“One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them” (Matthew 5:1-2).
With these words, Matthew opens a three-chapter section of his gospel commonly referred to as The Sermon on the Mount. Beginning January 8 and going through the month of May, our Sunday sermon series will explore this teaching of Jesus.
The Sermon on the Mount contains some of Jesus’ best-known sayings. From the time Jesus first uttered these words up to the present day, people from all backgrounds and traditions have been captivated by their potent expression of the moral and ethical life.
The Sermon is given by Jesus toward the beginning of his public ministry. Immediately after his baptism and temptation he had begun to announce the good news that the kingdom of God, long promised in the Old Testament, was now on the threshold. He himself had come to inaugurate it. With him the age had dawned, and the rule of God had broken into history. “Repent,” he cried, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The Sermon on the Mount needs to be seen in this context. It portrays the repentance and the righteousness which belong to the kingdom. That is, it describes what human life and human community look like when they come under the gracious rule of God.
And what do they look like? Different! Jesus emphasized that his true followers, the citizens of God’s kingdom, were to be entirely different from others. They were not to take their cue from the people around them, but from him, and so prove to be genuine children of their heavenly Father. Their character was to be completely distinct from that admired by the world. They were to shine like lights in the darkness. They were to salt the world with the flavor of God’s gracious love.
I look forward to sharing Jesus’ words from the Sermon with you in the coming months. Let us explore together how the Spirit is speaking to us through God’s Word, guiding us together as a congregation and individually as followers of Christ, that we also may be God’s salt and light in our world.
Yours in Christ,