Summary: Part 2 of series on Sermon on the Mount, looks at true happiness.
Happiness is What
Sermon on the Mount # 2
Rev. Denn Guptill, BCC Sept. 22 1996
Last week as we started to discuss the Sermon on the Mount we mentioned several things that bear repeating. The first is that these are the words of Jesus for today, not for yesterday or tomorrow but for September 22 1996. We also mentioned that the Sermon on the Mount is not the sum total of everything that Jesus taught. There is much more in the theology of Jesus Christ then what is incorporated in these one hundred and eleven verses. If you were to glean all of your doctrinal knowledge from the Sermon on the Mount you would miss teaching on the resurrection, the Holy Spirit, Baptism, the church and the greatest commandment.
We discovered that the Sermon on the Mount was for Christians, it was addressed to the disciples and not to the multitudes, it has no relevance for the pre-Christian. And lastly the Sermon on the Mount relates to the Kingdom of God which is present in all believers. The Sermon on the Mount is God’s manual for His partners who seek to see His Kingdom grow and expand.
Matthew 5:1 (NIV) Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. From the geography of Palestine we know that Christ would have been travelling along the road from Tiberias to Metula, which skirts the sea of Galilee. The road branches off at Tabgha here and the church of loaves and fishes was built here in the fourth century, Capernium is just two miles further down the road. Across the road about two and a half miles North east of Tabgha is a hill that is approximately 330 ft high, or around a hundred metres. It is commonly referred to as the "Hill of the Beatitudes".
It was on this hill that Luke records that Christ called the 12 apostles. And no doubt it was here that Christ delivered the Sermon on the Mount, although if it had of been in a country less flat then Israel it would have been the sermon on the mound. A little humour there that I enjoyed immensely.
Matthew tells us that Christ sat as he began to teach. Now that is a Jewish custom that when the Rabbi was about to give official teaching he always sat. That’s why we still talk about a professor who has a chair in a certain department of a university, for that matter it’s the reason the Pope gives his official teachings ex cathedral he does it sitting down. A rabbi might teach as he stood or strolled along but the serious teaching came only when he was seated. This would indicate the importance that Jesus placed on what he was about to say.
And as he sat Matthew tells us that the disciples came to him. Not the crowds, not the multitudes but his disciples. Again confirming what we already know and that was that the Sermon on the Mount was meant for the already saved portion of society. Matthew continues by saying And He began to teach them the NKJV tells us that He opened His mouth and taught them. Now you might think that opened his mouth might just be a fancy way of saying "He said" but in the Greek it literally meant he spoke from the heart.
A little grammar lesson here, the Greek language uses two tenses when speaking of things which happened in the past. The first was the aorist tense which described a completed action, for example, "He shut the door." The action was done, tut fini, complete. The other tense was referred to as the imperfect tense, you paying attention? We’re going to test you on this later, OK? The imperfect tense suggests a continuing action, "He loved his wife" "She went to work" Christ’s teaching here was described using the imperfect tense, suggesting that it was ongoing, and this was just a part of his teaching, and didn’t conclude at this point.
Now Christ is about to embark on a voyage into a subject that is just as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago and that is the question "What is happiness?" Which if you were to look into last weeks edition of Macleans magazine on page 54 you would see an article entitled "Get Happy"
The term that Christ uses in his teaching which we commonly refer to as the beatitudes, is blessed, and in the original language it was the word Makarious, and it literally meant to be "supremely blest, well-off, fortunate or happy" But the question still begs to be asked, "What is happy?" A number of years ago the magazine "Psychology Today" did a survey of 5200 readers to determine what constituted happiness. I love the response of one man who wrote "I think I’m happy please verify" The editors of psychology Today didn’t discover what happiness was but they did discover a couple of other things. Firstly they ruled out some attributes that are thought to contribute to happiness. It didn’t seem to matter if the people were rich, or poor, a believer or an atheist, married or single, or where they lives. Instead happiness appeared to be related to an inward attitude, or the way we regard our circumstances. Those same findings were borne out in the recent Macleans article.