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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 7, 2014
The Amazing Teaching of Jesus
This morning reach the end of our journey through the Sermon on the Mount as we come to the apostle’s postlude in Matthew 7:28-29. Our journey through Jesus’ teachings in this sermon has been one of both comfort and challenge, and I hope that this section of Scripture has become 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 beside you and points out the proper path. A friend that will not abandon you. A friend that changes your understanding of life and the way you live for the better. This passage has indeed become such a friend to me, and it will be for you as well if you will heed its message.
I look forward to reading through these chapters yearly as I read through the Bible in my devotions. This has also been the fourth time I have studied the Sermon on the Mount in depth and the third time I have preached through it. Even so, what Jesus teaches in this sermon continues to be some of the most personally challenging teachings in Scripture. It forces me to look squarely into the mirror and see what is in the depth of my own soul so that I can avoid the trap into which the scribes and Pharisees fell and be freed from the pit when I have fallen into it. The reality is that self righteousness can easily rise within the heart of any human which then leads to sinful pride that can quickly take over and twist that which is good and pure into a facade that has the form of godliness, but not its power. The Sermon on the Mount forces me back to the humility of true righteousness found in submitting myself to the Lord’s will and seeking His glory instead of my own. Jesus’ warnings at the end of chapter seven about the dangers of false prophets and the deceitfulness of self-righteousness are very sobering. I want to make sure that I am building on the solid rock of hearing and heeding what Jesus has taught and not the shifting sand of hearing, but then doing what I think best. I want to have a life that can withstand the storms of life instead of one that will collapse. I want to hear at the end of my life, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” and not “I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
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 explain the reason for their 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 the context of when Jesus preached this sermon. He had been busy traveling throughout 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 (Matthew 4:23). Great multitudes had come out to see Him, to be healed from their disease and to 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 Judea and Jerusalem to the south, and from the other side of the Jordan river to the southeast (Matthew 4:25). When Jesus saw 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 want that kind of acclaim for the fame of popularity is fickle. He knew that people can switch from praise to condemnation very quickly. That had already happened in Nazareth when He returned there and taught in their synagogue. It would happen again in a couple of years when He would enter Jerusalem with the crowds shouting “Hosanna” and then less than a week later they would be shouting “Crucify Him.” Jesus usually had compassion toward the multitudes as demonstrated here in teaching 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 those 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 Jesus’ sermon. Verse 28 states 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. It was practically overwhelming to them. How could a man like Jesus be teaching like this? Jesus was not schooled. He had not sat under the teaching of any of the Rabbis in Jerusalem. 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?
Things have not changed very much for people today are still like those multitudes. The Greek educational philosophy that dominates in our society leads us to think that a person is not properly trained unless they have earned some sort of college degree, and the higher the degree, the better qualified they must be. This makes the letters that follow a name very important – A.A., A.S., B.A., B.S., M.A. M.S. M.D., J.D., PhD., etc. However, the truth is that such degrees may or may not reflect that actual ability of the person. My mom only had her High School diploma, so the company she worked for said she was not qualified for a higher position, yet she was often the one that had to train the people in those positions to do their jobs. My dad had similar experiences in having to correct the mistakes those with college degrees had made, so he often referred to them as “educated fools.” This is bad in the secular world, but this mindset in the church is even more tragic.
I continue to be perplexed at how many people think that a Bible College or Seminary degree is what qualifies a person for ministry. While it is usually helpful to earn a Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate in some field of ministry, the degree is not what qualifies a person to represent the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, it may not even realistically reflect their abilities. For example, the degree that I have is a M.Div, which is supposed to stand for “Master of Divinity.” However, it 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 but rather a love for God and His Word and the necessary spiritual gifts to lead and teach the Body of Christ. The ability to minister is based in God’s call and gifting to the individual, not on institutionalized training. While earning a degree should be helpful, in reality is it is a hoop to jump through, a concession to man, for a man who loves God’ and His word will find ways to get the training needed to become better at ministry whether it is through an institution or not. Jonathan has found that he is much father ahead than the vast majority of his classmates in seminary simply because of the training and ministry he has done here. Frankly, that is the way it is supposed to be because training for ministry is the responsibility of the church, not para-church educational institutions.
The multitudes were amazed at Jesus’ teaching because He did not have the credentials of the other Rabbis. He was not trained at a rabbinical school or at the feet of some famous rabbi. Jesus received His training from other sources and this resulted in a very different method of teaching which verse 29 specifically states was the cause of the astonishment of the crowds. 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, and this was shocking to the multitudes.
Teaching with Authority
Recall that throughout chapter 5 Jesus contrasted His own teaching with what was taught by the scribes and Pharisees. He introduced what they taught by saying, “You have heard that the ancients were told,” and “you have heard that it was said.” These are fitting phrases because that is the manner in which they would teach. They would repeat and discuss what those who had gone before them had said. They would quote this ancient scribe and that ancient Rabbi. This is still true in modern Judaism. Perhaps you have experienced something similar by attending a lecture by a “scholar” who made their point by quoting many theologians from the past. This type of lecture is still popular in some churches, and the speaker that can give such quotes gives the appearance of being intellectual and therefore having authority on the topic.
There was a danger and a trap that existed then that still exists today in this manner of teaching, for it shifts authority from the Scriptures to what teachers in the past have said about the Scriptures. By the time Jesus came, the basis of authority was no longer the Word of God, but rather the rabbinic traditions that had developed over the centuries. But in truth, it does not matter what any of these men or Augustine, Luther, Calvin or any popular Bible teacher of the present has 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. That is giving proper credit where it is due. 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 the basis of His own authority and not upon what others had said. This can be seen throughout the whole sermon.
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. He says in Matthew 5:10-11, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.” If Jesus was not God in human flesh, it would be blasphemous to equate being “persecuted for the sake of righteousness” with being persecuted “on account of Me.” Jesus’ claim in Matthew 5:17 that He would fulfill the Law and the Prophets would be blasphemous if Jesus was not God in human flesh, for no mere human could fulfill the law.
Jesus begins a series of statements in Matthew 5:20 that contrast self righteousness as seen in the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees and true righteousness as proclaimed in His own teaching. Matthew 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 better have true righteousness. Jesus states this general premise and each of the specific examples that follow it based on His own authority. Note Him saying in each example, “but I say to you.”
In Matthew 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 . . .” Matthew 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.” Matthew 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.” Matthew 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 be ‘yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’ and anything beyond these is of evil.” Matthew 5:38- 39, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil . . .” Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I 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 cannot 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 judgment 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 Matthew 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.”
Responding to the Sermon
The Sermon on the Mount is not something for your leisure. It is not for intellectual stimulation or discussion in ethics classes as is often done in the secular world and by liberal theologians. It is not some great work on ethics by a great philosopher or a series of suggestions and thoughts by a 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 cannot 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.
You must also keep the elements of this sermon within their context. 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 – calling people to true righteousness. When a particular teaching within it is removed from its context, as often occurs even by many Christians, the result is error and heresy, as I have pointed out throughout this series. It is sad how often people do this out of either ignorance of how to study the Bible, or willfully in order to support what they want to believe. In some cases, even to the point of advocating positions opposite of what Jesus taught. That is very dangerous, for to do less than hear and heed what Jesus’ actually teaches, for whatever reason, is to build on shifting sand and your house will collapse.
At this point there may be some that have become concerned. You have considered Jesus’ commands throughout the sermon and in examining your life found that you have not been able to keep them. 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 and failed to keep some of your promises (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 impossible 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” causes 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 cannot keep all these commandments? You do not want to be shut out of heaven. You don’t want to be like the foolish man Jesus described 7:26 whose house was destroyed by the storms of life because he heard but did not act on Jesus’ words. Yet, you find you continue to falter in keeping Jesus’ commands.
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 you had better reevaluate your position. Jesus’ exposition of the law and the commandments He gives should remove all doubt from anyone’s mind that you can somehow do these things and earn your way to heaven.
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 so that it withstands the storms and does not fall. Yet, no one can keep all the commands that Jesus has given on his own. Are we in a dilemma without hope? No.
Go back to the Beatitudes at the beginning of the sermon for in them Jesus states 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. 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 you are reduced to that level that you are humble enough to place your trust wholly and solely in Jesus Christ alone. You are not trusting anything you 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 for God opposes the proud but gives His grace to the humble (James 4:6). 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 which will be satisfied by the practical changes in how you live. You will still stumble and fall at times, but that results in confession of sin and striving against it because the direction of your life is now righteousness. You are being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). No wonder the other elements also develop of being merciful to others as a response to the mercy you have received from God; of having purity of heart for Holy Spirit cleanses it; of being a peacemaker desiring and working to bring others into peace with God. Of course such a righteous life is salt and light which the world hates and therefore persecutes. If the beatitudes are present, all the rest of what Jesus commanded will fall into place, and it all begins with being poor in spirit.
What a wonderful joy it is to have the Holy Spirit develop the characteristics of the beatitudes in you resulting in living on a different plane than the world. The truly righteous commune with the Father in prayer. They are laying up their treasures in heaven and trust Him to provide for their needs on this earth so that they are not anxious about the things of this world. They have entered through the narrow gate and are walking the narrow path that leads to life. They care enough to humbly call others to walk the path with them and help them when they stumble even while treasuring the holy gift God has given to them in the gospel. They are wary of false teachers and learn how to distinguish them by the fruit of their lives. The truly righteous will not fall into the deception of self-righteousness thinking they are serving the Lord while actually trusting their own works to save them. They are the wise who hear and heed the words of the Lord building their house on the rock so that it withstands the storms of life.
The teaching of Jesus’ amazed those that heard because He spoke with authority. You can hear and submit to that authority and receive God’s blessings of true righteousness, or you ignore what Jesus says, but there will be a terrible price to pay for you are foolishly building your life on shifting sand and it will collapse. God’s invitation is open to you, but you will not hear and heed what Jesus says unless your heart is in the right place. Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “. . . for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
What do you treasure? Where is your heart?
I would like to close by reading the words of a song by John Sherbourg.
Where Your Heart Is
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.
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’s 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.
Where is your heart? Are you humble, wise and righteous or proud, foolish and self-righteous
Sermon Notes: The Amazing Teaching of Jesus
The Sermon on the Mount brings both comfort and ______________
The Sermon on the Mount forces us back into the ________of true righteousness – submit to the Lord’s will
Amazed Multitudes – Matthew 7:28
Jesus had been ministering in Galilee, and was now teaching a _______________of people from many areas
Jesus was not interested in ____________- people are fickle – He was compassionate to the multitudes
They were amazed – astonished – struck out – shocked – practically ________________
How could an ______________ man whose friends were untrained say such things?
Greek educational philosophy has resulted in degrees = credentialed and _______________
Many people make the same ______________ in evaluating ministry qualifications
Qualification for ministry is dependent on love for God, His Word and necessary ______________& calling
Jesus was ___________________ by other Rabbis and did not teach as did other Rabbis
Teaching with Authority – Matthew 7:29
The scribes & Pharisees taught by quoting and discussing what the ancient _____________ had said
By the time of Jesus, authority had __________from the Scriptures to the traditions / teachings of the Rabbis
Jesus quoted the Scriptures, but never other people to __________ credibility
Every Beatitude is given as a ______________ statement
Jesus’ _________the teaching of the scribes with His own teaching – “but I say to you.” (Matthew 5:21-48)
Every declaration Jesus makes is based in His _________ authority as God incarnate – not opinion
Jesus ___________the religious practices of the Pharisees with His own commands of what to do and not do
Jesus’ three prohibitions in (6:19-34; 7:1-5; 7:6) are _____________ , not suggestions
In the last section of the sermon, Jesus places Himself as the ________who will condemn the self-righteous
Responding to the Sermon
The Sermon on the Mount is an _______________message to which you will be held accountable by God
The elements within the sermon must be taken in their ____________ or they lead to error and heresy
Serious examination of your life compared to Jesus’ commands reveals you _______keep them on your own
Those who do not recognize their failure & sinfulness are in trouble and need to ____________their position
Entrance into the kingdom of heaven begins with being poor in Spirit – God gives grace to the ___________
Poverty of spirit leads to mourning over sin leading to meekness leading to ___________for righteousness
Pursuing righteousness results in being merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker, __________for righteousness
Developing the characteristics of the Beatitudes results in living a very _____________way than the world
The truly righteous avoid the trap of self-righteousness – they are ________to hear and heed Jesus’ teachings
Jesus spoke with ________- you either submit to it & are blessed or ignore / reject & reap the consequences
God’s invitation is ____________, but where your treasure is, your heart will be also
Where is your _________? Are you humble, wise and righteous or proud, foolish and self-righteous?
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times Jesus is mentioned in the sermon. Talk with your parents about how to submit to Jesus’ commands and follow Him.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Why were the people amazed at Jesus’ teaching? What qualifies a person to minister / speak out for God? To be in ministry? What should be the actual value of a formal education? How can a person be fully trained without a formal education? What was the basis of authority for the Scribes and Pharisees? What was the basis of Jesus’ authority? How does Jesus express His authority within the Sermon on the Mount? 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 affected 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? What do you treasure? Where is your heart? What is the difference in response to the guilt of sin between a true Christian and other people? When you are about to enter eternity and stand before Jesus, what will you say?
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