweh is being invoked as the Judge. When Yah'shua (Jesus) was struck, He was not passive, was He? Rather, He demanded that His assailant justify his action (without hitting him back), which of course he could not do. We in our turn, if unjustly accused, must offer the other cheek as a testimony against the injustice and speak the emet (truth) in firmness! That means standing firm in righteousness! It is not an invitation to further violence but a signal that Yahweh is, by right response, being invoked to be the Judge between them and to exact the necessary revenge.
But how do we reconcile this with the messianic prophecy of Isaiah?
Let us probe this one more carefull by looking at Tanakh (Old Testament) precedents:
"He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth" (Isa.53:7, NKJV; cp. Ac.8:32).02
Here we find the reconciliation between the two apparently contradictory passages. There is a very definite connection between being struck on the cheek and being insulted. Yah'shua (Jesus) never told us to be silent about sin or injustice but He very definitely did command that we not lash back in vengeance or return insult for insult.
"Yahweh is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of Yahweh. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust — there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults" (Lam.3:25-30, NKJV)
I am currently involved in a battle to help a family get their son back who was falsely, unjustly and cruelly abducted by corrupt instruments of the state. I, and others like me, are making a lot of very loud noise, exposing the wickedness that has been perpetrated. But none of us would ever want revenge on the perpetrators by seeking to have their children removed from them! That would be the sort of "eye for an eye" justice that belongs to magistrate courts but which is forbidden to individual believers.
This is exactly what the Torah teaches:
"You shall not hate your brother in your lev (heart). You shall surely rebuke your neighbour, and not bear sin because of him. [But] you shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am Yahweh" (Lev.19:17-18, NKJV).
Under the Old Covenant this mitzvah (commandments) was given to Israelies in their conduct with each other. In the New Covenant, Yah'shua (Jesus) broadened this to include all people, even those not of our emunah (faith). How did Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself behave?
Is this not what we are called in imitation of the Messiah to do too? We are to endure insult and suffering, we are not to lash out in anger and vengeance, but are to depend on Yahweh, having a proper lev (heart) that is focussed on His glory and salvation:
"When He (Yah'shua/Jesus) was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree (cross), that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed" (1 Pet.2:23, NKJV)
None of this is to say that we are not to press for justice or not to seek for redress for crimes against us, but rather to do so in the humble manner demonstrated by Yah'shua (Jesus), offering the left cheek after they have defamed and dishonoured us by striking the right. Far from being passive submission to tyranny, it is active resistance again it in a godly way, retaining a right lev (heart) not overpowered and destroyed by bitterness and a desire for revenge.
"For the sake of Messiah, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor.12:10).
The desire for justice is a deep and inseparable part of the human soul and we are to fight for it using the weapons allowed us by Messiah. The fact that the enemy and oppressor does not do so does not mean we should imitate him but rather both defeat him and put him to shame by righteous conduct at the same time that epr chance we may convert him and make reconciliation. This is, I believe, the correct sense of offering the other cheek - it's not about letting our enemies trample all over us but to defeat him in righteous action unless Yahweh specifically tells us to wait and do nothing until the right and opportune moment.
As we meditate on late Chag haMatzah and on the improtance of getting the leaven of sin out of our lives, let us devote time to considering the importance of not seeking revenge but for justice in emet (truth) and ahavah (love).
Continued in Part 7