Sermon on the Mount

Jesus begins His ministry with an introduction of the kingdom of God. His first sermon that is recorded has sparked much debate about how people are supposed to live. The debate generally struggles with two questions: Is the Sermon on the Mount designed to be a perfect standard of living that Christ knew was impossible to attain? Or was it meant to be a list of requirements that must be obeyed in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? The view of this reflection agrees more with the former.Image

The Sermon on the Mount presents requirements that contrast and at times supersedes the Law of Moses. There are many places throughout the Sermon where Jesus draws a sharp contrast, between the teaching of the Law and His teaching of the Kingdom. However it would seem that Jesus’ intent was not to abrogate the Mosaic Law, but it was to show the shortcoming of  “righteousness” the Pharisees possessed. He said, “ For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven (Mathew 5:20).” To the hearers of this sermon, this concept would have been incredible and even impossible to attain.

The Pharisees righteousness was one of the highest standards of right living known at the time. They were a part of the most elite group of religious leaders. Someone becoming more righteous than a Pharisees would have been an incredible goal for any person to consider. However, It wasn’t really the Pharisees righteousness that Jesus was fighting, it was the hypocrisy shown by the religious leaders. One Author wrote, “Jesus’ most stinging criticism of the Pharisees is not that they are legalistic, but that they themselves do not keep the law (cf. Mt. 5:20; 23:3, 23, 25–26; Mk. 7:8, 13; Lk. 11:37–52).”[1]

There is a growing movement in the Young Adult culture that is sick of religion. Many Atheist that write books against God and religion have a problem with the people of God and not the God of the people. People are sick of the religion that has been presented to them. Often the “religion” that is presented is one that looks the right way, but is living wrong way. This generation often mimics the generation that Jesus was birthed into, people claiming to live righteously, but their actions do not match their claims. Jesus never intended to get rid of religion.

From the beginning God has always had a structure and order to do things (i.e. the garden, law of Moses, etc.). However, because of human sin, the various systems have never been completely sufficient. There will always be problems with the systems, because men that have a sin nature manage them. We are all sinners in need of a savior. It is impossible to live a life of complete perfection. James said this was the sign of true religion, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:27).” However this was the point of the Sermon on the mount, that we are not perfect, and could never be perfect, and that it will only be by God’s help that we will be allowed to enter the kingdom of heaven. He makes this clear when He says, “ Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect (Mathew 5:38).”

 


[1] D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed., 676 (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996).

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