Our time is one of extraordinary change. The virus has altered the daily life of everyone on the planet. We have new systems in place, new routines to develop, even new values emerging.
Over the next few weeks I want to unpack a passage of scripture that should help us refocus our view of life around us. Jesus called us to live his way in this new world. What will that look like? Whether we are dealing with Covid 19 virus restrictions, shifting cultural norms, or political upheaval, the believer is given a picture of how to live in a fallen world. This standard comes straight from the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5-7.
These chapters, known as the Sermon on the Mount (first acknowledged in literature as a unified sermon by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430AD), are full of practical, yet challenging, depictions of daily life. This sermon of Jesus was intended not as vision of heavenly existence, but rather of life here and now when submitting to him as King.
One misinterpretation of the Sermon of the Mount is to read these chapters as a conveyor belt of guilt. With subheadings such as Anger, Lust, Divorce, Retaliation, Loving your Enemies (just to look at Chapter 5), it could be easy to see this sermon as Jesus’s list of ways we don’t measure up. While it is true that we all fail, Jesus didn’t come to condemn, but rather to save! (John 3:17) The Sermon on the Mount must be read in light of Jesus’s invitation to a real relationship. As we submit to the King in a relationship, the Sermon on the Mount reveals a grand picture of kingdom life motivated by that relationship. Kingdom life is not about performance of rules, but rather a process of growing in Christlikeness. Toward the end of this sermon in Matthew 7:23 Jesus highlights this by acknowledging that many people will call him “Lord, Lord” but at the end of the day it is all about relationship and he will say “Depart, I never knew you.”
To believers reading this, we see a clear call to get to work. Be on display. If there was ever a time the world needs to see the church taking Jesus’s teachings seriously, it is now. The church needs to be that influence (salt and light, 5:13-16) in a world that is desperate for something real. We need to pray for God’s will to be done HERE as it is in Heaven (6:10). With so much changing in our world we must model how we build our house on the rock, not shifting sand (7:24-28).
While we may benefit from many sermons and never personally know the preacher, which is totally fine, that is not the case with the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon’s power is inextricably linked to a relationship to the Preacher. Without knowing him you will never really know what the Sermon on the Mount is truly about. Jesus is the King and as his subjects submit to his authority we find a new way to live in our crazy changing world.
Next week I will be looking at the upside-down value system of God’s Kingdom revealed by Jesus’s first topic as we go bit by bit through this text. May the Master Preacher help us refocus our view of reality through his words!