(Study Outline sourced from “The System Bible Study” – “The Book of Life” [Zondervan])
(22) The Sermon On The Mountainside
(a) The Place And Audience
Matthew states that Jesus “went up on a mountainside”, while Luke adds that He “stood on a level place”, no doubt a kind of plateau. Luke also gives us the extent of the area covered by the people who were there: “a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon” – they had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases.
The “Sermon on the Mountainside” does not speak to salvation; rather, it speaks to the character and conduct of those that belong to, and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is an explanation of the spirituality of the Law, and the denunciation of the false teaching of the Pharisees and elders of Israel.
(b) The Introduction To His Sermon – The Beatitudes
In comparison, both accounts of the Beatitudes are similar; however, Luke adds a negative counterpart in vs. 24-26 of the previous statements in vs. 20-22. “Beatitude” originates from the word beatific which gives the meaning of bestowing bliss, blessings or happiness: thus the beatitudes are the supreme blessedness and exalted happiness pronounced by Jesus as a comprehensive statement of the moral principles of the kingdom, designed to counteract the earthly views of the people and the teachers of the Law in Israel.
Jesus therefore states “Blessed are:” : ….the poor in spirit ….those who mourn….the meek…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…the merciful…the pure in heart….the peacemakers….those who are persecuted because of righteousness…those that are insulted…persecuted…falsely accused…because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”
In Luke’s account the negatives to these statements are added: “But woe to you”: …who are rich…who are well fed now…who laugh now…when men speak well of you”: these are all related to the manner in which their forefathers treated and accepted the teachings of the false prophets, a practice that was still evident among the Jewish people; the Pharisees and elders still reject the true teaching of the Law and anyone that is sent by God to call attention to these teachings.
(c) The Theme Of The Discourse:
Jesus’ Teaching Of Righteousness vs. That Of The Scribes And Pharisees
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus continues His discussion by illustrating the influence of true discipleship: “You are the salt of the earth” – salt is of no use if it has lost its flavour, neither can it be used as a preservative. In comparison, disciples without true moral character and spiritual commitment to the King, are of no use and worthless in the kingdom of heaven. “You are the light of the world” – if the light is to be effective and fulfill its function it must be set on a lamp stand and not be hidden; thus true disciples are called to be shining lights to their world around them to the extent and the result that they would not receive praise from others, but that the God of heaven would be praised and glorified. Jesus therefore implies that only those who have been truly converted and transformed by the grace of God can be true citizens of the kingdom of heaven; and further adds that He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them and that “Anyone who breaks…these commandments and teaches others to do the same…” will be of little value in the kingdom of heaven .
(d) Christ’s Ethical Teaching Supersedes The O.T. And Scribes
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you……Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
In the introduction to His theme of teaching, Jesus had already stated “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” so He continues in this section to teach the real meaning and interpretation of the Law as opposed to the superficiality of the Scribes and Pharisees, contrasting the kingdom principles to the Mosaic Law. Jesus begins by teaching that murder originates from anger; therefore, such anger and strife must be reconciled, and that such reconciliation must be done before attempting to worship God . Similarly, adultery is not the final act but what is conceived in the heart of a person: thus deal with the offence personally by restricting what we see and do . On the subject of divorce to which the Scribes and Pharisees had added to the original O.T. teaching , Jesus places a condition or exception “…except for marital unfaithfulness..” note that neither Mark nor Luke mentions this exception. The people had been taught from O.T. times not to “break your oath”, but Jesus teaches “Do not swear at all…..Simply Yes… or No…; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” in contrast to the teaching of Moses and in comparison to the predicament of Jephthah it should be obvious that we have limited ability or foreknowledge to fulfill our oaths; therefore much care should be exercised when making solemn promises.
In contrast to the Mosaic teaching “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” Jesus teaches “Do not resist an evil person” or do not retaliate when offended or persecuted by evildoers: here Jesus is not giving hard and fast rules that are applicable under all circumstances, but ideals which govern His kingdom (c.f. Jesus’ going willingly to the cross; and Paul’s claim to Roman citizenship when falsely accused ). This is further expanded upon in the closing verses of the chapter – “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” – God’s children should emulate the very character of God in His love for all mankind even though not all mankind love Him in return – “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” – our standard of conduct in everything should reflect God’s attitude of love. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” is not referring to a perfection of sinlessness, but speaks to our uprightness, sincerity, maturity, and conformity to the character of God .
(e) Real Righteousness vs The Hypocrisy Of The Pharisees
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
1. “…when you give to the needy…” – to be a true act of righteousness, there should be no fanfare so that we are “honoured by men”, our actions must be in secret with our heavenly Father and He will reward us accordingly.
2. “And when you pray….”– Jesus is referring to the act of public prayer by the Pharisees that was done “to be seen by men” – the difference here is that there is both public and private prayer: public prayer is conducted by the body of the church when the church gathers : in the context of Matthew 6 the reference is to private prayer and Jesus is teaching that this act should be unseen by others since we pray to our Father “who is unseen” – Jesus then gives us an example of what prayer should be like
· “Our Father….your name….your kingdom….your will…” – we recognize God as our Father, not as the Jews who saw Him as The Great and Dreadful God ; we honour His name recognizing that His Name is above all the other names of man-made gods; we look forward to the full establishment of His kingdom; and we submit to His will for us
· “Give us today” – we anticipate His generous supply of our necessities and not our luxuries .
· “Forgive us our debts” – remembering that we are great debtors to Him for all He has done for us (our salvation, our necessities, our protection from evil and the evil one) should cause us to overlook and forgive the debts of other people that offend us .
· “…lead us not into temptation…deliver us from the evil one” – we should always remember that God does not tempt us with sinful acts, but temptation is the act of the “evil one”, and that God will always defend us against that “evil one” .
3. “When you fast” – like the other two acts of righteousness this act should not be obvious to others.
Jesus thus teaches that any and all righteous acts should be between the believer and God alone, not done to the extent that others may be aware of what we do and give us the praise, rather than giving all praise and glory to our Heavenly Father.
(f) Trust In God Rather Than Earthly Riches
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…….But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
To enjoy the pleasures and peace of the kingdom, those who hope to and have attained citizenship in the kingdom must look to the King to continually supply all their needs; Jesus says that each member of the kingdom is of equal value to Him, and more valuable than the birds or flowers for who He so faithfully provides: therefore, we should not allow our needs to frustrate us to the point that we lose sight of the One who provides for us .
In our service to Him, each member of the kingdom is to understand that we cannot serve two masters, and since the love of, and thus the need to acquire more money can so enslave us, money can become our master in place of Jesus who is to be our Master and King . Therefore, our assurance is that our “heavenly Father knows” all our needs even before we ask of Him; our responsibility is to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” not allowing the cares of tomorrow to overcome us today.
(g) Do Not Focus On The Faults Of Others; Self–Evaluation Should Be First
“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
“For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Those desiring to be judge of their fellow man must understand – that as they judge they will be judged . Focusing on the minor faults of others, while not being able to see the major fault in our own life is hypocrisy and indicates our self-righteousness. However, in helping our fellow-members of the kingdom, care should be exercised so that what we offer is appreciated – “Do not give dogs what is sacred, do not throw your pearls to pigs…” ; we must also be fully capable of the help that we offer to others – “Can a blind man lead a blind man?….
(h) Be Earnest In Prayer
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
God knows our needs even before we ask of Him, but He loves to hear His children askof Him, seek His goodness and love, and knock at His door when in need. Just as a loving earthly father provides good things for his children in response to their persistent requests, our heavenly Father provides even better things before we ask, but we need to be persistent in our requests to Him .
(i)God’s Guideline For Good Inter-Personal relationships
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
The summation of the Law and Prophets is to do “to others what you would have them do to you” and this should be the practice of all those who are called to be kingdom-dwellers.
(j) Two Gates And Two Pathways
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”
Those who wish to enter the Kingdom of Heaven must enter by God’s way – through the narrow gate, as this is the way that leads to life eternal, and the unfortunate thing is that only a few people find the true way to God.
(k) The Characteristic Of True Discipleship
“Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.”
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”
False prophets have always been a danger to the nation of Israel, as well as the Church of our Lord Jesus today, and Jesus warns His audience of them, and how to identify them .
In the same way that a fruit tree produces fruit that is characteristic to the tree, kingdom dwellers should produce fruit that is conducive to their citizenship. Citizens of the kingdom should also submit to the will of our heavenly Father – “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” – this is another characteristic of the citizens. A third characteristic that Jesus speaks about is the fact that a true disciple “…hears these words of mine and puts them into practice…” , such are wise people who build upon a sure foundation .
(l) The Effect Of The Sermon On The People
The crowds “were amazed….because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law”, Jesus spoke with divine authority because He, as the second person of the godhead, is the giver of the Law and thus does not have to quote anyone else .