What have we missed in reducing it to small portions rather than looking at the whole and in context? That is a question that has led to a challenge that the Holy Spirit has presented to me to research and study. I have already seen several things with just a cursory reading of it and realized 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 stops 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.
Matthew 5:1-12 – – Jesus identifies the Blessed in contrasting and identifying human conditions. He identifies and tells us 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 makes the transition 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 identifies 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 go beyond the Mosaic Law. He identified how it will go 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 with regard to another human being and what God expects and how to resolve conflicts. In Matthew 5:27-30 we have His treatise on purity. In Matthew 5:21-32 and that overlaps into verses 33-37, to a degree, which deals with marriage and sexual purity.
In Matthew 5:33-37 the ‘vows’ are connected to marriage be Jesus expands it to all of life and our relationship with God. He identifies 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 6:1-4we find the message of Jesus regarding the poor, philanthropy, and anonymity in giving or at least doing so without ‘fanfare.’ He identifies 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 it from the previous instruction regarding giving because God is saying, “If you give in secret, God will reward you openly.” He also identifies 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.’ The 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 transitions or expands His message in Matthew 6:18-34 to cover fasting, money, life, and faith. He gives us the recipe for the Victorious Abundant Life, and it is climaxed in verse 33. Jesus does not lay out a ‘retirement plan’ but gives us an ‘eternal plan’ for our provision in life.
He dispels worry and fear. He wipes out the fears of a bad economy and a dead-end job that has no benefits. He destroys 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 if verses 25-33 are connected to the previous verses notice how He beings verse 25 – “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 brings to light our own imperfection and the fact that conditions must be taken into consideration when we view others in theirs. He warns about trying to give holy and pure truths to those whose hearts are filled with darkness and reject Christ and the things of God.
That 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 identifies that this lifestyle is not only difficult but one that ‘few’ will be able to or willing to follow and practice. He identifies that by 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 man-made insertions 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.
May the rich and bountiful blessings of our LORD be yours today and every day!