~by Randy Bushey
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them (Matthew 5:17).
Christ’s Sermon on the Mount is the most famous sermon ever preached.
And it’s highly political!
Much of Jesus’ message was politically charged because He was proclaiming the advent of the Kingdom of God. And He was inviting potential citizens to understand what was required to qualify as those entering into it.
Jesus’ claim was audacious: He was not adding something good to their lives.
He was expecting citizens of the Kingdom to submit to Him as to be their Lord. And He was demanding transformation that was profound, fundamental – and supernatural.
Of note are 3 characteristics of Jesus’ unique teaching:
Jesus taught authoritatively.
At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew notes: And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes (Matthew 7:28,29).
And when questioned on why they had failed to arrest Him, the guards only defence was: No one ever spoke the way this man does (John 7:46).
Jesus’ teaching provided a graphic contrast.
Theirs was a culture where Torah (the 5 books of Moses) teaching was the basic curriculum for observant Jews. Common Hebrew people were sternly tutored – and often harangued – by critical instructors demonstrating how far short they fell of appropriate standards of ceremonial observance and practice.
But Jesus taught in contrast with what rabbis and teachers of the law were emphasizing. Six times in Matthew 5 Jesus said, you have heard that it was said (by your teachers, in the oral tradition), but I say…
However, what is clear is that Jesus was not contrasting His instruction with the Old Testament. He never contradicted God’s Word, but frequently disagreed with the teaching of Jewish elite.
His ministry mandate – in fact, His purpose in coming – was to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.
He confronted the Jewish elite and dismantled their entire system of religious worship. Jesus attacked their methods of interpreting Scripture and how they applied Scripture with their focus on subjective ceremonial intricacies – particularly those details that furthered their own position in the eyes of the common people.
John MacArthur observes: Instead, what Jesus is doing in this portion of the sermon is unpacking the true and full meaning of the law as it was originally intended—especially in contrast to the limited, narrow, and woodenly literal approach of the Pharisees. Their hermeneutic (the method by which they interpreted Scripture) was laden with sophistry. They could expound for hours on the law’s invisible fine points while inventing technical twists and turns to make exceptions to some of the law’s most important moral precepts.
Jesus taught counter-culturally.
First-century Israel was a highly religious culture, but even Jesus’ teachings were way above and beyond reasonably accepted standards.
The meek would be inherited by the earth?
Those who mourn and are poor in spirit are blessed by His Father?
Blessed would be the pure in heart, the peace-makers and the persecuted?
In His instruction, Jesus managed to offend the liberals (Sadducees) and the conservatives (Pharisees and teachers of the law).
And Christ’s opponents judged and rejected Him because He was not offering the kind of kingdom they wanted.
More to the point, He was not calling for the kind of righteousness they were exhibiting.
Consequently, you can imagine the vitriolic response of His adversaries to this declaration: Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).
Takeaway: the Sermon on the Mount is the manifesto of the Kingdom of God.
And we begin to understand it – and to put it into practice – only when we see that Jesus taught in Matthew 5 about Kingdom requirements, results, responsibilities, righteousness.
He was instructing His disciples, that this was to be the main business of their lives.
His expectation in the 1st century remains unchanged for the 21st.
~graphic by Julia Freeman Woolpert, freeimages.com