Reading For Monday Matthew 5:1-6:4
The Sermon on the Mount is the famous sermon, where Jesus himself, explained what the just demands of the law were while dismissing the legalism of the Pharisees. The requirements of the law were much more than the people understood because the demands of the law were humanly impossible to observe and left us with no hope outside of grace. In Jesus' kingdom, those considered blessed include the poor in spirit, mourners, humble, righteous, merciful, pure, peacemakers, and the persecuted. These are generally considered categories of people disregarded, despised and mostly ignored. It is these countercultural values that suggest the kingdom being described by Jesus is quite removed from general expectations.
The way Jesus addressed the law should raise questions for us concerning the relationship between Jesus’ teaching and the Old Testament. Jesus clarified this relationship when he explained that he had not come to abolish the law, nor had he come to preserve the law. Jesus came to “fulfill” the law and bring to completion everything to which it originally pointed. There certainly was a dramatic contrast between the teaching that Jesus gave and the typical interpretations of the law. In some cases, Jesus drastically intensified the requirements of the law and called for a greater righteousness, particularly around his discourse on the subjects of murder, adultery, and divorce. In some instances, Jesus set aside certain provisions of the Old Testament in favor of entirely new, internalized regulations, as he did with oaths, retaliation, and love for an enemy.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is preserving, continuing and fulfilling what God had previously revealed in the Old Testament. His function was not to ‘abolish’ either the Law or the Prophets; rather, Jesus saw himself as standing in the same succession of revelation. That does not mean that everything was to proceed as before. In order to truly understand the meaning of Old Testament law meant a break with the rabbinical teaching of the day. Jesus, the Word of God incarnate, exercised his authority when he says, "But I say to you." Jesus is not setting himself over against Moses, but over against those who interpret the Law in a way that had transformed God’s covenant of grace into a covenant of works. Jesus was teaching that righteousness was not simply a matter of obeying all the rules. The righteousness that God requires is much deeper than the shallow religion of the rabbis of the day. To be a part of his kingdom, and live the kingdom life, requires more than external conformity to a set of religious standards. God is concerned with the heart. The law could never save, and we could never save ourselves. Entrance to the Kingdom has always been by grace through faith and the Sermon on the Mount was given to help clarify the righteous demands pointing to the reality that we would need an alien righteousness, that is a righteousness outside ourselves in order to be reconciled to God.
Things To Consider:
- Why did God give us the law if it cannot save us? (Galatians 3:19-23)
- Why is the kingdom of God so different?
- Do the Beatitudes support the idea that life for a Christian should be easy and filled with nothing but success? Why or why not?
- What are ways that our light should shine before men?
- How did Jesus fulfill the law?
- How are we made righteous?
- When Jesus speaks of specific things, i.e. anger, lust, divorce, etc., how does he point to the heart in each case instead of the behavior?
- Why is love essential for understanding the Sermon on the Mount?