Summary: This is the introduction to one of the most powerful sermons ever taught or preached. Jesus gives the hearer the basis of what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Christ. It represents the whole of the Christian character.
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.