The Sermon on the Mount is the most FAMOUS sermon that Jesus ever preached – and it is the most MISUNDERSTOOD.
Many non-Christians, such as Ghandhi, have expressed ADMIRATION for the ETHICS of the Sermon.
But to try to apply the TEACHINGS of Jesus without also RECEIVING Him as Lord & Savior is FUTILE. “One cannot behave like Christ until one becomes like Christ.” (John MacArthur)
Someone has suggested that to try to OBEY Christ without BELIEVING Christ would be like expecting the LION to lie down with the LAMB without EATING him. The LION’S NATURE must be changed before he can lie down IN PEACE with the lamb.
Some say that the Sermon on the Mount doesn’t even APPLY to today, but to the days of the millennial reign of Christ.
The KEY to the Sermon on the Mount is found in 5:20 – the MAIN THEME of the discourse is TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS; the righteousness that is ESSENTIAL for ENTRANCE into the KINGDOM of heaven.
Notice the EMPHASIS on the KINGDOM:
5:3, 10, 20; 6:10; 7:21.
The RELIGIOUS LEADERS of Israel had an EXTERNAL righteousness, one that consisted of OBEYING certain rules & regulations, whereby righteousness could supposedly be MEASURED.
But Jesus is describing here a righteousness that BEGINS in the HEART. Its primary concern is CHARACTER, not CONDUCT.
Leon Morris: “The teaching of the sermon certainly sets a high standard. If we take it seriously we realize that we cannot attain it and therefore cannot merit salvation. It is the end of the way of law and drives us to seek salvation in Christ. But when we have received this salvation as God’s free gift, the sermon shows us how we should live in the service of our gracious God. It shows us what life is like in the kingdom of God.”
The very FIRST WORD of this sermon is important to understand: “Blessed.”
A truly blessed person is one who has an INNER SATISFACTION that is not DETERMINED or DESTROYED by OUTWARD CIRCUMSTANCES.
A great EXAMPLE of a truly BLESSED person would be the Apostle PAUL, who said, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Phil. 4:11b)
Jesus will make some incredible DEMANDS of His followers in this sermon, but He BEGINS with the BLESSINGS.
He demonstrates in the Beatitudes that true & lasting HAPPINESS is POSSIBLE.
Each Beatitude is worthy of its own sermon, but they can be characterized in 4 ways:
Out Attitude Toward OURSELVES
To be “poor in spirit” is to be truly HUMBLE; to have an ACCURATE ESTIMATION of oneself.
It is to not think MORE HIGHLY of ourselves than we ought to think, as suggested in Rom. 12:3.
The “poor in spirit” do not possess the WORLD’S attitude of SELF-ASSERTION, but they also do not display the FALSE humility of the Pharisees.
No, this is a person who is HONEST with himself; who recognizes that, apart from Christ, he is SPIRITUALLY BANKRUPT.
The very word “poor” describes a person who is as DESPERATE as a BEGGAR who will STARVE if someone does not help him. This then is a person who stands EMPTY-HANDED before God, with NOTHING to COMMEND him.
Jesus gives this as the FIRST Beatitude because, WITHOUT humility, NONE of these other blessings can be experienced.
Just as someone cannot be FILLED until they are EMPTY, or made ALIVE until they admit they are DEAD, they cannot ENTER the KINGDOM of God until they confess that they are NOT WORTHY of admittance APART from CHRIST.
One COMES to this place of humility by taking his eyes OFF HIMSELF & gazes at the AWESOME HOLINESS of God.
But, the one who COMES to this place does not STAY there; rather, he is BLESSED by God.
Ps. 34:6: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.”
Isa. 66:2: “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”
Therefore, as James 4:10 exhorts us, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
Our Attitude Toward OUR SINS
V.4 – of the 9 different Greek words used to describe mourning or sorrow, the one used here speaks of the DEEPEST & most SEVERE sorrow, like the grief of someone over the DEATH of a loved one.
Jesus is not saying that we are HAPPY (blessed) when we MOURN! Rather, happiness is what God gives us IN RESPONSE to our mourning – our mourning OVER SIN.
To MOURN over our sin is to be begin to see it AS GOD sees. Rather than DEFENDING or HIDING our sin, we DESPISE it.
We mourn over OUR OWN sin, as well as over what sin does all around us. Ps. 119:136: “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.”
Therefore, BEFORE the church can be free to LAUGH, it must learn to MOURN. James 4:10: “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”
Paul shows us in Romans 7 that, as Christians, we will OFTEN be FRUSTRATED about the presence of SIN in our lives, & so we will MOURN – but to MOURN does not mean to DESPAIR:Rom. 7:21-25a.
God promises to CONTINUALLY COMFORT those - & only those – who CONTINUALLY MOURN over their sin: Matt. 11:28.
V.5 – true MEEKNESS is not WEAKNESS, as Jesus & Moses were both described as meek men.
The word is used to describe a HORSE that has been TAMED. It is POWER UNDER CONTROL.
1 Cor. 6:9 reminds us that “the righteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
But the MEEK will “inherit the earth”! As promised in Ps. 37:11, “the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.”
V.6 – this beatitude describes a person with a PASSIONATE AMBITION in life: the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God.
They HUNGER & THIRST for it, as a STARVING person has one all-consuming PASSION for food & water.
John Darby wrote, “To be hungry is not enough; I must be really starving to known what is in God’s heart toward me. When the prodigal was hungry, he went to feed on the husks, but when he was starving, he turned to his father.”
Just as food & water are ESSENTIAL for LIFE, so RIGHTEOUSNESS is essential for SPIRITUAL life.
This is the passion of DAVID, in Ps. 63:1: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
In the New Testament, we see this same passion in PAUL, who desired “to be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Ph. 3:9)
Notice that Paul says that this was NOT a righteousness of HIS OWN. He is not saying that, if we TRY HARD enough, that we can ACHIEVE this righteousness.
Instead, we must yearn for GOD’S righteousness – Christ promises that those who have this yearning “shall be satisfied.” WE SEEK; GOD SATISFIES.
And it is meant to be a CONTINUAL seeking & satisfying, like eating our favorite food ‘til we’re stuffed, but then finding ourselves HUNGRY FOR MORE.
Our Attitude Toward THE LORD
V.7 – we EXPERIENCE God’s MERCY when we TRUST in His SON – but then, having RECEIVED God’s mercy, we SHARE it with others.
Jesus is saying here that KINGDOM people are GIVERS, not mere TAKERS. They not only FEEL compassion; they DEMONSTRATE it as well.
James said that “judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”(2:13)
Through our faith in Christ, we experience God’s MERCY instead of His JUDGMENT - & we PROVE that we have experienced His mercy when we SHARE IT with others.
V.8 – as I’ve said before, the HEART of the human PROBLEM is the PROBLEM of the human HEART: Matt. 15:19.
Ps. 24:3-5 – our critical need is for INNER PURITY, rather than the mere EXTERNAL, LEGALISTIC religion of the Pharisees.
We must HUMBLE ourselves & recognize that the STANDARD for purity is GOD HIMSELF:Matt. 5:48.
God PROMISES His BLESSINGS to the pure in heart. Ps. 73:1: “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.”
We must BEGIN with recognizing our GREAT NEED for that purity, & SEEK it DESPERATELY. Ps. 51:10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
Those who RECEIVE this pure heart “shall see God” – they shall have INTIMATE FELLOWSHIP with God. MacArthur: “Purity of heart cleanses the eyes of the soul so that God becomes visible.”
V.9 – the PEACE of which Jesus is speaking is MORE than the ABSENCE of CONFLICT. Rather, it is the PRESENCE of RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Matt. 10:34 – this is not a contradiction. BEFORE there can be PEACE, the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God must OVERCOME the OPPOSITION of this WORLD.
That OPPOSITION is seen in our SIN. Because of our sin, we have NO PEACE with God. Isa. 48:22: “There is no peace for the wicked.”
Here again is where the GOSPEL comes in. Rom. 5:1: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Eph. 2:13-14 - & now, having RECEIVED this peace, we SHARE its MESSAGE with others: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:18)
Rather than mere peace-KEEPERS, we become peace-MAKERS when we RECONCILE people with God, and with ONE ANOTHER.
Our Attitude Toward THE WORLD
Vs.10-12 - Of all the Beatitudes, this one seems the most CONTRARY to our human nature, but those who have experienced these FIRST SEVEN beatitudes are GUARANTEED at some point to experience THE EIGHTH.
WHY? Because we are IN CONFLICT with this world, because we are DIFFERENT from this world.
Therefore, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12, NASB)
We can AVOID this persecution if we LOWER our STANDARDS & live LIKE the WORLD – which is apparently what MANY of us have chosen to do.
But Jesus warned, in Luke 6:26, Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”
(There is one thing MORE TRAGIC than Christians being persecuted BY THE WORLD, & it is when Christians persecute ONE ANOTHER.)
But, if we are persecuted “for righteousness sake,” there is no GREATER guarantee for us to be BLESSED by God.
1 Pet. 4:14 (NIV): “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed.”
Vs.13-16 – instead of HIDING ourselves from the world, Christ has commanded us to INVOLVE ourselves in the hope of HINDERING the MORAL DECAY of our world.
Donald Barnhouse illustrated it this way: “when Christ was in the world, he was a bit like the sun, which was here by day and gone by night. The sun gives light, but when the sun goes down, the moon comes up. The moon is a bit like the church. The moon shines too, but it only shines because it reflects the sun’s light.” (Boice)
As Jesus said, in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world,” & we who have RECEIVED that light are to SHINE IT in a DARK world.
To LIVE in such a way is DANGEROUS, because our “SALT” will STING the open wounds of SIN in this world, & our “LIGHT” will IRRITATE the EYES of those who are accustomed to DARKNESS.
But we are COMMANDED to be GLAD when we are PERSECUTED for being salt & light, for 3 reasons:
“for your reward is great in heaven” (v.12b)
“for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (v.12c)
“so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (v.16b)
Matt. 6:33 – WHY? Because those who have been MADE RIGHTEOUS through Christ are QUALIFIED to become CITIZENS of GOD’S KINGDOM - & that is to be truly BLESSED.