In an attempt to make the navigation of the reading as easy as possible, all of the verses have been pulled from www.biblegateway.com and linked appropriately so that you can simply click highlighted words and be taken directly to the verse.
To begin, click the link below to read the passage that we will be diving into and studying together this month.
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
Key Verse: “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.”
Author: Matthew the Tax Collector; One of Jesus' Disciples
Date Written: AD 58-68
Purpose: The Gospel of Matthew tells a story of God's redemption through Jesus, as it relates to Jewish Christians. It brings to light Jesus' fulfillment of the Scriptures as the long-awaited promised Messiah.
The Sermon on the Mount begins in chapter 5 of the Gospel of Matthew and is the first of five profound speeches delivered by Jesus. While most do not miss the importance of the red letters of Jesus in the New Testament, we may fail to see them in light of the events that preceded them.
Not only has this been the case for my own personal Bible study time, but it has also been the case in how I have approached other events in my life. Prior events are often indicative of what is to come. Though we may not recognize it at that moment, those events lay the foundation and the groundwork for what comes next. With this understanding when we arrive at new stages, we can then reflect on them through the lens of the past, gaining a deeper understanding of the purpose of our experiences. These revelations then help us to navigate what comes next with greater confidence than before.
What about you? Do find background information to be pertinent and foundational to how you move forward? Do you jump in headfirst without the first bit of knowledge of how to approach the moments of your life? Would you begin a relationship with a person without having at least some degree of information about the character, personality, or expectations of the other? Would you accept a job prior to seeing the requirements? Could you begin a class without reading the syllabus? And have you ever decided to bake a cake without checking to see if you have the necessary ingredients? While maybe I have attempted to approach situations like this in my life more than a time or two –I can promise you that the result was less than desirable. What I instead have found over and over again is that the significance and importance of moments are often deeply rooted in the events that preceded them.
While I acknowledge the significance of the circumstances I mentioned earlier, at the same time I recognize that none have compared to the utmost importance of understanding and accurately interpreting God's Words to us. Whether these words were spoken to us through the prophets of the Old Testament or through His Son Jesus, every single one is inspired by God and was intended for His Children. And from beginning to end they all work together to form the big picture of God’s redemptive plan for all of humanity through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of his Son Jesus.
We do not have to read far into the Sermon on the Mount beginning in chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel to see the apparent substance contained within. These two chapters are devoted to Jesus’ teachings on what the hearts and lives of His followers should look like. It is here that we learn what it means to live righteous before God and furthermore how and why this is what we are called to. Practicality and well as theology are both elements of this sermon, however, the legalistic nature is nonexistent. Instead, the centrality of this message was and is still meant to produce righteousness in the hearts of His followers that would never be fulfilled through law or rule. This message depicted a heart change, a transformation not simply by way of actions and behavior but more importantly of one’s inner heart. This transformation of self was produced because of the alignment and devotion of our hearts to God. And with this committed heart, righteousness is now produced because of our faith in Jesus and His free gift of grace through Salvation. This righteousness is from no other source than our absolute and complete reliance on the transformative power of Jesus living in us.
And while I see and agree with the absolute necessity and gift of this knowledge for our lives, the verse that begins this passage as well as the many that precede it, offer us a depth of knowledge that enlightens us with a deeper significance and meaning to these two chapters. The first verse of this passage reads:
“Seeing the crowds, he (Jesus) went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.” Matthew 5:1
This moment was momentous, not solely because of the life-giving truth that Jesus was about to give, but also because of what led up to this point. What preceded this sermon is a picture of the preparation and groundwork that paved the way for all that Jesus was about to teach. We know little about Jesus’ life as a child, teen, or young adult. I’m not assuming that those years were unimportant, however, the years of his life that have been revealed to us are His birth and infancy, His Baptism by John the Baptist, His temptation in the wilderness that immediately followed and after this, He would begin His earthly ministry probably somewhere around the age of 30. And in Matthew 4:17 the essence of His earthly ministry is revealed when He says, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
In this intentional and purposeful message, Jesus says to repent, turn away from your sin and your selfish desires and turn toward God. Because His Kingdom is at hand or is near. This Kingdom of Heaven is the reign, rule, and presence of God in the lives of believers who have willingly submitted and surrendered their lives to the authority of Jesus.
And this is what he was asking next when he calls the first two disciples by saying to Simon (Peter) and Andrew his brother “Follow, me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19). All of this laid the foundation for his public teaching, preaching, miracles, and healing, which encompassed this message of repentance and the Kingdom of Heaven that John the Baptist had begun teaching in Matthew 3
What began as 2 fishermen, turned to twelve and now possibly thousands as we reach the culmination of all the many previous moments that led to Matthew 5:1. Here the Bible we read that (Jesus)“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain and when he sat down, his disciples came to him”. Here on a mountainside, probably in the vicinity of the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus began the sermon, known as the Sermon on the Mount.
So, before we gloss over this one verse that begins Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, let us not miss the significance and importance of the truths that are embedded here. What stands out to me when I read this verse is that when Jesus saw the crowds he went up to the mountain. Many times, in his ministry, Jesus would escape to a desolate place to be alone from the many demands and often crowds. But here… He goes to a mountain –not to get away but so that the (probably) thousands of people could see and hear Him.
What is more, is that He sat down. In Jesus’ day, the most important person, teachers or Rabbi were the ones to sit when they taught. And the mountain –I wish there were time to discuss the many significant moments in Scripture that took place on a mountain. (I will save that for a later post)
With this knowledge let us peel back another layer by exploring earlier parts of Scripture that impact the events that led up to this moment in Jesus' life all those many years ago. All the way from the beginning, Scripture has pointed us toward the One that would bring reconciliation. And here on the first page of the first gospel, we are brought to a pinnacle juncture where the One that has been indicated all throughout Scripture to deliver the people and offer hope is now revealed. Missing these preceding events would hinder the magnitude of this moment and the intentionality and purpose of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
And by missing the purpose we also miss the truth that here in Matthew 5, just like Simon Peter and Andrew, we are all presented with a choice. And how we choose to respond holds such profound significance because it will determine the course of our lives both in the present and for eternity. Our response to this changes everything. It is radical and in complete opposition to the messages propagated by the broken world that surrounds us. The calling of these teachings set us apart from the rest because through Christ we are made holy and righteous to be used by Him for His purposes, all for the honor and Glory of the Eternal King.
With this understanding, next month, we will take the time to walk through and study the actual contents of the Sermon on the Mount.
Through this, my hope is to encourage you as you study Scripture to not only see the moment in front of you but also what produced the moment. Because in this place God’s truth of His Promise and Plan is revealed to His people.
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