The Sermon on the Mount Was Not Tranquil

by Bethany

Highlighted Verses: Matthew 5:14-16
Full Readings: Isaiah 57; Matthew 5

Counter | The Sermon on the Mount is a counter-cultural sermon. “The followers of Jesus are to be different,” John Stott wrote, “different from both the nominal church and the secular world, different from both the religious and the irreligious. The Sermon on the Mount is the most complete delineation anywhere in the New Testament of the Christian counter-culture. Here is a Christian value-system, ethical standard, religious devotion, attitude to money, ambition, lifestyle and network of relationships – all of which are totally at variance in the non-Christian world. And this Christian counter-culture is the life of the kingdom of God” [1].

Context | Jesus preached this sermon in Galilee, which was under Roman control. In Rome, Tiberius was Emperor and, having deified his adoptive father Julius Caesar, many called him the Son of God. The regional leader was Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, who led the Slaughter of the Innocents when Jesus was born and who was called the King of the Jews[2]. Herod Antipas, who beheaded John the Baptist, was just as brutal as his father [3]. In this context, Jesus preached an alternative kingdom, where he was the true Son of God and King of the Jews.

Lights | In this sermon, therefore, Jesus wasn’t talking about a tranquil spiritual life. He said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” [4]. His kingdom wouldn’t come by sword against Tiberius or Herod; it would come by a lifestyle of good works against the real insurrectionist – Satan himself. This wouldn’t be easy. As Jesus knew, he would have to be killed in order to redeem his people and put his Spirit within them to will and work for his good pleasure [5].

Prayer | Lord, We long to live as lights in our cities, valuing service and sacrifice over strength and success. Awaken your Spirit within us so that, by taking up our crosses, our lives proclaim that Christ alone is our treasure, security and salvation. We are loyal and happy subjects of your kingdom. Therefore, let us shine forth your glory. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] John Stott. The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1978.  |  [2] See Matthew 2:13-18.  |  [3] See Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9.  |  [4] Matthew 5:14-16  |  [5] See Philippians 2:13.

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