The Sermon on the Mount is a message of Jesus recorded in Matthew 5-7. It’s probably the best know part of Jesus’ teaching. John Stott explains, “It is the nearest thing to a manifesto that Jesus ever uttered, for it is His own description of what He wanted His followers to be and do.” In the sermon, Jesus presents a picture of Christian culture that is very different than what our society offers.
In its context, the sermon describes repentance, the change of mind, and righteousness that belongs to the kingdom and, therefore, the believer. It explains what life looks like when Jesus is recognized and received as Savior and Lord. Within its teaching, we discover the most complete description in the New Testament of genuine Christian culture.
The sermon is introduced to us in Matthew very simply, “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying…” (Matt 5:1-2). Picture the setting with me. A large crowd is following Jesus. He “went up on the mountain,” which is a large hill known as Karn Hattin, located near Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee. Numerous scholars have compared the “mountain” here to Mount Sinai, where God through Moses first taught His ethics by delivering the Law.
Jesus “sat down,” assuming the posture of a rabbi [teacher] and “His disciples came to Him,” to listen to His teaching. We read in verse two, “Jesus opened His mouth and taught them.” We, like them, are to listen to the instruction of Christ. To listen to Jesus is to hear, yield, and follow. After all, a disciple of Jesus is one who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and committed to the mission of Jesus.
How do we listen to Jesus? To rightly listen to the instruction of Christ, we must be willing and prepared to listen and receive. It would be worth your time to explore the parable of the sower recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Matt 13:3-8, 18-23; Mk 4:3-8, 14-20; Lk 8:5-8, 11-15). The good news is that God has given us the ability to choose how we will respond to His instruction.
To rightly listen to the instruction of Christ, we must also listen with an understanding of His purpose (see: John 17, Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer). Christ’s purpose for coming, teaching, and dying on the cross was to glorify the father by pointing to the way of salvation and living the joy-filled life promised to all who receive Him as Savior and Lord. The basics of Jesus’ teaching are profound yet simple enough for a child to understand. Jesus taught that He is the fulfillment of messianic prophecy, is the promised One. Salvation is found in Him and Him alone. Here it is in a nutshell; Jesus came to die in our stead for our salvation and taught us how to be saved and live as believers.
Lastly, to rightly listen to the instruction of Christ, we must listen determined to obey (see: Matt 21:28-31). It’s not enough to know God’s word and go to church; genuine believers follow Christ by living in obedience to the Lord. Our following may not be perfect, but our intent can be as we become more and more like Christ.
The culture and righteousness that Christ describes in the Sermon on the Mount is an inner righteousness demonstrated outwardly and visibly in words and deeds. Such a life can only be lived when found in Christ, receiving Him as Savior and Lord, filled, empowered, and led by His Spirit. Oswald Chambers explains:
“If Jesus is a teacher only, then all He can do is to tantalize us by erecting a standard we cannot come anywhere near. But if by being born again from above we know Him first as Savior, we know that He did not come to teach us only. He came to make us what He teaches we should be. The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us.”
I really like those last words of Chambers, “the Holy Spirit having His way with us.” I challenge you to take some time to read through The Sermon on the Mount. Before you do, let me encourage you to take a moment to pray and commit yourself to listen to God with a willing spirit, understanding heart, and a mindset determined to listen and obey. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!