Sermon of the Mount Preparation
This past Sunday School we continued in our study of the Life of Christ. We reviewed what we wrote two weeks back, in our EBlast, as well as what we had discussed in our previous Sunday School. We then went one step further. This was all designed to have our minds in the proper context for the next event in our study of the Life of Christ. The next event is found in Matthew chapters 5-7 and Luke 6:20-49. We call this event “The Sermon on the Mount”.
Before we begin our study there, I would like to review our context (as we did in Sunday School) and add just a bit more. Our context is that the people of Israel had been prepared for the coming of the Messiah. The Old Testament is filled with prophesies of His coming. The people were looking for Him. Another point of context is that the Sanhedrin were the leaders of the people. The Sanhedrin was very a focused on keeping the Mishnah and less tuned into the Torah. As a result, while Jesus was walking on Earth, He conflicted with the Sanhedrin over these two different rules of Law. Also, the Sanhedrin expected the Messiah to keep to Mishnah. Jesus was not overly concerned about doing that. He was fully committed to keeping the Torah. In so doing, He could fulfill the Torah (Matthew 5:17). The fact that Jesus actually broke some Mishnaic laws, is one reason why the Sanhedrin struggled in believing that Jesus could be the Messiah.
That was all review. One more point, which we learned in this Sunday School: The Sanhedrin believed that when the Messiah comes, He will establish His kingdom on Earth. They believed that all Jews had a place in this Kingdom. All you needed was to be Jewish. Jesus told Nicodemus (the Pharisee) that entrance into the Messianic Kingdom (Jesus’ Kingdom) was based on being born again. That was very different. The Sanhedrin also believed that the more righteous a person is on Earth, the greater responsibility he will have in the Messianic Kingdom. The Sanhedrin idea of righteousness revolved around the external conformity to the laws of the Mishnah. As we will see in our study of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ idea of righteousness was both the external and internal adherence to the Law of Moses, not the mere external conformity to the Mishnah. Therein is the essence of the Sermon on the Mount.
By the way, “Sermon on the Mount” is not a Biblical title for this event. There is nothing wrong in calling it that, but I want us to be as clear as possible in our understanding of Scripture. Let us first mention what the Sermon on the Mount is not. In some circles, the teaching is that if we just live up to the standard of the Sermon on the Mount, we will be saved. If that were the case, then salvation would be based in doing the works of this teaching. Salvation is never of works. Therefore, this is not what this Sermon is teaching. Also, based on Matthew 5:19, this teaching cannot be the lifestyle for the church. Otherwise we would be required to keep all of the 613 commandments contained in the Law of Moses. As the Church, we are not required to do that.
What the Sermon on the Mount is, is Jesus’ explanation of the true righteousness of the Law of Moses contrasted with the Sanhedrin’s interpretation of the righteousness required in the Mishnah. Note Matthew 5:20. Jesus said “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. As I stated earlier, the Sanhedrin was convinced that entrance into the Kingdom was based on being Jewish. Jesus has told the people that entrance into His Kingdom is based on being born again. Here in this Sermon, Jesus is not so much explaining entrance into the Kingdom, He is contrasting the two definitions of righteousness. Jesus is explaining what the true righteousness of the Law of Moses is as contrasted with the Pharisaic idea of righteousness. Again, the Mosaic Law has both an internal and external component. The Mishnah has just an external conformity.
One final thought before we enter the Sermon on the Mount is that Jesus was now being followed by large crowds both from amongst the Jews and Gentiles. Many see Jesus as the promised Messiah and many others are wondering if He is that promised One. This includes the Sanhedrin.
On to the Sermon: In this EBlast we will just begin. In Sunday School we will look at what is called “The Beatitudes”.
According to Luke :/17-19, this event is one of the first to take place after Jesus has called His Apostles. There is a big crowd of Jews and Gentiles gathered. In Matthew 5:1, Jesus saw the crowd and walked up the hill. Today in Israel, this hill is identified as being on the south side of the Sea of Galilee and beautifully overlooking the Sea.
Notice that Jesus sat down. In Israel, in those days, when a Rabbi sat down in a setting like that one, he was about to teach. This is why Matthew explains that after Jesus sat down, the crowd came to Him. Sure enough, in verse 2, Jesus began to teach them. And wow, what a teaching will now follow.