Who Was The Sermon On The Mount For?
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-2
In this post, I want to start a series on the Sermon on the Mount. I think that it is vital that we, as Christians, understand what was being said by Jesus. If we don't we will fail to be the city on a hill that Jesus requires us to be. The Sermon on the Mount is perhaps the greatest of Jesus' teaching on how we are to live in this world while anticipating the next. Unfortunately, it is a part of Scripture that is often neglected, misquoted, and misused by even professing believers today. The fact that this is the case tells me that we do not understand the message of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. If we did, we would follow through in obedience, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and many more people would see Christ through the way we live our lives. That is, following the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount will help others see Christ in us. Unfortunately, far too many self-professing Christians act as though it is everyone else's responsibility to obey the (selectively edited) teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, but not theirs. This tells me that we have missed another key point: the Sermon on the Mount was for Christians, not for the world. Let me explain why.
First, the Sermon on the Mount contains commands and admonitions that the world cannot and will not follow. Take, for example, the teaching of Jesus on prayer. We are told to pray "Our Father........" This is something the world cannot do, because the world does not acknowledge God as Father. Some may acknowledge God as Creator (such as those who hold to a deistic worldview), but they cannot acknowledge him as Father. Furthermore, we are only adopted as children of God through the work of Jesus. So this statement cannot be referring to those who are not in Christ, since they have not been adopted into the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Another example of this is the fact that Jesus called his audience the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14). This is not true of those who have not repented and placed their faith in Christ. Those who are still living like the world can never be a light to the world. This must, therefore, be talking about those who have responded in faith to Christ by placing their trust in him. It must be talking about those who have repented for their sins. It must be talking about those who are being sanctified--those who have the Holy Spirit to lead them in the way they should live. This passage must be talking about Christians.
Second, and perhaps more obviously, the Sermon on the Mount was intended for disciples of Christ precisely because this is what the context demands. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is not disconnected from what came before it (Matthew 1-4) or what comes after it (Matthew 8-28). Rather, it is part of a interconnected whole that presents Jesus as the Messiah. So we look at what came immediately before. Immediately prior to his teaching of this sermon, Matthew relays that Jesus was going throughout Galilee, teaching crowds and providing healing and deliverance for those who were sick or oppressed. These crowds started to follow him (Matthew 4:23-25). It is in this context that we are told that, "Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them" (Matthew 5:1-2). Jesus intentionally steps away from the crowd in order to teach his disciples. For some reason, Jesus appears to have seen this as more important in that moment.
If you are a Christian, this means that the Sermon on the Mount is for you. This is the way Jesus desires for us to live. The world cannot live like this, nor should we expect them to. We should, however, expect ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ to seek daily to live out the words that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Join me as we journey through this section of Scripture together, and discover how we can apply the teaching of Jesus in this sermon to our own lives.