A day like any other?— I think not.
For this was the day when the creator of all things would lay out His vision for His kingdom’s character. He would mandate how it would look, how it would sound, how it would act and react to the world around it. It would be a definition, a guide and a challenge to those who would dare to follow Him. What He would say on that day would not only be ahead of it’s time, but would totally transcend time. These listeners would hear things that would shake their world to the core, that would unsettle the things that they believed. Their commonly held beliefs about religion, about relationships, about responsibility, about their culture in general, would be dismantled, piece by piece.
The event is found in Matthew 5,6,7. It is commonly called “The Sermon on the Mount”. A sermon, — it was. It was the longest of all His recorded discourses. On a mount, — it was. It was a commonly used technique when speaking to large crowds, and in the last verse of Matthew chapter 4 it says that He was followed by “great multitudes”.
Throughout His ministry Jesus responded to the multitudes. Time and time again the scripture says, “and seeing the multitudes, He was moved with compassion”. The clambering masses were always looking for something from Jesus. Sometimes He healed them, sometimes He fed them, sometimes both, but He always had compassion on them. To Jesus the multitude was more than a nameless, faceless throng, but they were His creation and objects of His love and concern. And so it was on this day, — He saw the multitude. He saw their sin and hurt, their fear and frustration, their loneliness and hopelessness, their need to be accepted, their need for a savior.
I would imagine that it was a very diverse crowd. People from all walks of life were coming to hear this Nazarene’s teaching. They were coming from almost every region of the land. They had heard of the claims He made and the miracles He performed, and they wanted to see and hear more. So to reach this multitude His message would need to be transcendent. It would need go beyond cultural, racial, generational and economic differences. The young and the old, the rich and the poor, the sick and the whole would be invited to share in this kingdom life.
He was calling ordinary people to live extraordinary lives.
After Jesus got set, verse 2 says, “He opened His mouth”. Now keep in mind that this is no small matter. At another time He opened His mouth and light came bursting from darkness and void. Again He opened His mouth and planets, and stars, and galaxies appeared and moved in synchronous order. He opened His mouth and birds and fish and creatures of all kinds took their place. He opened His mouth and breathed, and man became a living soul. This the One who said “peace be still”, and there was great calm. This was the One who said “Lazarus come forth”, and there was life again. So when the Son of God opened His mouth, all of creation, both earthly and heavenly, paused for a moment to hear what He would say. The one who spoke worlds into existence now speaks of the world He wants to shape.
When Jesus began to teach, it was difficult for people to understand what He was teaching because they were still thinking out of the context of the earthly kingdom. Kings and thrones and armies and scepters and crowns. They were looking for a militant overthrow of the Roman reign.
And then there’s the law of Moses, and all those ordinances, and feasts, and sacrifices, and, oh, those repressive restrictions. “How could I ever know all of that, much less, obey it?” But what they could not understand was that He did not come to just change the way they lived their lives, but to change their very lives. He wanted them to no longer live out of a place of fear, but out of place of redemption. From this day on, this place on, everything was going to change. Jesus was about to lay out a description of the extraordinary lives that they, that we, could live in His kingdom.
Over the next few weeks, I would like to look at what He was really saying in His marvelous manifesto.
Hopefully, you will take this journey with me.