I’ve been preaching through Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”. If someone is familiar with any of the teaching of Jesus, then chances are it is this sermon. In the words of John Stott, this sermon “is probably the best-known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguably it is the least understood, and certainly it is the least obeyed.” In the sermon, Jesus speaks to those who are his disciples, and presents a radically high view of the Christian life as he lays out Christians’ character, calling, and conduct. It is a far cry from the nominalism of Christianity so prevalent in our culture. John Stott summarizes the main message of the sermon as: “Be Different”. Disciples of Christ are called to live differently, as the grace of the gospel changes and transforms us. But at the same time, it is a far cry from the typical religious approach to morality. The sermon on the mount “undoes” us, and makes any honest evaluator certain of his falling short of meeting the standards of the kingdom on his own merit. J. Gresham Machen said, “how shall we attain to that righteousness of the heart which Jesus demands? The Sermon on the Mount, rightly interpreted, then, makes man a seeker after some divine means of salvation by which entrance into the Kingdom can be obtained… it really leads straight to the foot of the cross.” In fact, we see this in the very first beautitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:3).” Those who gain the kingdom are not who you would expect – not the “rich in spirit”, those who have the spiritual resources to earn it. Rather, it is the spiritually bankrupt – the empty, the incapable, the lacking. The sermon on the mount is a high call, yes, but, to paraphrase Martin Lloyd-Jones, it can only be lived out by those first realize they can’t live it out – those who, realizing they are utterly empty and needy, come to Jesus to be filled by his grace. Once empowered by this grace, they can increasingly yet imperfectly live the transformed life described by Jesus and obey his radical call of discipleship.
As most preachers, I use some resources in preparing and benefit from the insights of others. I do my best to give credit to the ideas of others, but don’t give full bibliographies during sermons. In case you’re curious, or would like to study more in-depth, here are the main resources I’ve been using:
The Sermon on the Mount by John Stott
The Gospel according to Matthew by Leon Morris
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World by D.A. Carson
The Sermon on the Mount by Sinclair Ferguson
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Martin Lloyd-Jones