What have we missed by relegating this sermon to small portions rather than looking at the whole and in the full context? That is a question that has led to a challenge that the Holy Spirit has presented to me to research and study. I’ve already seen several things with just a cursory reading of it and realizing that most of the time what has been called the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ is not the entire message of our Lord that day.
It beings in Chapter Five and frequently many stop at verse eleven but Jesus did not stop speaking then and it is an interesting endeavor to do somewhat of an outline of His message that day.
In Matthew 5:1-12, Jesus identified the Blessed by contrasting and identifying human conditions. He identified and told us of the Blessing to the Poor in spirit. (v. 3) Those who mourn. (v.4) The gentle. (v.5) Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. (v.6) The merciful. (v.7) The pure in heart. (v.8) The peacemakers. (v.9) The persecuted for righteousness. (v.10) The falsely accused and ridiculed. (v.11)
He then transitioned to identifying who we are, as believers, and how we should live in Matthew 5:13-20. We are salt which is a preservative as well as a condiment for seasoning or giving flavor to food. We are light and our light will be seen either for good or bad. He identified what our relationship with God’s Law and our personal and individual righteousness or piety is to be
In keeping with that from Matthew 5:21-6:1, Jesus broke down how His Gospel and the New Covenant extends far beyond the Mosaic Law. He identified how it goes beyond being a rigid ‘letter of the law’ to one that deals with the condition of the heart. In Matthew 5:21-26, we find His discourse on the condition of the heart and our relationship with other humans and how God expects us to resolve conflicts. In Matthew 5:27-30, we have His treatise on purity. Matthew 5:21-32 that overlaps into verses 33-37 deals with marriage and sexual purity.
In verses 33-37 the ‘vows’ connected to marriage are expanded by Jesus to all of life and our relationship with God. He identified the importance of ‘oath keeping’ and being people of our word. In Matthew 5:38-48, we find Jesus destroying the Old Testament judgment that permitted revenge and expands it to a ‘new heart’ in which we focus on redemption, Christian charity and love, and the forbidding of showing partiality. In verse one of the next Chapter, we find the continuation that warns of doing what we do for the accolades of man.
In Matthew 6:1-4 we find the message of Jesus regarding the poor, philanthropy, and anonymity in giving or at least doing so without ‘fanfare.’ He identified that if you give to be noticed you have received all the reward you are ever going to get.
In Matthew 6:5-14 we cannot disassociate this passage from the previous instructions regarding giving because God is saying, “If you give in secret, God will reward you openly.” He also identified that if we ‘pray in secret’ without trumpeting our time, frequency, etc. of prayer God will honor that and the reward will be visible for all to see. Simply, you do not need to nor is it God’s desire that you ‘toot your own horn.’
This powerful instruction on personal private prayer is so enlightening and liberating that were we to implement it into our lives we would immediately be transformed into a different person altogether. We are warned in verse 14that if we refuse to forgive, we have blocked forgiveness for ourselves and there are no loopholes in this, it covers everything and every situation.
He expanded His message in Matthew 6:18-34 to cover fasting, money, life, and faith. He gave the recipe for the Victorious Abundant Life climaxing that revelation in verse 33. Jesus did not lay out a ‘retirement plan’ but gave us an ‘eternal plan’ for our provision in life.
In His discourse Jesus dispelled worry and fear. He wiped out the fears that arise from a bad economy and a dead-end job that has no apparent benefits. He destroyed the concern of only being able to live from payday to payday and the normal fear that comes with planning for our golden years.
If you question whether verses 25-33 are connected to the previous verses notice how He began verse 25 saying, “For this reason….” What reason? The reason just mentioned regarding serving two masters, laying up earthly treasures, and the need to have a clear mind and heart regarding this world’s goods as is described in verses 22-23.
Then we come to another expansion of all that He has been teaching as Matthew 7 begins. Judging is more than rendering a verdict as to what you think of someone or their actions it also addresses the previous verses and thoughts. What is your judgment on giving, forgiving, the poor, laying up earthly treasures, marriage, sexual purity or impurity, and personal relationships? You cannot make this a standalone passage because the context will not permit it.
From Matthew 7:1-28 we find His finale or conclusion which ties it all together. He brought to light our own imperfections and the fact that that condition must be taken into consideration when we view others. He warned about trying to give the holy and pure truth to those hearts that are filled with darkness and reject Christ and the things of God.
Please understand He is not saying we do not witness to them, but you cannot maintain the same relationship with them as with those of the household of faith. Yet, we treat everyone the way we desire to be treated even those who are the aforementioned and walk in total darkness. Does that guarantee they will treat us with kindness and respect? NO, but it sows seeds before them that will follow them into eternity. He identified that this lifestyle is not only difficult but one that ‘few’ will be able to or willing to follow and practice. He identified that in following this lifestyle we will be able to recognize the ‘false’ and ‘counterfeit’.
That is very sketchy but a brief overview of the “Sermon on the Mount” and how I believe it should be studied. Each new thought or seemingly new thought is tied to the previous and if studied in its connection to the previous we will glean new insight into that new thought. Remember that chapters and verses were not part of the original text but are a man-made insertion to help us identify and locate passages. It would do us well to read the Bible without any consciousness of chapters and verses and read paragraphs not just chapters.
I love the way Matthew concludes in Matthew 7:28 – “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for Hew as teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” In East Texas vernacular, “His preaching was not all foam and no beer, all hat and no cattle, all hammer and no nail, all shot and no powder, or all sizzle and no steak.” He spoke with authority and power rather than just reciting the words. My cry to God is Lord let me be a voice, not an echo. Let me speak with authority, having experienced the Word not just reciting the words. Let me demonstrate the message not just refer to it.
Blessings, have a fantastic day!