“One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them.”
— Matthew 5:1-2 (NLT)
Sitting down, reclining, being with Jesus; imagine it. Close your eyes and imagine it. Imagine with your senses what it might be like seeing, hearing, and being taught by Jesus himself.
Ruminate through your reflections, your thinking and feeling, and what you might experience hearing Jesus teach. The Sermon on the Mount is a teaching sermon – ethics are taught, and they are the correct yardsticks for living a moral life given.
These are astounding ethics that Jesus teaches – even pushing the unattainable.
It appears that Jesus has responded to the demand of the “crowds” to hear him. Perhaps he capitalises on the opportunity and brings in his disciples, in order that he might issue these brutally frank instructions – with no shortage of hyperbole to sheet home the message.
In the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew chapters 5-7 – Jesus magnifies the importance of a holy morality in all areas of life.
Because Jesus is flanked by the Twelve, he is able to talk directly with them as if he were only teaching them. But there are many others within earshot. Curiosity makes them come close in this setting.
As Jesus starts his ‘sermon’ those gathered are no doubt wondering just what he’ll say and how what he says will challenge them, and what wisdom will impact their lives.
This Teacher of teachers, skilled by his patient craft of humbly learning life for thirty years himself before he started his rabbinical teaching ministry, not only has a reputation for religious knowledge, he is a miraculous healer and a skilful rhetorician as well. Jesus preaches truth and it’s only people who see the truth who listen. There are certainly many of those who comprise the crowds before him.
If we imagine being there, hearing the Lord speak in the words of such confounding teaching, perhaps for a day or more, we imagine being not just a little perplexed as to just how hard are the standards he preaches.
We might say to ourselves, as the disciples possibly were, “Well, Jesus, that might be easy for you to say, but we are not perfect like you are.”
But Jesus is clearly concerned about the heart, the real reasons, for a believer’s obedience.
If we imagine being there, sitting down before Jesus, or hearing him from some many metres away, we may presume that the pithy statements retained in the Bible – those 106 verses – are possibly just a wrap-up summary from a much lengthier ‘sermon’, but it doesn’t appear an exhorted sermon.
If there are high standards, and there are, we best listen to Jesus’ words with an open mind.
If we can graze over the Sermon on the Mount for any substantial time, our life of obedience has to be enhanced.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.