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- The Chosen
Sermon on the Mount
When Jesus addressed the church of Sardis He said,
“I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” (Revelation 3:1 NKJV)
This is indeed a tragedy. The church, those who have been called out by God to be His people, has become so conformed to the world that anyone looking on couldn’t’ tell who is and who isn’t a Christian. The only difference is that Christians go to church while others go to bars and clubs.
How horrible to hear someone say, “What’ so special about being a Christian. As far as I can see there’s no difference with someone who’s not.”
Throughout history, God has been calling out from the world a people for Himself. We see this in God’s call to Abraham.
“Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1 NKJV)
And God’s promise was that He would bless Abraham and make him a great nation.
We also see this same calling to Moses for Israel.
“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt … and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances.’” (Leviticus 18:2-3 NKJV)
And we see this same calling as Jesus called His disciples, especially here in His Sermon on the Mount. He is calling us out of the world’s darkness to follow His path and His ways.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14, 16 NKJV)
Jesus is calling us to shine His light in this sin-darkened world. He’s saying that like a city on a hill cannot be hidden, the same then should be with us. He’s calling us to be that beacon light shining into the darkness to help guide others to heaven’s shore.
In another illustration Jesus said,
“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 NKJV)
Jesus is calling us to a different standard. He said that we are to love in a different way than what the world calls love. But to be perfect! Talk about living up to a standard!
Now, there’s no way that we can be perfect, especially to the perfection that is of God. But that’s not what we’re asked to do. The word perfect here carries the meaning of being mature and complete in our faith. This is what we should be striving for; this is what Jesus is calling us out to do.
In Matthew 6:8 Jesus said, “Do not be like them.”
Jesus said that we’re not to be like the world, or those who seem religious and who communicate with God through vain repetitions, that is, through formalized ritualized prayer. Jesus is saying don’t be like those spiritual hypocrites.
This is reminiscent of God’s call on Israel not to do as the other nations around them.
And so the question is, “By what standards are we to live our lives by?”
In this calling out process, where God contrasts what His people are to do and be like as compared to the world is what the Sermon on the Mount is all about.
As we go through this study what we’ll see is this continuing contrast between what Jesus calls His disciples to be and do, that is, what it means to be a Christian, as compared to the rest of the world, both religious and non-religious, that is, their non-Christian standards.
The Sermon on the Mount might best be described as the ethics of the kingdom of God, because within it we see Christian values, ethics, devotion, life-style, and attitudes. Several times Jesus said, “You have heard it said, but I say to you.”
What we’ll also see is a Christian’s character, influence, righteousness, piety, ambition, relationships, and commitment. This is what you might call one heady sermon.
So let’s begin
“And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them.” (Matthew 5:1-2 NKJV)
It seems that the purpose for going up the mountain was to separate Himself from the large crowd of people who continued to press in so He could give a more concentrated effort in training His disciples.
But this didn’t dissuade the crowd who followed and eavesdropped on the conversation. Why can I say that, because of what Matthew said at the end.
“And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matthew 7:28-29 NKJV)
The sequence of events listed is very instructive for our understanding.
This signaled that something significant was about to take place.
Luke records that this was when Jesus chose His 12 disciples. It was also when He gave what many consider the Christian Manifesto, that is, the quintessential statement of what it means to be a Christian.
There’s also an interesting correlation to God giving the Law on Mount Sinai and Jesus going up onto the mountain to give this sermon. This is seen in through a key element of what Jesus taught.
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:18 NKJV)
Jesus then goes on to quote the law of how a person is not to murder or commit adultery, but then expands on the law saying that a person breaks this law not just through the act, but also in the mind. That is, a person breaks God’s law in their attitude and by the intent of their heart, and not just by the deed.
So you can see this correlation and how the Sermon on the Mount in a way completes the Law given to Moses and the Israelites.
We see other mountain top experiences that reveal the specialness of these events
This was the posture of a rabbi. It was customary practice for rabbis and teachers to sit down when they taught. This clearly delineated Jesus as an authority of the Scriptures and speaks to the people’s astonishment that He taught as one who had authority, not as the scribes, Matthew 7:28-29.
This is the only time that the gospels use this expression. In a way it seems ridiculous. If Jesus were speaking of course He would open His mouth. But this being the only time that it’s used would seem to indicate that this was something special, that there was a solemn-ness and specialness of what Jesus was about to say.
In other words, this is something we need to pay attention to.
In the Greek language this is written in the imperfect tense, which means that Jesus continued to teach and never stopped. Jesus never stopped teaching. This wasn’t a one and done. Jesus wasn’t a one hit wonder. He continued to teach and he is still teaching today.
In the Great Commission Jesus said that we are to continue to teach everything that He commanded, and that He would always be with us, Matthew 28:20
Jesus begins His sermon with what we know as the Beatitudes. (Starting next week will begin looking at each one individually.)
The word, “beatitude,” comes from the Latin meaning happy or blessed. And the Greek word used here in the text means the same thing.
Walter Bauer in his Greek-English Lexicon defines this word as the “privileged recipient of divine favor.” (repeat)
Think about that. Those who are poor in spirit, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, that they’re the privileged recipients of God’s divine favor. That’s why they’re blessed, happy, and filled with joy.
The equivalent in the Hebrews means, “to go straight.” But it’s most prominent usage is that of happiness and bliss. We see this in Psalm 1
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2 NKJV)
Let me kind of paraphrase this according to the meaning of the word.
“Blessed, to be envied with desire, are those who go straight according to the way of God.”
We see this same idea in Psalm 119
“Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!” (Psalm 119:1-2 NKJV)
So those who are blessed are those who keep God’s word and walk in accordance to it. They are the ones who receive God’s divine favor.
In defining this further in the Greek language, Donald Hagner says,
“It describes the nearly incomprehensible happiness of those who participate in the kingdom … It refers to the deep inner joy of those who have long awaited the salvation promised by God and who are now experiencing its fulfillment.”
And so the Beatitudes reveal the secret of true happiness, which isn’t’ found in what we have, but in what we are in Jesus Christ.
Finally, these beatitudes are not eight separate and distinct qualities, although we’ll be studying each on their own, but rather they’re eight qualities of the same group. That is, eight qualities of what it means to be a Christian.
They represent the whole of the Christian Character, that is, whatever a Christian ought to be. They are those qualities that God expects us to live our lives by as we practice kingdom living in this fallen and corrupt world.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study