FRIDAY, MARCH 31
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5
This chapter begins one of the most famous sermons ever preached, even more famous than mine. It is called the Sermon on the Mount. Tradition holds that it was preached on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee. I have actually had the privilege of standing where this took place. It is a most beautiful backdrop for such an amazing message.
I have the same problem I had yesterday: too much material and not enough space. So, I will be content just to hit some high points as we work through this first section of the Sermon on the Mount.
The key to this sermon may actually be found in Matthew 5:20 where Jesus said, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
If you had been a first century Jew, this would have been a devastating blow when you heard it the first time. The reason that is the case is that most common people back then thought the religious leaders like scribes and Pharisees were the most righteous people around. The common man would have thought it impossible to exceed the righteousness that those men exhibited. And based on what Jesus said, if you can’t do better than that, you don’t get to go to heaven.
I would agree that the scribes and Pharisees were very righteous men. But their righteousness was a self-righteousness. They found their value in “being better” than anyone else. They were not ashamed to admit it. They were not ashamed to act like it. And they were not ashamed to make sure everyone knew just how good they were.
But that wasn’t the kind of righteousness Jesus was talking about. Honestly, our self-righteousness stinks to God. It actually stinks to most other people. Our self-righteousness is good for nothing but to ruin us. So, Jesus isn’t saying we should be righteous like that.
He is talking about a righteousness that we couldn’t work up on our own if our lives depended upon it. (By the way, our lives and eternity do depend on this.) Jesus is talking about a righteousness that is so radical that it has to be given to us. It has to be placed in us by the One who possesses it.
This is made evident by the teaching Jesus does beginning in verse 21. He mentions a variety of topics with a particular pattern. He says, “You have heard that it was said…” That is in reference to the religious tradition of the scribes and Pharisees. That’s the way people judged and were judged. But Jesus flips that upside down.
He says, “But I say to you…” In every instance throughout the rest of the chapter, Jesus takes the topic away from the “letter of the Law” and puts it in the “spirit of the Law”. In other words, Jesus teaches theses topics exactly how God intended for them to always be taught. And we discover, in each instance, that we are completely incapable on our own of living by the spirit of the Law. We have to have the Spirit of God in us to ever have any hope of living by the Spirit.
Geez Louis… I am out of space again. So, just let me leave you with this. One of the main purposes of the Sermon on the Mount is to teach us another way to live, a better way to live, a way that God always intended for us to live but a way that is completely impossible for us to live on our own. It is only as God lives in us that we can live out this life in the glorious, abundant way He intended.