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The front-page headline following Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (SOTM) read, “Jesus’ Teaching Leaves Audience Thunderstruck.” When Jesus spoke to the crowd on the hillside that day their jaws dropped. Matthew 7:28 records, “When Jesus had finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching.”
Have you ever been shocked, surprised, and dumfounded all at the same time? Maybe by a surprise birthday party, a practical joke, or unexpected news? The Gospel of Matthew tells us that the crowd reacted this way to Jesus’ teaching.
Why did Jesus’ teaching cause such a stir? What was it about Jesus’ message that left the crowd absolutely amazed?
In a nutshell, Jesus’ teaching turned people’s religious ideas inside out and upside down.
The Gospel of Matthew begins with the story of Jesus’ birth, baptism, temptation, and choosing his disciples. In chapters 5-7, Matthew expounds Jesus’ story by presenting the crux of his teaching. Fundamentally, SOTM is a kingdom manifesto declaring how to live as a child of the King in a world that has yet to be fully transformed.
Could you ace an exam on Jesus’ teaching?
I’m afraid many professing followers of Jesus would flunk. If we are banking eternity on Jesus’ claims, prudence demands we should dig in and do the hard work to understand his teaching.
Yes, the Sermon on the Mount can be a hard to understand. But if you mine the depth of its treasure, your reward will be great. Your heart will be supernaturally renovated to become like Jesus’.
“I have to confess that I have fallen under its spell, or rather under the spell of him who preached it. For the last seven years at least l have been constantly pondering it.” – John Stott
SOTM is best understood when broken down into seven sections. Here is a simple overview of the sermon:
- The Beatitudes (Matt 5:2-11) – Jesus describes eight heart attitudes that are recognizable in a true child of God. These characteristics are the building blocks of discipleship; each trait blossoms into the next as you are transformed into the image of Christ.
- Salt and Light Matt (5:13-16) – Jesus coaches his disciples on their identity and mission.
- Radical Righteousness (Matt 5:17-48) – Jesus explains the radical righteousness that flows from a heart completely transformed by the power of the gospel.
- Spiritual Practices (Matt 6:1-18) – Jesus teaches his disciples the proper way to pray, give, and fast.
- Ambition and Possessions (Matt 6:19-34) – Jesus shepherds his disciples’ hearts on money and anxiety.
- Relationships (Matt 7:1-12) – Jesus teaches his disciples how to approach their relationships with people and God.
- A Decision is Imperative (Matt 7:13-27) – Jesus closes his sermon insisting that the audience choose between the wide and narrow gate. He gives three warnings with examples of folks who failed to make the right decision. Jesus boldly declares that the only way to enter the kingdom of heaven is to listen and obey to his commands.
If you consider yourself a follower of Jesus, let me encourage you to marinate in this sermon. The Holy Spirit is willing and able to transform your heart and mind as you savor Jesus’ words. Throw yourself into SOTM and take hold of the Messiah’s teaching. Saturate your mind with Jesus as prophet; let him expound the truth of God’s kingdom to you. Follow Jesus as priest and let him lead you into his Father’s Kingdom. Worship Jesus as king and bring your entire life under his rule and reign. Do this, so that the name of Jesus will be made famous.
Tracy Richardson (@alaskagospelgrl) serves at Radiant Church in Fairbanks, Alaska as the Church Planters Wife. She loves to study scripture, throw parties, and run trails. She has a B.S.S. in Fine Art and Literature. She is also Mamma Bear to two wild cubs.