Scripture Focus: Matthew 7.28-29
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. 

Originally published on February 13, 2023, based on readings from Matthew 7.

Readers’ Choice posts are selected by our readers:
Melissa, Texas — Thank you.

Reflection: Be Amazed — Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Matthew and Luke (Luke 6.12-49), draw on imagery from Moses at Sinai when recording the Sermon on the Mount. Out in the wilderness, a leader goes up a mountain. A small group goes with him. Crowds follow below. From the mountain come moral teachings that define a new way to live for a new community.

The crowds following Jesus were a mix of society. Among them would be religious authorities and experts, average Jewish citizens, Roman officials, pagans, Greeks, and of course outcasts from all walks of life. Those who find beauty in Jesus’ words today are similarly diverse. Passages and principles from Matthew 5-7 are well-known and admired. Even those who reject religion, recognize that these teachings describe a beautiful way to live. Even today, the crowds are amazed at Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus’ teaching is a guide, an invitation, to live life in a way that is life-giving. These teachings are tied to Jesus’ authority and to the Law. Jesus often said, “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” Jesus wasn’t canceling or replacing the Law. He was correcting bad interpretations. (Matthew 5.21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44)

The Law, as it had been taught for centuries, had cracks and corruptions. The poor, outsiders, and widows slipped through these cracks. Many provisions in the law meant to support them were given legal loopholes allowing religious exemptions to true righteousness. (Mark 7.10-13) This is just one example of the blindness and corruption of the religious leaders of the time.

We can’t disconnect Jesus from his divinity when considering his challenging words. If his divine claims are false, all his teachings are only the ideas of a madman. If Jesus is God, as we believe, then he is the ultimate fulfillment of the Law and the ultimate authority in our lives. What corruption do we need Jesus to confront today? What cracks need to be filled in? What sins do we need to escape? 

The Sermon on the Mount isn’t just fluffy ideas about being nice to one another. It describes a kind of exodus. The power structures and selfish principles of the world are overturned one by one and, for those willing, an escape from brutality and greed opens up. His teaching excited the outcasts and frustrated or shocked those in power. It still does today.

Climb the mountain. Join the crowd. Be amazed at Jesus’ teachings. Let them shock, offend, and correct you.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down; touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. — Psalm 144.5

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 14 (Listen 9:01)
1 John 2 (Listen 4:04)

Read more about Killing With our Hearts
Some of the most popular sayings of Jesus are here in Matthew’s fifth chapter. So are many of the most ignored sayings of Jesus.

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