25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.
58 When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison.
Setting – This is Christ’s “Sermon on the mount.” At that time he was in this region:
Matthew 4:13-16 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: 16 The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.”
Matthew 4:25 Great multitudes followed Him–from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.
Matthew 5:1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
Context – After giving the “beatitudes,” he speaks about the “salt of the earth” and the “lamp on a lampstand” prior to making this statement:
Matthew 5:17-20 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Audience Relevance – The audience was made up of the Jews in Galilee and maybe some Gentiles also. There could have even been some Roman soldiers in such a large crowd. Christ’s target audience was always the Jewish nation Matt 15:24. Modern scholars make a big mistake with this verse by jumping off the track to discuss “Satan is our adversary.” They miss the point of Christ’s statement and do not respect “audience relevance” if they do that with this verse!
The Greek definitions for adversary and judge are these:
adversary G476 ἀντίδικος antidikos an-tid’-ee-kos from <G473> (anti) and <G1349> (dike); an opponent (in a lawsuit); specially Satan (as the arch-enemy) :- adversary.
judge G2932 κριτής kritēs kree-tace’ from <G2919> (krino); a judge (general or special) :- judge.
Jesus is speaking about a legal situation between two individuals. One of the individuals believes he has been wronged and seeks to obtain payment to relieve that wrong. There are at least two ways of interpreting this.
1 – The general personal application:
This can be seen as two actual individuals who are opponents in a lawsuit. If that is the case, it is far better to settle differences before the expense of a lawsuit occurs and relationships are damaged.
2 – The Jewish national application:
Jesus has just spoken in verses 17-20 about the Law of Moses and said that he “… did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” He came to change their law, to fulfill their law. God had an accusation against the Israel.
The Jews’ adversary was God!
They had not kept the law. They had killed or rejected the prophets he had sent to them. We know from prophecy and from recorded history that the Jews at the time of Christ’s ministry only had 40 years left as a nation! The Jews had an urgent need to enter the kingdom of heaven before it was too late! Here he prophesied against Jerusalem.
Luke 19:41-44 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Here is Luke’s account again, in full context:
Luke 12:54-59 Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. 55 And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. 56 Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? 57 “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right? 58 When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I tell you, you shall not depart from there till you have paid the very last mite.”
Judgment was coming upon them!
Matthew 23:31-36 Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
Jesus says he will send new “… prophets, wise men, and scribes…” and they would kill them, too. They would continue to do just what their fathers had done.
Luke 11:50-51 that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.
Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.
In Matt chapter 23 Jesus pronounces many “woes” upon them.
Matthew 23:29-30 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’
After Jesus ascended, Peter preached the gospel of the kingdom on the day of Pentecost and gave them opportunity to repent.
Acts 2:40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”
Just before Stephen was stoned, he warned them. They were warned over and over, yet they didn’t listen.
51 “You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.
Even before Christ began his ministry, John the Baptist warned them of the wrath about to come upon them.
Matthew 3:7 (NKJV)
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (G3159)
Yet, Christ still loved his chosen people and wished fervently that they had repented of their sins and accepted him.
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ ” (Ps 118.26)
Brent E. Hughes