A Look at The Sermon on the Mount
Matthew chapters 5–7 is called the Sermon on the Mount because Jesus gave it on a hillside near Capernaum.
This “sermon” probably covered several days of preaching.
In it, Jesus proclaimed His attitude toward the law.
Position, authority, and money are not important in His Kingdom—what matters is faithful obedience from the heart.
The Sermon on the Mount challenged the proud and legalistic religious leaders of the day.
It called them back to the messages of the Old Testament prophets, who, like Jesus, taught that heartfelt obedience is more important than legalistic observance.
Enormous crowds were following Jesus—He was the talk of the town, and everyone wanted to see Him.
The disciples, who were the closest associates of this popular man, were certainly tempted to feel important, proud, and possessive.
Being with Jesus gave them not only prestige but also opportunity for receiving money and power.
The crowds were gathering once again. But before speaking to them, Jesus pulled His disciples aside and warned them about the temptations they would face as His associates.
Don’t expect fame and fortune, Jesus was saying, but mourning, hunger, and persecution.
Nevertheless, Jesus assured His disciples that they would be rewarded—but perhaps not in this life.
There may be times when following Jesus will bring us great popularity.
If we don’t live by Jesus’ words in this sermon, we will find ourselves using God’s message only to promote our personal interests.
The Beatitudes can be understood in at least four ways:
(1) They are a code of ethics for the disciples and a standard of conduct for all believers.
(2) They contrast Kingdom values (what is eternal) with worldly values (what is temporary).
(3) They contrast the superficial “faith” of the Pharisees with the real faith that Christ demands.
(4) They show how the Old Testament expectations will be fulfilled in the new Kingdom.
These Beatitudes are not multiple choice—pick what you like and leave the rest.
They must be taken as a whole. They describe what we should be like as Christ’s followers.
Each beatitude tells how to be blessed by God.
Being blessed means more than happiness. It implies the fortunate or enviable state of those who are in God’s Kingdom.
The Beatitudes don’t promise laughter, pleasure, or earthly prosperity.
Being “blessed” by God means the experience of hope and joy, independent of outward circumstances.
To find hope and joy, the deepest form of happiness, follow Jesus no matter what the cost.
With Jesus’ announcement that the Kingdom was near (Matt 4:17), people were naturally asking, “How do I qualify to be in God’s Kingdom?”
Jesus said that God’s Kingdom is organized differently from worldly kingdoms.
In the Kingdom of Heaven, wealth and power and authority are unimportant.
Kingdom people seek different blessings and benefits, and they have different attitudes.
Are your attitudes a carbon copy of the world’s selfishness, pride, and lust for power, or do they reflect the humility and self-sacrifice of Jesus, your King?
Jesus began His sermon with words that seem to contradict each other.
But God’s way of living usually contradicts the world’s.
If you want to live for God, you must be ready to say and do what seems strange to the world.
You must be willing to give when others take, to love when others hate, to help when others abuse.
By giving up your own rights in order to serve others, you will one day receive everything God has in store for you.
Jesus said to be happy when we’re persecuted for our faith.
Persecution can be good because:
(1) it takes our eyes off earthly rewards,
(2) it strips away superficial belief,
(3) it strengthens the faith of those who endure, and
(4) our attitude through it serves as an example to others who follow.
We can be comforted knowing that God’s greatest prophets were persecuted (Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel).
The fact that we are being persecuted proves that we have been faithful; faithless people would be unnoticed.
In the future God will reward the faithful by receiving them into His eternal Kingdom, where there is no more persecution.
Jesus also calls Christians the light of the world.
He spoke of Himself as “the light of the world” (John 8:12; 12:35, 36, 46).
The relationship between these two statements is that Jesus is the source of light; Christians are the reflection of His light.
Their function is to shine for Him just as the moon reflects the glory of the sun.
The Christian is like a city that is set on a hill: it is elevated above its surroundings and it shines in the midst of darkness.
Those whose lives exhibit the traits of Christ’s teaching cannot be hidden.
People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on a lampstand so that it will give light to all who are in the house.
He did not intend that we hoard the light of His teaching for ourselves, but that we share it with others.
We should let our light so shine that as people see our good works, they will glorify our Father in heaven.
The emphasis is on the ministry of Christian character.
The winsomeness of lives in which Christ is seen speaks louder than the persuasion of words.
In these verses Jesus used the emphatic “you,” and again clearly stated that this is already what a believer is, not something he might become.
It is the nature of a kingdom servant to be light in the world.
Any believer who fails to function as light is going against His nature as God’s new creation.
The believer has no light inherent in himself.
The believer’s light is a reflected light.
Believers are to make certain that nothing comes between them and their source of light (2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 2:13-16).
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
With regard to what immediately follows in Matthew 5:14-15, St. Augustine said:
“That you may be children of your Father who is in heaven,”
it is to be understood in the sense in which John also speaks when he says,
‘He gave them the power of becoming children of God’ [Jn 1:12].
For there is One who is the Son by nature, and He absolutely knows no sin.
But since we have received the power to become sons, we are made sons insofar as we fulfill the precepts that have been given by the Son.
‘Adoption’ is the term used by the apostle to denote the character of our vocation to the eternal inheritance, in order to be joint heirs with Christ [see Gal 4:4-5].
By spiritual regeneration we therefore become sons and are adopted into the kingdom of God, not as aliens but as His creatures and offspring.”
— Augustine of Hippo (430-354 BC)
Jesus goes on to say in verse 14,
“But to those of you who will listen, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…”
When Jesus said we are to love our enemies, He was creating a new standard for relationships.
He proclaimed to the crowds listening to His Sermon on the Mount that they knew they were to love their neighbor because the command to love our neighbor was a law of God (Leviticus 19:18).
That we must therefore hate our enemy was an inference incorrectly drawn from it by the Jews.
While no Bible verse explicitly says “hate your enemy,” the Pharisees may have somewhat misapplied some of the Old Testament passages about hatred for God’s enemies (Psalm 139:19-22; 140:9-11).
But Jesus replaced this idea with an even higher standard:
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).
Jesus goes on to explain that loving those who love us is easy and even unbelievers can do that.
Then He commands us to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
Jesus explained to His followers that they should adhere to the real meaning of God’s law by loving their enemies as well as their neighbors.
A Pharisee once asked Jesus,
“Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).
Jesus then told the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Here Jesus taught that His followers must demonstrate love to all kinds of people—no matter what faith, nationality, or personality—enemies included.
If you love your enemies and “pray for those who persecute you,” you then truly reveal that Jesus is Lord of your life.
By using an illustration of the sun rising and the rain falling on both the good and the evil, Jesus shows God’s undiscriminating love to all people.
His disciples then must reflect His character and exhibit this same undiscriminating love for both friends and enemies.
Jesus is teaching us that we must live by a higher standard than what the world expects—a standard that is impossible for us to attain by our own efforts.
It’s only through the power of God’s Spirit that His people can truly love and pray for those who intend to do them harm (Romans 12:14-21).
Saturday, March 26, 2022
PRAYING FOR OUR ENEMIES
“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good.”
Why would Jesus command this in the Sermon on the Mount? And why would Paul command us to bless those who persecute us?”
Because our enemies are people who need a saving relationship with Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23).
By praying for our enemies and not just those who love us and think like us (Matthew 5:46-47), our own hearts soften.
Without harboring anger or malice toward our enemies, we are free to follow Jesus for His glory, to the amazement of a watching world.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who stood up to the Nazis, was imprisoned, and was executed in a concentration camp at the end of World War 2.
He understood well the challenge it was in his heart to love his enemies.
He said, “The enemy was no mere abstraction for the disciples. They knew him too well.
They were those who hated them for leaving all they had for Jesus’ sake” (1937).
Jesus didn’t just present these commands to us. He lived them out and even prayed while on the cross for those who were crucifying Him (Luke 23:34).
“It is possible to move men through God, by prayer alone.” (Hudson Taylor, 1832-1905)
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