Summary: This chapter, and the two that follow it, are the longest and fullest continued discourses of our Savior that we have in all the gospels.
The Preaching of the King
This chapter, and the two that follow it, are the longest and fullest continued discourse of our Savior that we have in all the gospels. The many miraculous cures wrought by Jesus in Galilee were intended to make way for this sermon, and to prepare the people to receive instructions from one in whom there appeared to be a divine power and goodness. This sermon was probably a summary of what Jesus had preached in the synagogues of Galilee..
The sermon is preached on a mountain in Galilee. As in other things our Lord Jesus had no convenient place to preach in, any more than to lay His head on. While the scribes and Pharisees had Moses’ chair to sit in, with all possible ease, honor, and state, and there corrupted the law; our Lord Jesus, the great Teacher of truth, is out on a mountain seated on a nard rock or the stump of a tree. The sermon is an exposition of the law. The law was given to Moses upon a mountain. The difference is when the law was given the Lord came down upon the mountain, now the Lord goes up on a mountain. On Mount Sinai He spoke with thunder and lightning. On this mountain in Galilee there is no thunder or lightning. When the law was given to Moses the people were told to keep their distance; now they are invited to draw near. To this mountain we are called to learn to offer the sacrifices of righteousness.
The Sermon on the Mount does not present the way of salvation but the way of righteous living for those who are in the family of God. It is a contrast between the new way with the old way of the scribes and the Pharisees, a detailed explanation of the call to repent. It is a comparison between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. It is for the benefit of the disciples of Jesus because they are to teach others and it is necessary that they have a clear and distinct knowledge of these things. Although this discourse was directed to the disciples, it was in the hearing of a multitude. On this mountain in Galilee no bounds were set about it to keep the people off it as it was about Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:12). The good news is through Jesus we have access to God, not only to speak to Him, but to hear from Him. The duties prescribed in this sermon are to be conscientiously performed by all those that enter the kingdom of heaven.
When Jesus had placed himself so as to be best heard He taught the disciples and the people according to the promise in Isaiah 54:13. He taught them what evil they should avoid, and what was the good they should do. He begins His sermon with blessings because He came into this world to bless us as the great High Priest of our profession. In Him all the families of the earth are blessed. He came not only to purchase salvation for us, but to pour out and pronounce blessings on us; and in this sermon He does it as one having authority, as one that can command the blessing that have been promised to the believers. The Old Testament ended with a curse (Malachi 4:6), the gospel begins with blessings and each of the blessings has a double intention. They identify those who are to be accounted truly happy, and what their characters are. This is designed to rectify the ruinous mistakes of a blind and carnal world. Happiness is the thing which men pretend to pursue. But most mistake the end, and form a wrong conclusion and then wonder why they missed what true happiness is. As well as the general opinion the happy are the strong and rich, the great and honorable men and women in the world.
In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord Jesus corrects this error and advances a new way of life. He gives us a different idea of happiness and happy people, which, however paradoxical it may appear it is in itself a rule and doctrine of eternal truth and certainty, by which we must shortly be judged. The sermon is designed to remove the discouragements of the weak and poor who receive the gospel, by assuring them that His gospel does not make only those that are widely known and honored for the gifts, graces, and comforts they have received, but that even the least in the kingdom of heaven whose heart is right in the sight of God can find happiness in the kingdom of heaven.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us what God expects from us, and what we may expect from Him. No where in the Bible is this more fully set before us and in fewer words than in this sermon or a more exact reference to what God expects from us and what we may expect from Him. This is the good news which we are required to believe and conform to. The highway to happiness is here opened and it comes from the mouth of Jesus Christ.