Summary: The Sermon on the Mount describes the Christian’s character and way of life. In the concluding verses Jesus gives tests to see if we are really in the Kingdom; on the ’narrow way’
It’s about six months ago now, since we had a holiday in a caravan in Burnham Market. A lot of you may know Burnham Market, because it’s a place where a lot of people from Newark go for their holidays. Now, we’d never been to this particular caravan site before, so we asked for directions there, and the lady whose caravan it was, said, “Well, which way are you going?” We said “Through King’s Lynn”, and she said, “Well, you go through the village till you come to the Burnham Garage and past the pub just beyond it till you come to some white railings, then you turn down Back Street and then take the cinder path. Well, of course we went to King’s Lynn then carried on till we came to the signpost to Burnham Market, we came to a garage and almost straightaway we were driving out of the village! Clearly something had gone wrong! The directions were perfectly good, but there are two roads into Burnham Market, and we took the wrong one,and we had missed out way totally. We had come in from the wrong direction.
I think that story has got a little bit of bearing on the reading we’ve been hearing this morning, because in the preceding chapters of Matthew Jesus had been describing the way of life in the Kingdom of God. He had been describing the values of the Kingdom of God. The point here; the point which he’s now going to apply in the reading we heard this morning is that unless you are in the Kingdom, all these values are of no use. The way of the Kingdom, the life of the Kingdom is totally revolutionary. It’s totally against way the world around us would expect us to live. The world values things which are against the values of the Kingdom. And it’s possible to think we are in the Kingdom of God, yet not to really be in it. It’s not something we get to just by simple trying to live out the Kingdom values; values described in the Sermon on the Mount. Paul, when he was giving his defence tom the Roman emperor Agrippa, said that God had “translated him from the Kingdom of Satan to that of his dear Son.” We come into the Kingdom as God translates us from the one to the other. And when we are in the Kingdom of God, then these words which precede what we heard this morning and are in Matthew chapters five, six and seven describe the way of life of the Kingdom and its values.
So many people today take these words, and try and make them a sort of manifesto of a way of living. But they are not words that can just be taken on their own. They are not just a way of life which Jesus lays down for the people of this world to follow. And what is coming to really be the application of the Sermon on the Mount, he puts various tests before us, so that we might know if we are in the Kingdom or not.
In verses 15 to 19 of chapter seven, what he is really saying is that pay come saying they are the heralds of God, but the test is:Is the fruit of what they say seen to be applicable in their lives, and as they claim to speak the word of God, has it happened. But much more generally, I would think, Jesus is saying, Do our lives bear fruit which show they are those in the Kingdom? I think we can make a slightly different comparison. If you compare gooseberries with grapes, they look the same, but one tastes good and sweet, the other, if you put it in your mouth tastes sour and sharp. Do our lives produce that sweet taste which God finds sweet, or are our lives bitter? Do our deeds give honour to God? Do we hunger and thirst for righteousness? Do we live lives which follow God’s way of righteousness? Do we know our own spiritual poverty, deeply lost without Him? If we try and live our lives on our own, then everything will go horribly wrong. Isaiah was one of God’s prophets, and we read in his book, chapter five, how he said “Woe” to various groups of people; “Woe to you” for doing this, that or the other. Then in chapter six, Isaiah has this vision of God in the Temple, and after that vision he says, “Woe to me, because I am a man of unclean lips, dwelling in a people of unclean lips” He had seen God as He was and that his own life was wrong.
The angel came and touched him with the living coal and he was cleansed.