Last week we looked at the start of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 4. This week, we will start looking at the first recorded sermon preached by Jesus, often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. This isn’t His first sermon, merely the first one recorded in detail by Matthew. We’ve already seen how Jesus traveled throughout the region preaching, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”.
The Sermon on the mount is rich with theology and clarity of the Law. Jesus is preaching repentance here, and He is preaching the Law to convict those present (and us) of our sins. That is the purpose of the Law. Jesus IS the Gospel, He is the Messiah, the Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world. Jesus preaches the Law and presents Himself as the remedy, for He will lay His life down to bear the wrath of God in our place, so that by His Blood we might be saved. This sermon is going to take a few weeks for us to work through.
The Sermon on the Mount
1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Is Jesus preaching something “new” here? Are these completely new and unheard of declarations? No. Remember that everything in the Old Testament points forward to Jesus, in as much as everything in the New Testament points back to the cross and testifies of Jesus who is returning. Let’s pause for a moment and look at each of the Beatitudes and see where these are found in the Law and the Prophets.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Isaiah 66:1-2 (ESV) | The Humble and Contrite in Spirit
1 Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
2 All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted
Isaiah 61:1-4 (ESV) | The Year of the Lord’s Favor
61 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
It’s important to note that in Luke 4, we see Jesus opening up the scroll of Isaiah 61, reading to those present in the synagogue and proclaiming, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” [Luke 4:16-21 (ESV)]. Yes, Jesus is the Word made flesh, and He is preaching from God’s Word already revealed to Israel. Moses and the Prophets wrote about Jesus, and now Jesus is teaching about Himself from the Law and the Prophets.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth
Psalm 37:5-11 (ESV)
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.
The crowd gathered, because Israel longed for the Salvation of the Lord. Jesus is preaching to them that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. He is now preaching of who He is, and that the meek shall inherit the land, the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied
Isaiah 55:1-2 (ESV) | The Compassion of the Lord
55 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy
Proverbs 19:17 (ESV)
17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will repay him for his deed.
This is a theme Jesus will expand upon greatly in his harsh rebuke of the Pharisees for their lack of mercy and compassion upon those whom they were supposed to shepherd (the Children of Israel). We see it included into the Lord’s Prayer when He taught the Disciples to pray, “and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matt 6:12)”.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God
Psalm 24:1-6 (ESV) | The King of Glory
A Psalm of David.
1 The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
2 for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
5 He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God
Exodus 23:4-5 (ESV)
4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.
This section finds itself in an interesting spot. Most of the laws are bout not cheating someone, not breaking any of the laws and statutes of the Lord, but here, God specifically points out how we are to treat our enemy and one who hates us. Interesting. I find this to be an excellent example of being a peacemaker under the Law. Most commentaries I’ve read on this passage interpret this passage spiritually, that repentance and faith in Jesus grants us peace with God and we are adopted into the Kingdom of light and we become the sons of God, heirs and joint-heirs with Christ. I agree, as far as looking forward in the Gospel goes. I just wanted to demonstrate how this is anchored in the Law.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
The remaining beatitudes are more of a summary and conclusion of this portion. Notice Jesus aligns those who are persecuted on Jesus’ account with the prophets who were martyred before Christ. True to form, we see the Law being preached and its conclusion is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this case, He is pointing to Himself… He’s right there teaching His disciples and the crowds that had surrounded them.
Until next week…
We will pick up in verse 13 and work through Jesus’ expansion of the Law from that which man can perform outwardly down to the root of sin that lies within the very heart of man, in the flesh. Jesus preached the Law… and part of the reason He sent God the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of their sin. We do the Church a disservice when when we stop preaching the Gospel to believers, and we do a disservice to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the World when we skip or gloss over the Law when preaching the Gospel to unbelievers. Until then, spend time in the Word of God, pray for understanding, repent and be forgiven in the Name of Jesus.
Romans 15:5-6 (ESV) 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Christ Jesus,