The Christian Manifesto
The Sermon on the Mount was arguably Jesus' greatest sermon. One gets the feeling in many of Jesus' other teachings that they are only getting a snippet of the entire sermon. The Sermon on the Mount, however, is recorded in Matthew's Gospel, chapters five through seven, and is likely presented in its entirety. It contains many of Jesus' best known teachings, such as the Beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer, and the Golden Rule.
This sermon is often regarded as the clearest presentation in the New Testament of what the Christian life looks like. One commentator states "it comes closer to being Christianity's manifesto than any other single portion of the Bible. "The Sermon on the Mount encapsulates the message of the Kingdom. At the very start of His ministry, Jesus preached, "At last the time has come! The Kingdom of God is near! Turn from your sins and believe this Good News!" (Mark 1:15) The Sermon on the Mount articulates what life in the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like.
The Apostle Paul might even take this a step further. While he never mentions the Sermon on the Mount by name, in several of his letters he describes what the "normal" or "Spirit-filled" Christian life looks like. A look at these passages show a number of close parallels to Jesus' teaching. For example Paul lists the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness. In one form or another, Jesus speaks about each of these "fruits" in the Sermon on the Mount.
One of the most interesting things about what Jesus teaches is how he expects His followers to approach the Law. Most Jews of that day could say that they kept the Law most of the time. Most of them could say that they did not commit adultery and that they had not murdered anyone. Jesus, however, understood that just keeping the letter of the Law was never what God intended.
In regards to the murder, for example, Jesus made it clear that the spirit of the law involved what was going on in a person's heart. He said, "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment." (Matthew 5:22) In other words, being angry with someone can be a violation of the Law. Even though the person does not act on their anger and kill the person that they are angry with, the anger itself, if left unchecked is the same as committing the act of murder.
Another example that Jesus gave was that of adultery. He said that it was not enough not to just avoid the actual act of adultery. "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:28) Jesus places the heart attitude of lust on the same level as the actual act of adultery.
Jesus' explanation of the spirit of the law actually takes obedience to the Law to another level. For Jesus, what is going on in a person's heart is as much or more important than just obeying the letter of the law. This teaching, as much as anything else that He taught, brought Jesus into conflict with the Jewish religious teachings.
Another important aspect of the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus' emphasis on living a lifestyle of faith. He encourages His followers to trust God in their day-to-day living. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6:25-26) Jesus stresses to His followers that if they seek the Kingdom of God first, God will provide for their needs. (Matthew 6:33)
In discussing how to live out the Sermon on the Mount, a last point that can be mentioned is Jesus' teaching on prayer. In Matthew six, He talks about prayer. In Chapter Seven, Jesus returns again to talking about prayer and the importance of persisting in prayer. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8) Here, Jesus stresses the need for the Christian to continue in prayer without giving up.
These are just a few of the important ideas that Jesus conveys in the Sermon on the Mount. Every Christian would do well to study and live out this amazing message. As with every other aspect of the Christian life, however, it must be remembered that it is a life that must be lived, yielded to the Holy Spirit. In reality, the Holy Spirit is the only One Who can help a believer live out the Sermon on the Mount.
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