Summary: Jesus in the greatest sermon ever preached makes it clear that happiness is the result of holiness.
THE GREATEST SERMON EVER PREACHED Introduction
In 1980 country music singer Johnny Lee landed a number one hit by singing about “looking for love in all the wrong places,” and without a doubt, our world and even some of us have done the same when it comes to looking for happiness.
In Matthew 5-7, the greatest preacher who ever lived delivered the greatest sermon ever preached and made it crystal clear that happiness is the direct result of holiness. Therein seems to lie the problem, because few, even among us, believe that. Like the world, we believe that happiness is found in situations, circumstances, and the accumulation of stuff. We’ve bought the world’s view that power, position, pleasures, and possessions will somehow make us happy. Of course, we deny that because it is the “Christian” thing to do, but the proof is in the pudding – in watching the way we live, in listening to our conversations, in observing our misplaced priorities. Jesus said, ”It just doesn’t work. It never has. It never will.” In short, Jesus makes it clear that the tree of happiness does not grow in or on a cursed earth.
Do you want to be happy? Go ahead and read the myriad of books out there telling you how to find genuine happiness; they certainly won’t hurt. But the key to happiness will not be found in those books. In fact, the key to happiness isn’t even found in the words of Jesus in this sermon. Jesus’ words, whether here or elsewhere, are only that - words. The key is living them, making them a part of your life, your thoughts, your attitudes. The key is taking them to heart. Jesus will end this great sermon (7:24-27) by pointing out that those who hear and practice His words are like a house built on a rock, while those who do not are like a house built on sand. James reminds us (1:22-25) that merely listening to God’s word and not doing it is like one who looks into a mirror, walks away, and forgets what he looks like. In contrast, the man who looks intently into God’s word and does it will be blessed. At issue is not whether or not we know what to do, for often we do. The issue is in doing it, and Jesus’ promise in this sermon is simple: happiness (being blessed) is the result of the pursuit of holiness. Happiness is the end result of what you become. Jesus’ challenge in the Sermon on the Mount is not a challenge to change a few behaviors, but a challenge to radically change one’s entire life and world view. It is a challenge to a standard of living that is completely different from anything the world had ever heard before. It is a challenge to be holy as He is holy.
Before diving into the details of this sermon, the context needs to be explored.
Biblical Context of Sermon
Have you ever considered that the last verse of the Old Testament ends with a curse and the first recorded teaching of Jesus in the New Testament begins with a blessing? Nine times in the first eleven verses of this sermon Jesus tells us how to be blessed. The Greek word is MAKARIOS, and it refers to a state of mind that is totally independent of all the changes and chances of life. It is also a word that describes the nature of God (Psalm 68:35; 72:18; I Timothy 1:11), therefore, a quality of life only those who partake of God’s nature can experience and enjoy.
The world says happiness is found in acquiring, obtaining, building, doing. In contrast, Godly people know that you cannot fill an empty soul with external things, that physical stuff does not meet spiritual needs. As Thomas Watson put it, “Things of this world will no more keep out trouble of spirit than a piece of paper will stop a bullet.” Solomon tried it; it didn’t work for him. Most are following suit. When will we learn?
This sermon counters everything you hear from the slick salesman, see in TV commercials, or read in the magazines. Happiness cannot be found out there and those things will not make you happy. Happiness is an inward condition that is only found in a relationship with and a pursuit of God.
Political Context of Sermon
In the days of Christ the Jews were looking for a Messiah that would lead a revolution and change the political structure of their land. In contrast, Jesus came as an humble servant looking for a place in their hearts and challenging them to love. His emphasized being and His explanation of greatness as found in the first words of this sermon were anything but what they considered great. Humility, mourning, meekness, and persecution just were not on anyone’s top ten list of “Qualities of the Great and Famous.” Jesus obviously had a different kind of kingdom in mind.