THE MINISTRY OF MESSIAH (10)
The Sermon on the Mount
In considering the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, we do well to remember that they had a primary application to the Apostles. After the resurrection of Christ, a great work lay before them, that of preaching the gospel throughout the world, a work which was accompanied by the severest persecution. Jesus therefore during those three and a half years in which he was intimately associated with them, was preparing them for this great work.
When Jesus spoke he addressed the multitude in the presence of his disciples, who were closely assembled around him with the multitude beyond. Among the disciples would have been the Apostles. This was the case with the Sermon on the Mount given during his Galilean Ministry which we are considering at present. The Sermon on the Mount occupies Matthew chapters. 5, 6 and 7.
The things which Jesus teaches on the Sermon on the Mount are a complete contrast to the way of life of the Pharisees. Hence Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:20:
These words show that religious formalism is not acceptable to God.
As you will see from the division of Christ’s words Christ emphasizes 7 qualities and 2 consequences of those which are still blessings. It appears that there is a progression in these blessings.
Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. This is defined in Isa.66:2.
Let us also look at Psalm 34:18.
Those who are poor in spirit suffer affliction so they mourn, hence Jesus’s words “Blessed are they that mourn”. When we mourn we learn to endure all things with an even temper. This leads to meekness. Meekness however is not weakness. Moses was meek before Yahweh but strong before men. Nevertheless he endured all things with an even temper. This is true meekness. When we develop that true meekness towards God, then we hunger and thirst after God’s righteousness. The more we behold God’s righteousness, the more we are conscious of our own wretchedness and manifest the quality of mercy towards others. Conscious of our own failings and the failings of others, we desire to be “pure in heart”. Moreover we learn to be peacemakers. But the consequence of these things is that they lead to us being persecuted for righteousness and of being accused wrongfully. Although Jesus manifested all these qualities he was persecuted for righteousness sake and falsely accused. So with us brethren and sisters. In the measure that we manifest these qualities we shall suffer these things. Hence the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Tim.2:8-13
Let us keep in mind that these words were primarily intended for the Apostles, but have a secondary implication to us insofar as we show the same dedication as the Apostles. Their manifestation of these qualities we have considered leads on to three important factors in v.13-20.
Jesus continues in the Sermon on the Mount;“Ye are the salt of the earth”. Salt was associated with all the sacrifices, the heave offerings which the children of Israel offered unto Yahweh for the priests and with the covenant. For our speech to be seasoned with salt it must reflect a life of sacrifice. Although our speech is towards others it must be directed towards Christ our high priest and it must reflect our association with the new covenant. Hence the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Cor.2:15-17.
It was not the scribes and Pharisees but the unlearned Galilean Apostles who were to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. A distinction should be made between the “good works” of v.16 and the alms of ch.6:1 which were to be done in secret. The Apostles let the light of the truth shine forth from them and as we know “turned the world upside down”. It is a work of God to believe on Christ and to manifest this belief before men, but it should be done in such a way that men glorify God. There is an example of this in Acts 14:11 & 15 (possibly refer to this only).
So with us brethren and sisters, we should let the light of the truth shine forth from us in such a way that men glorify God. This is shown in 1 Pet. 3:15-17:
But they were to remember that Christ was a fulfilment of the law and it was to be upheld by them until all was fulfilled. When all was fulfilled by Christ the law was to pass away. This took place in AD 70 when the Mosaic “heavens and earth” passed away (note v18).
As we have said these words of Christ were a complete contrast to the way of life of the Pharisees. Hence Christ’s words in Matt.5:20:
Christ now enunciates ten principles, five of which we propose to deal with here.
He firstly deals with love of our brethren. He shows here that our attitude to our brethren and sisters is most important. Our motives and words are seen by Christ as actions. To use terms of vilification towards our brethren and sisters shows a lack of understanding of the truth, for we fail to appreciate that they are God’s children and one day we hope to be in the kingdom with them. We should lay down our lives for one another, loving in deed and in truth, our objective being to help one another to attain to the kingdom. This was the objective of the Apostle Paul as we see from 1 Thess. 2:19-20.
Our state of mind when we come to the breaking of bread is very important. We should not come to the love feast of hate in our mind or use it to attack our brethren and sisters. Any instant, where has ought against another should be settled beforehand, otherwise it is better not to partake of the emblems. Moreover we should take care not to be the cause of another person’s anger and avoid situations which will bring evil upon us provided of course that we do not compromise the truth. Let us look at Prov. 15:1.
The second principle in Matt 5:27-30 is very heart searching. The harbouring of evil thoughts may be a problem with some more than others. I know it is a problem with myself. Clearly we are not intended to amputate limbs, but to cut off the truth which can lead to the action. This is explained in Rom.6:6-13.
The words of James are very relevant: 1:12-15. How important it is that we fill our minds with that wisdom which comes from above (Jas.3:17-18).
It was when David went out to be at the battlefront with Joab that he failed with Bathsheba. How important it is that we are engaged in the warfare of the truth;
The third principle concerns the love of our wife (Matt.5:32).
These words were possibly by Christ because of the Pharisees who were widening the laws of divorce allowing it for the most trivial of causes. It appears to me that here Jesus is placing the responsibility upon the husband. The husband who puts away his wife causes her to commit adultery.
The next principle covers swearing. A helpful verse is Matt.5:34:
The words in Jas.4:13-17 are also helpful.
The important thing is that we acknowledge Yahweh in all our ways, then he will direct our paths.
The fifth principle is non-resistance to evil. All of these teachings of the master are rooted in the Old Testament but this is particularly so of this pricinciple as we see from Lev.19:18.
The principle of Matt.5:40 is shown in 1 Cor. 6:7.
These verses go against our natural inclinations particularly Matt.5:44:
Where we fail to follow the words of Jesus then our conduct can be a hindrance to the great work of others. This worthy objective must override our feelings so that we suffer wrong for the sake of the truth.