By LOU TISCIONE
Matthew chapters 5-7 record the greatest sermon ever preached. Most are familiar with the beginning verses which contain the “Beatitudes.” There have been several views suggested for Jesus’ sermon. In his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, Dr. James Montgomery Boice described past understandings of Jesus’ purpose in this sermon.
For example, the social gospel movement used the sermon as the basis to focus the church on social justice. The leaders of the movement saw the sermon as the impetus to bring an end to oppression and injustice in the culture. Over the years, politicians have adopted this view in promoting their agendas by appealing to Jesus’ words of the Sermon on the Mount.
In addition to the social gospel view there are three other misunderstandings of Jesus’ purpose in delivering the Sermon on the Mount. First, the sermon is seen as another delivery of commands from on high. As Moses received the 10 Commandments, so Jesus gave an expanded version of the commands of God.
Second, the Sermon on the Mount is seen as impossible commands. Since Jesus’ commands are impossible to keep, this view understood Jesus’ teaching in the sermon to be not applicable to Christians.
Third, early Dispensationalism understood the sermon to be the foundation upon which the Messianic Kingdom would be established. They suggest that the teachings of Jesus given in the Sermon are for a future age.
In contrast to the views above, I believe that there are four direct applications for the church. First, the Sermon on the Mount reveals the absolute necessity of the “new birth,” otherwise known as being born again, or more accurately regeneration. Second, as is the case for all Scripture, the Sermon on the Mount points us to Jesus.
Third, the sermon reveals the way of blessing. Fourth and finally, the teachings given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount tell Christians how they might please the Father.
In summary, the Sermon on the Mount is Christ’s ethic. It details how He lived. As you read the sermon know that Jesus fulfilled every aspect of His teaching in it. Therefore, the main purpose of Jesus’ teaching is to drive every Christian to his knees in dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
“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 ...” (Matthew 5:1-2)
The beginning of Matthew Chapter 5 records the setting. The setting reveals the source, significance, and intended recipients of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus saw the crowds gathering and went up on the mountain. The crowds were gathering because of Jesus teaching and healing, as stated at the end of Chapter 4. The press of the crowds led Jesus to go up on a mountainside. Matthew didn’t identify the specific mountain. The main point was to show Jesus’ sovereign authority. He was sent from the Father and He taught as one who had authority!
The following five observations help us to understand Jesus’ teaching in its revealed context:
1. Jesus saw the crowds.
2. He went up on the mountain.
3. He sat down.
4. His disciples came to Him.
5. Jesus taught His disciples.
The mountain may have been in the region of Chorazin. Matthew didn’t specify which mountain. The significance is not in the exact mountain but that Jesus went up on it. The idea of a mountain was significant to the Jews.
God delivered the 10 Commandments from Mt. Sinai. So this description gives the impression that God was delivering His word from on high.
As I think of mountains, I immediately think of majesty. The Lord of Majesty, Jesus, sat down in a setting appropriate to His sovereign Lordship. Sitting down was the posture of a master teacher in the ancient world. So the Master of all sat down to teach from on high.
The first three observations concern where Jesus spoke and the significance of His posture. The final two observations concern Jesus’ intended recipients of His teaching.
His disciples came to Him and He taught them. The Sermon on the Mount had as its primary audience Jesus’ disciples. By implication, all that is contained is for followers of Jesus.
Next … “The Beatitudes.”
Lou Tiscione is pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA).