What's the Sermon on the Mount?
This past week we started our new sermon series walking through the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. I spent a considerable amount of time giving introductory remarks that I believe will help us as we navigate through Jesus’ most famous sermon. I want to answer a few questions that I pray will be beneficial for you as you worship with us in the coming weeks.
What is the significance of the Sermon on the Mount?
The Sermon on the Mount is essentially Jesus teaching what life in the Kingdom of God should be like. In Matthew 4:23, we learn that Jesus was teaching and proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom. And in Chapters 5-7, he details how to live the Kingdom life starting with listing the blessings of Kingdom living seen in the beatitudes.
How is the Sermon on the Mount relevant for us today?
In order for us to see the relevance of this sermon, we must remember who we are called to be as followers of Christ. 1 Peter shows us that we are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:14-16) and the purpose of that is so we people will see our good deeds and glorify God (1 Peter 2:9-12). The word “holy” means “to be set apart.” So we are called to live a different way of life so that people would see Christ and be drawn to follow him as well.
What are we to be set apart from?
In this sermon, we will see that we are called to be set apart from the world and from religious legalism. For example, Jesus will say that that our love must be better than the love of the world, which is full of people who only love those who love them. We are called to love those who are our enemies (Matthew 5:44-47). But Jesus also teaches that our righteousness must exceed those of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:17-22). We are not to be busy doing religious works for others to see and give glory to us. We are not to be so busy trying to keep the law that we miss the heart of the commandment which is love that comes from a pure heart (1 Timothy 1:5).
Who is the audience of this sermon?
At the beginning of Matthew 5, we see that the primary audience for the Sermon on the Mount was the disciples of Jesus. However, we also see that a large crowd was listening on. At the end of this sermon, this crowd was astonished at his teaching (Matthew 7:28). So, we will see that our sermon series is very beneficial for Christ-followers to see how to live set apart lives for his glory. But it is also hugely beneficial for those who do not know Christ–those who are curious to know what it looks like to follow Christ. We should be praying for and inviting folks to hear Jesus’ words and be drawn to a saving knowledge of him.
What are the beatitudes?
The beatitudes can be summed up as the blessings that come to those who belong to the Kingdom and live out the characteristics of Kingdom citizens that are listed there. These blessings all have a present and future reality to them. This means that in some sense we begin to experience the blessings of the kingdom now but we won’t experience them fully until the age to come.
I want to make one final important point about the beatitudes and really the entire Sermon on the Mount. We are not to view the sermon or the beatitudes as spelling out for us the conditions that we must meet in order to be saved. On the contrary, the sermon and the beatitudes are detailing for us the fruits that should be visible in someone who has been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. For instance, those who have been shown mercy will be merciful. And this is truly the essence of Christianity. The Bible is primarily concerned with our knowing and embracing in faith what has already been done for us in Christ. These indicatives (what God has done) are the foundation upon which we should look at the imperatives (what we ought to do) of Scripture. We follow the commandments of Christ not to receive salvation but instead, having received salvation we follow his commands as an act of worship thanking him for what he has done for us!