Summary: Sermon 9 in a study in the Sermon on the Mount
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Each year in Pamplona, Spain, during the week-long festival held for the patron saint of that town, there is the running of the bulls. By now I’m sure all of us have seen news coverage of this wild race since the media loves to cover anything that is dazzling and spectacular.
And what could be more potentially disastrous than a bunch of geniuses running through narrow streets with no avenue of escape, barely ahead of a herd of confused, angry bulls with horns and hooves?
In fact there is really no reason for the media to make that trip every year for new footage. It always looks exactly the same from the vantage point of our sofas and breakfast bars. A large number of guys dressed primarily in white, with maybe an occasional red sash around the waist, frantically trying to avoid an equally large number of bulls, some of them falling and getting up as fast as they can, some trying to scamper over adobe walls, some disappearing under the rushing wave of bovine flesh.
Now I do not intend to try and apply some detailed analogy to base my whole sermon on with this. I just wanted to refresh that vision in your own minds as we begin to look at these verses of study today because as we go I want to paint another picture in your minds that also came to me in my study, which resulted then in my remembrance of those scenes from Pamplona.
Let’s get the scene in our heads. This won’t be a difficult task, since I would presume that just about all of us already have had this scene in our heads since we began this study. That is, except maybe for those folks whose brains don’t work in pictures. I can’t imagine that because my brain works in pictures. When I’m hearing a story being told I always get a picture of it in my mind.
But we’ve seen the movies, haven’t we? And even here, at the end of chapter four and in the beginning of chapter five we get some help.
“…great multitudes followed Him from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.”
That pretty much covers all of Israel and the regions directly east of Israel and north east of Israel.
So we’re actually talking about a much larger crowd than is displayed in most of the movies. If they made one today they could hire fifty extras, film them sitting in a group on the grass, then copy-paste, copy-paste until it looks like thousands.
But back in the days they did not have that capability and had to pay extras, they’d hire about a hundred people at minimum wage, scatter them out so it would look like more, then film them at angles that would suggest to the viewer that there were still a lot of people out of camera shot.
But we’re talking about thousands of people. It was the time of Jesus’ popularity. Johnston Cheney called it “A Year of Favor”, which preceded the period of confrontation and subsequent rejection.
Now there would have been some Pharisees and Scribes there. They probably got as close as they could so they could listen carefully to every word.
That was a good thing. It was their duty to be there, as those whose duty it was to protect the faith and weed out the heretics.
So is the picture fresh in your mind? A hillside in the country, thousands of men, women and children sitting, standing, climbing nearby trees for a better view. Jesus, sitting down looking down hill at this vast assembly, His disciples sitting around Him and next to Him, religious leaders and lawyers on the front row.
Today they’d have laptops. They’d be wearing their best three-piece suits and smiling and watching very intently to interpret every subtle movement of body language, alert to any little nuance that may cloak a double-meaning, making sure that guy up there tows the line with his words and his message. Because after all, the most important thing is that he, like they, concentrate on being the best Southern Baptist he can be.