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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
May 16, 1999
The Amazing Teachings of Jesus
This morning we come to the end of our journey through the Sermon on the Mount. It has been a journey of highs and lows, of comfort and of challenge. I hope that this section of Scripture has a friend to you. Not one of those friends that always tells you what you want to hear, but a friend that cares enough to tell you the truth and encourage you to live according to it. A friend that walks along with you and points out the proper path. A friend that will not abandon you. The things we have learned and been challenged with will stay with us the rest of out lives – if we are careful to heed its message.
This has been one of the most personally challenging studies of Scripture that I have done. It has forced me to look squarely into the mirror and see what is in the depth of my own soul, and the reflection has not always been pretty. How easily self righteousness can rise within the human heart. How quickly sinful pride can take over and twist that which is good and pure into a facade that has the form of godliness, but not its power.
The most challenging part of this journey through the Sermon on the Mount has been the conclusion of Jesus’ message we were examining before I left for California for my mother-in-law’s funeral. Jesus warned us to beware of false prophets dressed in sheep’s clothes that would lead us astray. He warned of false shepherds that would lead us through the wide gate leading to destruction while telling us it was the narrow path to life. We were warned of the deceitfulness of self righteousness that trusts in itself. We were told of the horror these self deluded people who thought they were serving God will experience when they hear Jesus say, “I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Then there was that final section that challenges us to make sure we are building on something solid having a true, living faith in Jesus Christ and not faith in faith or a faith that is only a pretense.
Turn with me to Matthew 7:28,29. These two verses record the reaction of those that heard the Sermon on the Mount that day, and it gives the reason for that reaction.
“The result was that when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”
Remember that back in chapter 5 when this sermon began, Jesus had been busy going about in all the region of Galilee teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every kind of disease and sickness among the people (4:23). Great multitudes had come out to see Him, to be healed from their disease and follow Him. They came not only from the immediate area of Galilee, but also from Decapolis, which is the area to the east across the Sea of Galilee, and from the Syria to the north, and from the area south Jerusalem & Judea, and from the south east area on the other side of the Jordan river (4:25). As Jesus sees the multitudes gathered on the side of that mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee. He sat down with His disciples and began to teach them and the multitudes that were also present.
We never find Jesus interested in large crowds for the sake of having many people following Him. Jesus does not need that kind of acclaim. The fame of popularity is a fleeting thing. The same crowds that had been shouting “Hosanna” before Jesus as He entered Jerusalem were only a week later shouting for Jesus to be crucified. We find Jesus was compassionate toward the multitudes, as He is here as He teaches them, or as when He fed the 4,000 and the 5,000. But we also find Jesus constantly seeking to make a separation between the people that would truly believe and follow and those that were just curious. Jesus does that here in the Sermon on the Mount. He does not want the acclaim of the multitude. Instead, Jesus wants to call out those that will truly follow Him while giving warning to those that will not.
Notice the response of the people to what Jesus says. Verse 28 says that they were “amazed,” “astonished.” The teaching of Christ throughout this sermon had such an impact upon those that were listening they were literally “struck out,” or as we would say in the vernacular, “knocked out of their minds.” They were shocked. They were dazed. How could a man like Jesus be teaching like this? Jesus was not schooled. He was a carpenter’s son. His friends were local fishermen. How could such an untrained man who keeps that kind of company be saying such things?
How often we are just like those multitudes. We think that letters behind a name means that a person is qualified, and if the degrees are not present, then they are not properly trained. I am always perplexed at how some people think that a Bible College or Seminary degree is what qualifies a person for ministry. Whether it is a Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate in Theology or Divinity, that is not what qualifies a person to represent the Lord Jesus Christ. (The degree I have is a M.Div, which is supposed to stand for “Master of Divinity,” but might better stand for “Mystery Diver” for a lot of Seminary graduates I have met, for they Dive into a text and it sure is a Mystery what they come back up with). What qualifies me or any man for ministry is not the degree – that is simply a hoop to jump through, a concession to man – the qualification is a love for God and His Word and the necessary spiritual gifts to lead and teach the Body of Christ. The authority is not based in the institutionalized training received, but on God.
But you see, that is exactly why the multitudes were so amazed. Verse 29 says they were astonished because Jesus “was teaching them as one having authority, not as the scribes.” Jesus did not teach based on the authority of training received or on the authority of what someone else said. He taught on the basis of His own authority. Matthew establishes Jesus’ authority in chapters 8 & 9 as he shows Jesus’ power over disease, nature, the supernatural, sin and death.
It is fitting that throughout chapter 5 Jesus contrasts the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees by saying, “You have heard that the ancients were told,” and “you have heard that it was said,” because they only rehashed what those who had gone before them had said. When they would teach, they would quote this ancient scribe and that ancient scribe. Their authority was not based in the Scriptures any longer, but in what teachers in the past had said about those scriptures. The basis of authority was really the traditions of men. Maybe some of you have gone to a lecture by a “scholar” who did this. It was popular and still is in many churches for this kind of lecture. When you can quote past theologians, i.e., “Kant said this,” “Schliermacher said this,” “Bultman said this,” etc., it gives the appearance of being intellectual and therefore having authority on the topic. But in truth, it does not matter what any of these men or Augustine, Luther or Calvin said. What matters is what God says!
Is it wrong to quote somebody? No, it is an appropriate means by which a speaker who either has not established credibility with an audience or does not have expertise in a particular area can give greater weight to their argument by showing they are in agreement with someone of credibility to that audience or someone of expertise in that particular area. It is also proper to quote someone when they have said very well what you want to communicate. But Jesus never did any of this. When Jesus did quote someone, it was to correct their improper theology, other than that He only quoted the Scriptures. That is why the multitudes where so amazed. Jesus spoke on His own authority.
Throughout the whole sermon we see this. Each of the Beatitudes are factual statements that Jesus proclaims on His own authority. In the last beatitude righteousness is equated with living for Christ. Matt. 5:10 says, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 5:11, which explains the persecution adds, “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecuted you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.” If Jesus was not God in human flesh, such a statement would be blasphemous. In Matt. 5:17 Jesus’ claim is that He would fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Again, if Jesus was not God in human flesh, such a statement would be blasphemous for no man could fulfill the law. In Matt. 5:20 Jesus begins a series of statements contrasting self righteousness as seen in the scribes and Pharisees and true righteousness.
Matt. 5:20 is the general premise of the Sermon on the Mount – “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, true righteousness is more than what you see in the scribes and Pharisees and if want to enter the kingdom of heaven, you had better have it. Jesus says that on His own authority.
Throughout the rest of the chapter 5 Jesus contrasts the teaching of the scribes with the real meaning of the Law, and each time Jesus makes His statement solely on His own authority not upon what any teacher before Him has said. In Matt. 5:21,22, “You have heard it that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court. ‘ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court . . . “. Matt. 5:27,28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery:’ but I say to you that everyone who looks upon a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matt. 5:31,32, “And it was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of dismissal’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Matt. 5:33,34,37 – “Again, you have heard it said, “you shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord. ‘ But I say to you, make no oath at all . . . “But let your statements by ‘yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’ and anything” beyond these is of evil.” Matt. 5:38, 39, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. ‘ But f say to you, do not resist him who is evil . . . “. Matt. 5:43,44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But 1 say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
These are not idle words or the bantering back and forth of people discussing ethereal points of theology. This is the positive declaration of how God wants us to live. Every declaration Jesus makes is based in His own authority as God incarnate. These proclamations can not be dismissed lightly as a matter of someone’s opinion. They are statements of fact made by the one that created everything and who will sit in judgement of everyone.
The same continues in Chapter six where Jesus contrasts the religious practices of the self-righteous as compared to true righteousness. In all three examples – giving alms, praying and fasting – Jesus simply commands what is to be done and not done. We are not to follow the example of the religious leaders who drew attention to themselves in order to receive the praise of men, instead we are to quietly do things for the praise of God. The three prohibitions at the end of chapter 6 and beginning of chapter 7 are also commands. 1) Do not lay up treasure on earth, but lay it up in heaven by seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. 2) Do not judge like the self righteous Pharisees or you will be judged like them. Instead, examine yourself and then go help your brother. 3) Do not give the holy and precious things of God to those who revile them. These are all commands, not suggestions. The scribes and Pharisees did not carry enough authority to command such things, but Jesus does.
And in the last section of the sermon Jesus places Himself as the judge. Notice in Matt. 7:21 that it is to Jesus that these people come saying, “lord, lord.” Their defense in verse 22 is given to Jesus based upon doing things in His name, and it is Jesus that condemns them in verse 23 saying, “I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
The Sermon on the Mount is not something for our leisure. It is not for intellectual stimulation or discussion in ethics classes as is often done in the secular world and by liberal theologians. This is not some great work on ethics by great philosopher or a series of suggestions and thoughts by mere man. This is an authoritative message. These are the declarations and commands of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is God in human flesh as Matthew has already declared in 1:23 and 3:17. You can not read it and then pick and choose what you agree with and what you disagree with at your own pleasure. You have to take it as a whole and conform yourself to it, for God will hold you accountable for all of it. If you reject it, or any part of it, then you are on the wide road leading to destruction.
This is also not something for us to pick apart and use at our pleasure to back up our pet theologies, even though that is done by many Christians. This is Jesus’ manifesto of His kingdom program. It is a message that is to be taken as a whole revolving around one central theme for one central purpose. You can not take 5:38-42 and use that as support for pacifism. You have to put the verse back into their context at which point you find that Jesus is not dealing with pacifism. You can not quote 7:1 as a defense against people examining your life for when you put it back in context you discover that if those people have examined themselves and come speaking the truth in love, they are fulfilling Jesus’ commands in that passage. And you can not repeat the “Lord’s prayer in 6:9-13 until you have put it in context and learned that it is a pattern for prayer, not a prayer to be thoughtlessly repeated. The theme and purpose of the sermon is that we might understand true righteousness and live in true righteousness so that we might enter the kingdom of heaven. Without the righteousness that Jesus describes in this sermon, that righteousness which surpasses that of the religious righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter heaven (5:20).
But you say that you have listened carefully to all of Jesus’ commands throughout the sermon and you have not been able to keep them. You have examined your life and see that you have been angry with others and know that you are guilty before the court (5:22). You have lusted in your heart after someone other than your spouse so that you are guilty of adultery (5:28). You have broken vows you have made. You have failed to fulfill your promises and are therefore under God’s judgement (5:34). You have contemplated and sought after revenge against those that have personally hurt you (5:39). The command to love your enemy seems an impossibility when you do not even love your neighbor properly (5:44). The command in 5:48 to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” brings you to see yourself as a complete failure. You do not even need to go into chapter 6 and 7 to understand your personal sinfulness. But what are you to do since you can not keep all these commandments? Will you be shut out? Didn’t Jesus say in 7:26 that everyone that hears His words and does not do them will be like the foolish man whose house was destroyed?
If that describes you, then you are in a good position to enter the straight gate and begin the journey along the narrow path leading to life. If that does not describe you and you think you can keep all these commandments of Jesus, then had better reevaluate your position. Jesus’ exposition of the law and the commandments He gives should remove all doubt from anyone’s mind that they can somehow earn their way to heaven because these things are impossible for a human to do alone.
Jesus said that your righteous must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (5:20). Jesus also said that it is the person who hears His words and acts upon them that is the wise man whose house is built upon a rock and it does not fall, yet we all see that we can not keep all the commands that Jesus has given. Are we in a dilemma without hope? No.
Go back to the beginning, the section we call the beatitudes, because in them Jesus tells us what is needed for salvation. Notice again the first one, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” If you want to enter the kingdom of heaven, if you want salvation from the just wrath of God against sinners, it comes through the Holy Spirit working on your heart and convicting of you sin (John 14) and bringing you to the place where you see that you are spiritually impoverished. You are bankrupt with nothing to give and nothing to offer. There is not even a basis for bargaining – i.e. Lord save me and I will do this for you. You are reduced to the state of the Publican in Luke 18 who cries out, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” That is the starting point of salvation because it is only when we are reduced to that level that we are willing to place our trust wholly and solely in Jesus Christ alone. We are not trusting anything we have done or can do, only Him and what He has done.
If that is where you are at – in full knowledge of your sinfulness and need for God – then call out to Him. The kingdom of heaven is for the poor in spirit. But notice that it does not stop at being poor in spirit, for true poverty of spirit produces mourning over sin, and God brings comfort in salvation. Learning to lean on Jesus alone brings meekness which is the willingness to do whatever the Lord wants you to do. You realize that true life is only found in Jesus. All this in turn produces a hunger and thirst to live in righteousness and that is when your life begins to change all around, because as 5:6 says, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied. They will begin to live according to the commands Jesus has given. They may stumble and fall at times, but the direction of their lives is righteousness. And when they fall, they confess their sins and strive against it. They are being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). No wonder they other elements are there – being merciful to others as a response to the mercy they have received from God; having purity of heart and the Holy Spirit cleanses them; being peacemakers desiring and working to bring others into peace with God. And of course such a righteous life is salt and light which the world hates and persecutes. If the beatitudes are present all the rest falls into place, and that all begin with being poor in spirit.
Jesus said that those that heard His words and acted upon them were like a wise man who built his house on a rock. What a wonderful joy to have the Holy Spirit develop the characteristics of the beatitudes in you, to be used by God as salt and light, to have joy even in persecution, to live life on a different plane than the world. To commune with the Father in prayer, not be anxious about the things of this world, because God meets our needs, to have a house that will stand in the storms of life.
The teaching of Jesus’ amazed those that heard because He spoke with authority. You can not ignore what He says without paying a terrible price, but you will not hear and heed what Jesus says unless your heart is in the right place. I would like to close by reading the words of a song by John Sherbourg.
It’s there your thoughts and feelings all begin.
And if you never give your heart to Jesus,
You never really have a part with Him.
If your treasures up in Heaven,
Then your heart will be there too,
And the things you say and do will show Christ’s love.
But if your treasures here on earth,
Then tell me where your life will be,
You’ll never really have a part in things above.
If your mind set on the Spirit,
And you’re walking in God’s love,
Then the watching world will see God’s love in you.
But if your mind is set on earthly things,
Then earthly things you’ll do,
In poverty you’ll live your whole life through.
For a man looks on the outside,
Only outward things he sees,
He can never look down deep inside your heart.
Only God knows what you think and feel,
His eyes are just and fair,
He sees you as you’ve been right from the start.
I guess it all comes down to where your heart is,
It’s there your thoughts and feelings all begin.
And if you never give your heart to Jesus,
You never really have a part with Him.
I guess it all comes down to where your heart is.
Sermon Study Sheets
Sermon Notes – 5/16/1999 a.m.
“The Amazing Teaching of Jesus” – Matthew 7:28,29
Matt 7:28 (NASB) The result was that when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as [one] having authority, and not as their scribes.
Context (Mt. 4:25)
The Response of the People – vs. 28
The Reason for their Response – vs. 29
Statements made based on Himself – Chapter 5
Commands given based on Himself – Chapter 6,7
He will be Judge – Chapter 7
Keeping the Sermon on the Mount in Context
Responding to the Sermon on the Mount
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What is the context for the Sermon on the Mount? Why were the people amazed at Jesus’ teaching? What qualifies a person to speak out for God? To be in ministry? What the basis of authority for the Scribes and Pharisees? What was the basis of Jesus’ authority? What demonstrates that Jesus has that authority? What should be our basis of authority when we talk to someone about the Lord? What is the premise of the Sermon on the Mount? What was the purpose for the Sermon? How has the Sermon on the Mount effected you personally? How does your life compare with the character traits of the Beatitudes? How does a person enter the kingdom of heaven? Have you entered? Is knowledge alone enough for salvation? What have you built the foundation of your life upon? When you are about to enter eternity and stand before Jesus, what will you say?
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