Sermon on the mount
Matthew 6:1-4 (12)
So far, in this sermon Jesus began by giving us the characteristics of a Christian, the kingdom citizen, in ‘the beatitudes’. He then went on to show their influence upon the world, ‘salt and light,’ and how they are to live according to God`s law with a ‘righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees’. Chapter five finishes with that incredible command, ‘Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.’ When people say ‘I`m not religious,’ and by that mean they follow no particular religious practice, I usually respond, ‘I`m not religious, I`m a Christian.’ Am I right to say that without clarification? We know we are not saved by what we do but, because we are saved, there must be a practical out-working of what we profess in our daily living. In this section Jesus teaches on three important aspects of our ‘religious’ life. Most religions regard these as pillars of their faith but what must be different for the Christian is the motivation. Read the rest of this entry »
Matthew 5:43-48 (11)
Jesus has shown, in comparing the righteousness of the Pharisees with that of the kingdom citizen, that unless something dramatic has happened within us this is an impossible standard to achieve. Here, in this last of His six comparisons, He reaches the summit of what the kingdom citizen is to be, perfect.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour’ and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (5:43-48) (NKJV) Read the rest of this entry »
Matthew 5:38-42 (10)
Let us remind ourselves that Jesus is illustrating how our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. He reveals a completely different set of attitudes to what had become the norm, both then and now. Attitudes; of the heart, the seat of hatred and lust, of commitment, to marriage and to our word, and He finishes with our attitude towards those who would use or abuse us. At this point many must have thought He had lost His marbles.
‘You have heard it said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.’ (5:38-42)
Matthew 5:33-37 (9)
Jesus continues His logical progression through what had become the Pharisees interpretation of the Law of Moses to show how the righteousness of the kingdom citizen must exceed theirs. We have reached the point where I think the Pharisees must have been feeling very uncomfortable. They thought they were law keepers, ‘par excellence’, but Jesus had shown them just how they conveniently re-interpreted the command to suit themselves. His next illustration shows their hypocrisy regarding oaths.
Matthew 5:31-32 (8)
Jesus continues to show how the righteousness of the citizen of the kingdom is to surpass that of the Pharisee, moving quite naturally from lust to divorce.
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” (5:31-32)
The statistics on the number of divorces in the UK are depressing, if not frightening, and very few families are spared being involved in some way in the fall-out of divorces including now many Christians. The very deep wounds that this subject can open up has caused many Bible commentators to decline to comment on passages like this. However, since Jesus was not afraid to speak about it neither should we be.
Matthew 5:27-30 (7)
We saw from Jesus` first example that the root of all sin is the heart, not the pump that takes blood round our bodies, but used in the sense of being the centre of every desire, emotion and action. In His second example, on how the citizen of the kingdom is to let his light shine and exhibit a righteousness beyond that of the Pharisee, Jesus takes us to the core of sexual sin and the radical way that we must deal with it.
Matthew 5:21-26 (6)
We continue to follow Jesus` preaching on the characteristics of the citizens of the kingdom, we see Him expounding on what He means regarding our righteousness exceeding that of the Pharisees. He introduces six examples with, “You have heard that it was said” followed by “But I tell you”. Who had said long ago? If He meant Moses, was He at odds with what Moses had said? Definitely not! Jesus had just said, “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices them and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (v19) Had Jesus been referring to the Mosaic Law He would have said ‘It is written!’ not “You have heard that it was said”.
Matthew 5:17-20 (5)
Jesus has introduced us to the citizens of the kingdom, the ‘blessed’ ones, and told us that they would have a positive influence on the world around them using the analogy of “salt and light.” Before leaving the subject we should think how practically and positively we can influence our world. It is easy to think that we can make no significant difference because we are so few but it is only a little salt that flavours, not a bucket full, and one small light makes a major impact in the darkness. Seeing the Bible`s prediction that the world will get worse coming true and doing nothing is to misunderstand our role as citizens of the kingdom who are to be salt and light. Do you remember the story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody? ‘Something needed doing. Everybody thought Somebody should do it. Anybody could have done it but Nobody did’. It is said that evil prospers when the good do nothing. How will a voice for biblical standards be heard if we do not speak out for truth, righteousness and justice whenever the need arises? Perhaps to support and pray for those who have the ear of politicians, such as the Evangelical Alliance, etc. However, let us not become professional complainers otherwise no one will listen and let us make sure that the issues are those which offend God, not just us. Read the rest of this entry »
Having shown the characteristics of the citizens of the Kingdom and that persecution is most probable Jesus now tells us about the influence they should have on the world around them. ‘These two figures show that there must be something marked, distinct, and peculiar about our character, if we are true Christians.’ (J C Ryle) Both salt and light are different from their surroundings but they react with them.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matt 5:13) Read the rest of this entry »
Part 3 of a series on The Sermon On The Mount by John Lavric
When Moses was on Mount Sinai he asked to see God but the only revelation of God he was allowed was to be put in a crevice in the rock while God shielded him with His hand while He passed by, then Moses was able to see God`s back. Moses was perhaps the most respected Israelite, yet even he was restricted in this aspect. So as we come to our next beatitude, one which I think rolls off the tongue far too easily without much thought of the amazing thing that Jesus is saying.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (vs. 8) Read the rest of this entry »