The World’s Greatest Sermon

There are few talks given that have had as lasting an impact as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This sermon can be found in Matthew 5-7. Some of Christ’s most powerful teaching, and even most culturally shocking, come to us from this section of the Bible. Such famous elements of this Sermon include the Beatitudes, or the call to keep the law first by our heart, the call to love one’s enemies, the Lord’s Prayer, the sort of judgment God desires, the Golden Rule, the house built upon the rock, and even that most frightful of phrases, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23 ESV)

The Sermon on the Mount is in many ways a distilling of the teaching of Christ.  Sinclair Ferguson helps us by providing a wonderful summary of all that is entailed in Christ’s Sermon. Ferguson writes, “[Jesus’] message was, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’ (Matt. 4:17). In a word, the message of the Sermon on the Mount is, ‘This is what it means to repent and to belong to the kingdom of heaven.’ The sermon is the lifestyle of those who belong to Christ’s kingdom.” 

Some theologians may fail to grasp the abiding significance of the Sermon for Christians today, but to do so is to utterly disregard what may be one of the greatest expositions of Christian theology. Now there is no way to thoroughly review the contents of the Sermon in a single article but there are a few observations that must be made, even if this is a 30,000 ft flyover of the landscape that is the Sermon on the Mount.

The first thing we must note is that God delights in teaching His people. Jesus begins this Sermon from the position of a teacher in ancient Israel; that is, seated. He likewise demonstrated Himself to be a new Moses, or a new Lawgiver, as He too comes to present the Word of God from a mount like Moses did (cf. Exodus 19-20). But this law which He presents is the Law of the New Covenant, and needs no intermediaries (Gal. 3:19-20). But as God Himself, He makes His holy will known unto us as His people. We learn that God speaks to us through His Son by His Word.

Secondly, we learn that God is intimately concerned with what we believe, with how we live, and how we pray. For the majority of the church’s history, the three essential pillars by which a Christian disciple was formed included: 1) The Apostles Creed; 2) The Ten Commandments; 3) The Lord’s Prayer. From these biblical testimonies or summaries, we find that God’s people are not an amorphous blob of good vibes, or a generic idea of love enslaved to whatever social media, trendsetters, and the foaming majority demand. Instead, if we look to a common phrase in the Sermon on the Mount, we find that Jesus is compelling His disciples to pay heed not only to what He says but that “you must not be like the hypocrites.” (Matthew 6:5 ESV). 

Such language was unacceptable from the religious elite. Christ’s words came to cut through the fallacious assumptions of yesteryear, and continues to do so today. Godly sermons are designed to feed the sheep, and appropriately warn them about the wolves. 

The Kingdom of God is not for the mere religious, or the generically cheerful, or those who are wished well by all. Instead, Christ’s kingdom comes to those who have been granted the ability to see the futility of building anything apart from Him. It comes to the “poor in spirit” and “those who mourn” (Matthew 5:3-4 ESV) Arrogance and spiritual pride have no place for God’s people. But to the humble sinner who is willing to admit their imperfections, and need for God’s mercy and grace in Christ – it is to them that the Kingdom of God has come with hope. A hope which is still very much alive today. 

Christ preached to comfort His people. But comfort does not always come in ways we expect. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt 5:11-12 ESV) The blessed life may involve public rejection, forfeiture of goods, imprisonment, even the end of our lives. This is a message missed by many today.

Perhaps today we need to rest in these words a bit more as Christians are regularly demonized by popular media. I am still frankly amazed that I myself am allowed to write through this medium. Nevertheless, we are called to rest in knowing that if people hate you for speaking Christ’s words, you are found in good company. To be hated for the sake of believing, and sharing the truth is no evil. But to be loved for the sake of denying the truth is a damnable sin of which Christ warns us all. The Lord in fact gives us this promise: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock…and it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25 ESV) Build your house on Christ. Build your church on Him. Build your families on Him. Build your everlasting soul, on it and you shall marvel at the beauty, power, comfort, and hope that only Christ can bring to us, and our children, to a thousand generations.