When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed Him. (Matthew 7:28,29; 8:1)
If Jesus were to preach this sermon in our churches today, would it be appreciated? Would we download the recording to listen to it again? Would we recommend it to others?
I’m not so sure.
In fact, in many of our evangelical churches I suspect He would be criticized for what He didn’t say.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus doesn’t address a single specific topic, but talks on a wide range of issues for 3 whole chapters (Matthew 5-7). However, although covering +100 verses, important New Testament concepts are conspicuous by their absence.
Jesus doesn’t mention the cross, His own suffering or sacrifice, or even the concept of repentance. And the words “faith” (6:30) and “sin” (6:14) only show up once each in the whole discourse!
So what was the point? What was He thinking? What was the “big idea” of His message?
Some have understood it divorced from its context, choosing to interpret Jesus’ words in keeping with what has become known as the “social gospel”: primarily societal activism to fix a broken world.
But, as I read through the eclectic themes, 3 concepts emerge clearly:
- Jesus is proclaiming a citizen’s manifesto – a declaration of the intentions, motives and values of those who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
- He is calling for — and illustrating (“you have heard that it was said…but I tell you”) — the radicalized righteousness that is to differentiate His people.
- and He concludes with simplicity and clarity around the question of authority and obedience in the lives of those who call Him Lord.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock…But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand” (Matthew 7:24,26).
Takeaway: The Lord Jesus is clear: the safest “risk-management” strategy one can employ for success in life and to live within the sphere of the blessing of Almighty God is to repond to Christ’s authority. We are called to live uniquely, to live out His commands and His life-values as empowered by His Spirit — as citizens of His kingdom.