In Part 1 of this blog, we talked about the Sermon on the Mount and a little of the history behind this historic teaching by Jesus. We also read Matthew 5, which is Part 1 of the Sermon on the Mount. If you missed it, you can read it here.
In Part 2 of this blog series we read through Matthew 6, which is part 2 of the Sermon on the Mount. If you missed this blog, you can read it here.
In Part 3 of this blog series we read through Matthew 7, which is the final part of the Sermon on the Mount. If you missed this blog, you can read it here.
One of the problems in understanding the Sermon on the Mount is that we tend to break the sermon into segments without understanding that the colors of the whole transcend its individual parts. The Sermon is a total and compelling word-painting. It is a complete canvas. It begins with the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are a description of the one who follows Jesus; the Beatitudes are also a description of Jesus Himself. In the Sermon, Jesus moves from this prologue to the Law of God and reveals what God had intended His Law to be from the moment of its revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai: It was to be the spirit of the Law that was to define one’s life, not legalistic encrustations of human tradition that it later became. Many of the religious Jews of Jesus’ day were much more interested in their elders’ interpretations of the Law then they were in its original intent; their traditions painted over the bright, primary colors of the Law and dulled them with none essential dos-and-don’ts. God intended that the devout Jew through the Law would live his or her life.
If we say red to fifty different people, each individual will have their own specific mental image of red. This is because colors can be deceptive. A special collector’s edition of the magazine Scientific American Mind explored 187 optical illusions. One article in this collection written by Stephen L. Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde entitled “Colors out of Space” revealed how colors can change with their surroundings and spread beyond the lines. Two figures of the same color can appear absolutely different when featured upon backgrounds of different colors.
The Sermon on the Mount must be placed in its proper background in order to be properly understood. If the Sermon is imposed upon an alien background, its colors will become distorted. This true background for the Sermon consists of this: The Law of God was given out of God’s love for us so that the Law could reveal the sinfulness of the heart, drive the heart to grace and through grace conform the heart to the true image of God that originally comprised male and female. When the Law does this, then we enter into a state of blessedness. Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-18, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but fulfill them. 18For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
How, then, has Jesus fulfilled the law? The Law of God consists of moral, civil and liturgical codes. Many of the laws of the civil code applied to Israel and do not necessary apply today, at least not in their literal sense, although these laws do contain principles that are timeless; the laws pertaining to slavery have application to employer-employee relationships, and the laws of cisterns and ramparts contain principles pertaining to liability, to name a few.
The liturgical code, the laws of sacrifice for sin, all pointed to the future fulfillment of Christ’s one-time, perfect sacrifice on the cross (see Hebrews 8-10). Perhaps it is theoretically possible that one could earn one’s salvation apart from grace by living the total Law of God perfectly, but, because of the Fall, not one of us could actually live up to this standard; it is an impossibility. But Jesus did the impossible and lived the Law perfectly; He did it for us because none of us were capable of doing so. He lived what we could not live so that we might become righteousness in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). As Paul says in Romans 5:19, For as by the one man’s disobedience [Adam’s disobedience] the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience [the obedience of Jesus] the many will be made righteous. So Jesus fulfilled the Law by being the perfect sacrifice on the cross for our sins and by living the Law perfectly for us.
Jesus also fulfilled the Law and the Prophets by His having given us the Holy Spirit in our lives (John 16:7). This fulfills the prophecy of Ezekiel 36:27 which says, And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules, as well as fulfills the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:33 which says, I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Paul states in Romans 8:2, For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:21 and Galatians 6:2 speaks of the “law of Christ” whereas James in 1:25 states, But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
Jesus thus fulfills the Law three ways:
- in His perfect life lived for us because we could not live it
- in His work on the cross as the atonement for our sins
- in His now enabling the Law to be written in our hearts by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.
As Paul says in Romans 10:4, For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. The Greek word that Paul uses in this passage for “end” means “goal,” “completion,” “perfection.” Jesus is thus in all respects the perfection of the Old Testament Law.
The background for the Sermon on the Mount is this: The Law of God was given out of God’s love for us so that the Law could reveal the sinfulness of the heart, drive the heart to grace and through grace conform the heart to the true image of God that originally comprised male and female. Jesus in this heart-penetrating sermon does not reinterpret the Law nor does He do away with it but reveals that the Law rips away all defenses of the heart and reveals its true motives. The Law was never to be just simply a matter of obedience in and of itself, but to be a matter of obedience expressing one’s love and gratitude to a God of mercy and grace.
When God revealed His Law to Moses, He had already blessed Israel by delivering it out of the bondage of slavery and darkness. God has now blessed us in Christ Jesus by delivering us from the domain of darkness and transferring us to the kingdom of his Beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). We are now to view the Old Testament Law through new transplanted eyes, eyes that see through the lenses of the law of the Spirit and the law of Christ. When we do so, the principles embedded in these Old Testament Laws, the perfect law of liberty, become God’s instruction, or guides, to us; they teach us how we can love God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength and how we can love our neighbor as ourselves.
If we are to become wise, we must heed God’s instruction as given in His Law because it is colored red with the blood of Christ. When we learn and apply the principles embedded in the Law, we will be blessed with the blessings Jesus describes in the Beatitudes, as well as the blessing that the Psalmist describes in 1:1–2—provided we do what David says we must do in order to enter into this blessing: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Put on Jesus, as we see Him in the Sermon on the Mount, and you will gain wisdom in the process. Simply put, we need to study the type of person Jesus was and the life He lived and try to emulate that in our own lives. In doing so, we will grow closer to Him and live to the full potential God has in mind for our lives. We can’t be everything we were meant to be apart from Him.