THE KINGDOM AND THE LAW
The Sermon Begins
Jesus' reputation is spreading, and the crowds are increasing at an exponential rate. Jesus is aware of the crowd and goes up on a mountain where he sits down to teach his disciples and the crowds. The Sermon on the Mount is like Jesus' inaugural address concerning his kingdom. Almost fifteen centuries prior, Moses came down from a mountain with the law God had given to him for his people. However, God himself has come down and is seated on this mountain to deliver the law of grace without abolishing the old law. The King presents the way his kingdom is identified, how his rule is administered, and the way those who belong to the king are to live. Jesus explains the just demands of the law but dismisses the legalism of the Pharisees. The requirements of the law are much more than the people understand. The demands of the law are humanly impossible to obey so how can one be made righteous.
In Jesus' kingdom, those considered blessed include the poor in spirit, mourners, humble, righteous, merciful, pure, peacemakers, and the persecuted. These are general categories of people that were considered disregarded, despised and mostly ignored. It is these types countercultural values that suggest the kingdom being described by Jesus is quite different from Messianic expectations. In Jesus' kingdom, those considered blessed include the poor in spirit, mourners, humble, righteous, merciful, pure, peacemakers, and the persecuted. These are categories of people that were considered disregarded, despised and mostly ignored. These characteristics should not be looked upon as a list to attain, but rather a description of what the work of God looks like in the believer's life. Obedience is the evidence of love for God as imperatives result from indicatives. When you belong to Jesus, you are transformed, and your kingdom ethics follow. Life is not promised to be easy in the kingdom, and Jesus' subjects may experience the pain of rejection and loss. Some translations use the word happy instead of blessed, and this presents the danger of making this about one's feelings. The subject is blessed because of the way in which they relate to God.
Jesus will not say, "I just want you to be happy." Jesus wants his subjects to know that life in his kingdom is blessed and his people are to live in such a way that others see their behavior and glorify the king who makes it possible. Our lives should be filled with good works which are the evidence that we belong to the King who is worthy of all glory.
The Law Is Magnified
Jesus is preserving, continuing, and fulfilling what God revealed because he had not been sent to do away with the Law or the Prophets. Instead, Jesus is the apex of God's revelation. He will magnify the law in both its precepts and its penalty. That does not mean that everything would stay the same and some things were made obsolete such as sacrifices and ceremonies. Jesus came to bring perfect righteousness. When Jesus says, "But I say to you," he is not setting himself over against Moses or the law, he wants people to understand their depravity and their need for salvation. No amount of knowledge or good deeds can save anyone, which is why he explains that the demands of the law are more than even what the Pharisees taught. Kingdom life and kingdom membership are much more than external conformity to a religious set of standards. To illustrate this truth, Jesus gives six practical examples including murder, adultery, divorce, religious oaths, vengeance, and loving enemies. The behaviors are the products of a sinful heart where one finds anger, lust, unfaithfulness, deception, retribution, and love. The demands of the law are perfection just like God, and no individual outside of Jesus is even capable of such righteousness.
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 comfortable 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?