This Week’s Text: Matthew 5:1-12
First, let’s talk generally about the Sermon on the Mount. It is the longest stretch of teaching we have from Jesus, and it contains some of his most well-known teachings. I think that the reason the Sermon on the Mount is so accessible and loved by people, Christian and non-Christian alike, is that it is primarily a moral teaching.
However, the first thing we have to do if we are going to look at the Sermon on the Mount is to place it in its proper context. It is easy to lift the Sermon on the Mount out of its context in Matthew and love it as a non-Christian because you can read the Sermon on the Mount in isolation and safely label Jesus a good moral teacher. However, Matthew is assuming you have read the beginning of the book in which Jesus is described as God’s son!
Jesus begins with today’s passage known as “The Beatitudes.” We are not going to dig deeply into each one, but the various groups that are being blessed do not possess traits coveted by the world. Jesus is turning people’s expectations upside down- and this is a theme that will run throughout the entire Sermon on the Mount. The people Jesus says are blessed here are not winners, but that’s the point.
The truth, the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus is communicating here is that the Kingdom of God is big enough for everyone- even the losers. In fact, it is important to note that this list is not a list of commands. Instead, they are statements of reality- this is how it is.
While the Beatitudes may not be a set of commands, when we get closer to God and closer to our true identity, our humility will increase, we will mourn for the difference between the world as it is and the world as God intends it, we will hunger and thirst for righteousness, and we will be merciful peacemakers who are pure in heart.
One preacher explained it this way: it is like waterskiing. To go up, you have to sit down. To go forward, you have to lean back. To get yourself going, you have to let the boat do the work. This is a pretty good picture of Christian discipleship. There are plenty of things we can do and need to do to keep our balance and our focus and keep the channel between us and God open, but the heavy lifting, the deep transformation is done by the Spirit of God in our lives. That is why the Sermon on the Mount needs Jesus to be the Son of God and not some nice teacher. That is why the wisdom of these moral teachings need to be viewed in the context of the Kingdom of God with Jesus as the Messiah because the kind of reality these teaching point to can only be found in their true context.
And today, we will be celebrating together the sacrament of communion. One of the central ideas of the sacraments, both baptism and communion, is that it is entirely about the work that God does in us. We receive the sacraments, and we open ourselves up to what God wants to do in and through us. So, let us now join together in this holy act.