Summary: Matthew shows us Jesus as the preacher of the kingdom of heaven. He shows us just how high heavens standards are and how to properly understand the law. Be perfect, like your Father! That’s the whole point.
Matthew seems to have been written to a Jewish community under fire for their faith. He talks about the kingdom of heaven in ways that suggest how hard it is to enter.
The beatitudes begin and end with words that describe hardship and persecution. Why? Probably because that is what those were facing who first received and read Matthew’s gospel. With that in mind, listen to this first chapter of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as if Matthew were telling us what Jesus said. That’s a little different than simply hearing Jesus speak it. Matthew has included this in his gospel, not just because Jesus said it, but also because those to whom he wrote needed to hear this particular message to encourage their faith during trying times. Again, remember that Matthew is a Jew writing to Jews about a Jew. Matthew is telling the gospel to which he himself is committed, and his clear intent is to call those who hear this to share that commitment of obedient faith. Heaven’s high standards will not be compromised by bending the rules to fit the comforts of the audience as so much preaching does today. Matthew wants more than a large following, he demonstrates that Jesus Christ demands a faithful following of committed kingdom subjects, men and women who will bow before the Christ in full surrender to his authority as King of the kingdom of heaven. Matthew never soft peddles the message. He’s not selling this, he’s proclaiming it. The kingdom of heaven is not for cowards, but for committed followers who will obey the master faithfully with humble hearts and full assurance of faith. Matthew will strip away religious facades and expose the hearts of those who come to Jesus. He is as serious here as life and death.
So, how should we listen to Matthew today? I’ve tried to commit this chapter to heart, and will attempt to tell it as if I am Matthew sharing what Jesus said, knowing that the Master’s words will build up the church to courage and faithful obedience to Christ and prepare us to enter into the glory of heaven.
Pray with me as we begin: Heavenly Father, we have come into your presence together to worship and hear your words to us. Please help us. Impress us with your message of truth spoken first by Jesus Christ, your Son, and preserved for us through the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to your servant Matthew. May we hear the call and humbly bow. May we take up the cause of Christ with courage and commitment that this message from you demands of us. May we live these words, Oh Lord, and not just listen with forgetful ears and minds. Please help us. This we pray through the Name of Jesus Christ who is our Lord and Master, King and Redeemer, Teacher and Leader, Savior and Sacrifice… Amen.
(Recite Matthew 5)
Matthew records this sermon of Jesus and we have called it the Sermon on the Mount. For almost 2000 years men and women have studied these words and have pondered them. Jesus gives us the highest ethical standards in the world. His teachings are simply the greatest, most challenging teachings of all time. Jesus words here in chapter 5 begin with blessed and end with perfect.
Having shared the chapter in full, let us turn our attention to the very last sections. We will see how it applies to the whole message. Verse 43 is the first time he uses the word love in his sermon, but I would argue that he’s been talking about the meaning of walking in God’s love all along. Here at the end of the chapter he brings it all to a head.
Let’s look at verses 43-48 again.
It appears that those who do this had to practice what was in the very first part of Jesus’ sermon. In order to love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for those who persecute you… well, you’d have to be pretty pour in spirit, you’d experience mourning, you’d of necessity demonstrate meekness, you’d certainly need to deeply desire righteousness, and in doing so practice mercy, this would require a pure heart, and perhaps above all, one who sought peace making as the highest goal. And look again at verse 9 and verse 45: Jesus wants us to be sons of our Father in heaven! That would best describe Jesus Christ himself!
What does love in our world look like? What do the songs say about love these days?
Jesus shows us that the most powerful force in our universe is God’s love. Paul wrote to the Ephesians 3: 14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height; 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.