In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus introduces us to the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the same thing that He means when He says the Kingdom of God. The Gospel of Matthew, where we find the Sermon on the Mount, was written primarily to a Jewish audience. Many scholars and theologians believe that Matthew used the “Kingdom of Heaven” phrase to show sensitivity towards the Jews, who so revered the name of God that they found it disrespectful to write it. With this in mind, it is important that we try to understand what Jesus was talking about. What is the Kingdom?
A simple way to define the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven, is that it’s the rule and reign of God in the lives of His people. Jesus came on the scene of human history during a time of kingdoms and empires. The Jewish people were under the brutal rule of Rome. They longed for a leader, a messiah, to come and reverse this horrible situation. They wanted a conquering warrior-king to be the messiah. What they didn’t understand was Jesus absolutely was a conquering warrior. He would ultimately conquer sin and death. The victory would be the greatest of all time, and would have eternal significance. His rightful Kingdom, however, would uniquely be in people brought from death to life by His power.
Jesus teaches us in His great sermon what it looks like to live out His Kingdom. All true followers of Jesus will more and more orient their lives to His Kingdom. It was all quite confusing to the Pharisees, Herod, and Pontius Pilate to hear this country carpenter from tiny Nazareth speak of His Kingdom. There was no visible palace or throne. They didn’t understand that Jesus’ Kingdom was being established in the heart of every person who truly believed in Him.
To live the Sermon on the Mount lifestyle is to turn your life to the direction of the Kingdom. In this life, we must choose what Kingdom we will build. We make small and large decisions every day that reveal which one we’re building. In Matthew 5-7, Jesus gives us the speech of eternity as He shows what a Kingdom oriented life looks like. May we all by His power choose the right one.
In the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7, Jesus teaches us a way of life that is so radically different from normal human activity that living it out is like trying to write with your weak hand. When I was in the 3rd grade, I had a nasty fall playing in my grandparents’ front yard. I immediately knew something was badly wrong, but only when I stood up did I fully realize that my arm was broken…..specifically, my elbow was crushed into several pieces. It was my right arm, and I had to spend several miserable months with my arm in a cast. This forced me to do all of my school work with my weak hand….my left one. It was so frustratingly hard to do! My work looked horrible and my handwriting was unreadable. Simply put, it was completely unnatural.
This is exactly what we feel when we first get a look at the life Jesus is calling us to live in His famous speech. Matthew 5:13-16 shows us that through faith in Jesus His followers are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Notice, Jesus is not saying we will someday become salt and light, but rather He is proclaiming that because of our faith in Him we ARE salt and light. This is a defining attribute of the Gospel (the message of Jesus). Identity comes BEFORE behavior. Jesus gives us our salt and light identity and then He calls us to live that out all the while empowering us to do so through the work of the Holy Spirit.
What does He mean by salt and light? First, it helps to understand what salt meant to the culture in which Jesus was speaking. Salt did three things in Jesus day. First, salt preserved. Today, because of the technology of refrigeration, we don’t see salt in this way. In Biblical times, salt was the way in which people kept meat from going bad before they could use it. Salt both SLOWED decay and SHOWED decay. Salt would begin to change colors before the meat would, indicating the presence of decay. Salt also enhanced flavor, which we still know to be true today. Nothing brings a serving of bland green beans alive like salt!!
Finally, salt in Jesus day created thirst, as it does in our culture. Nothing will make you thirstier than a salty meal! Salt had distinct purposes in Jesus’ day, and He has distinct purposes for us. We are to live in a way that both slows the decay around us while simultaneously revealing the decay. Our lives should be so radically unique that they actually contrast with the world in which we live. Our lives also should enhance the life around us. Any environment that a Christ follower is in should be positively impacted by their very presence. We bring the Kingdom of Heaven with us! And finally, our lives should create a thirst in others to want the living water of Jesus that has forever quenched our own thirst.
Lastly, Jesus said that we are light. Interestingly, no matter how dark a room may be, one lit match can overcome that darkness. Light is powerful. We are called to be light, but our light has a source. We are not self-sufficient lamps, but rather, we are like an electric lamp that demands a source of power to illuminate. The source of our light is Jesus. In fact, we have no light on our own. We don’t manufacture the light, but instead we simply reflect it. We are lit up by the King of the King’s Speech. In fact, we are like the moon. Our moon is only beautiful and illuminated when it is reflecting the light and beauty of the sun. The sun produces it’s own energy and light, but the moon does not. You and I are only light because Jesus gives us the light. The only good thing about me is Jesus. I’m a moon, not a sun. If you are a disciple of Christ, you are a moon, but not a sun. So go, be salt, and be light. It will not be natural, but you will not act alone. It is the work of God in the life of His followers.
Every good communicator develops a strong introduction to a presentation. Jesus was not a good communicator…..He was the greatest of all time. So, of course, Jesus gave the most stunning introduction to a sermon that has ever been preached. The intro to the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew is known as the Beatitudes. The word beatitude is a latin word which means blessedness or blessing. Jesus, in this powerful section from His famous sermon, is proclaiming blessings over His followers.
It is important to understand that the Sermon on the Mount was preached primarily to disciples of Jesus. While there was a huge crowd of potential unbelievers listening, the beatitudes were spoken to these followers. This is a classic trademark of the Gospel, the message and good news of Jesus…..identity before behavior. Jesus is teaching a series of attributes (beatitudes) that will all be exhibited by a true Christ follower. He isn’t describing multiple people, but rather one person showing all these attributes. The beatitudes are the signs of true salvation.
Jesus also introduces us to the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the dominion of the rule and reign of Christ in the hearts and lives of all believers. His kingdom will one day be a fully realized locale where all adhere to His rule, but as followers, we don’t have to wait. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, has set up residency in the hearts of His people. The Beatitudes are the attributes of believers who are literally bringing the Kingdom of Heaven into their world.
Make no mistake; we cant do this on our own. The transformation that leads believers to embody these attributes is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. If we really know Christ we WILL change, and that change will lead us to these Beatitudes. We begin to DO this because of WHO we believe and follow, and this changes WHO we are!! Jesus changes our identity, which leads to a change in our behavior. Identity first……behavior second. The glorious Gospel of Jesus.
The greatest speech that has ever been given is the King’s Speech, the Sermon on the Mount. Given across several chapters in the Biblical book of Matthew, this sermon introduces all disciples of Jesus to a new and radical way of living life. Although it has been over 2 thousand years since these words were spoken, they still pack a powerful transformative punch for those willing to read, learn, an obey.
Historically, there have been many great speeches given by men and women throughout the ages. What makes the sermon on the mount different? What makes it the greatest? First, while other speeches offered inspirational and instructive words, Jesus words were the very words of life. His words were not merely powerful, instead they were transcendent. The sermon on the mount is so against the grain of human nature that no normal, sinful man could’ve spoken it. The teachings of the King’s Speech were simply otherworldly.
Secondly, all other speeches have been given by sinful, fallen men and women. While many were good people, none were perfect. Jesus alone stands as the only one to fully live up to the inspirational ideals He espoused in His speech. Jesus was fully man and fully God. Because of WHO He was, the speech stands alone.
I want to encourage you to read the Sermon on the Mount. It is found in Matthew chapters 5-7. At 3Circle Church, we are spending 8 weeks unpacking these powerful words in our weekend services. We have committed ourselves to truly allow this teaching to change us. The King’s Speech was not given to simply be learned or heard, but rather lived! We seek not to only hear the word, but to do it! If you read this sermon and refuse to live it, you have completely missed the point. It is only when we live these words of Jesus that the true transformation is complete.
In giving the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus introduces us to a model for teaching that we seek to mimic at our church. Jesus taught the sermon primarily to disciples while being aware and intentional with the fact that a huge crowd of possible nonbelievers were listening as well. Jesus taught in a way that His followers would grow while the lost would be compelled to believe in Him by faith. We find throughout the Gospels that this happened. People would go from death to life while listening to the powerful words of Jesus.
It is my prayer as you read this great sermon, that you will grow if you already know and follow Christ. If you don’t believe in Him, I pray His words will draw you in. Keep checking this blog for continued insights as we walk through the King’s Speech as a church. There have been many great speeches, but only one changed the world!