“The Greatest Sermon Ever”
There always seems to be a running debate, as to the “greatest” of all time. Now, that relates to a variety of things and people. For example; who is the greatest athlete of all time, who is the greatest world leader, what is the greatest food to eat, or what is the greatest book ever written? Well, everyone seems to have their opinions and the debate will probably never be settled in these matters, or most any others. That same question can be asked of things and people in the Bible, as well. Who is the greatest prophet, or what is the greatest Bible passage? Well, here is one to consider: What is the greatest sermon recorded in the Bible? Now, how would you answer that question? Some might look to Joshua’s message to the Israelites in Joshua 24. Others might suggest Paul’s words to the people in Athens on Mars Hill in Acts 17. And, no doubt, those are messages, or sermons, to be considered as the greatest of all time. What about Jesus’ words in Matthew chapters 5 through 7? We call those words His “Sermon on the Mount.” His message includes a variety of things regarding what it looks like to follow Him as His disciple. For a few minutes today, on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will take a look at what Jesus said about discipleship. We will notice some attitudes He wants His followers to possess, and some lifestyle changes that are to be made by those who recognize Him as their Lord and Savior. I hope you will stay tuned to the station as we look at what Jesus said about a number of very important matters. Open your Bibles with me now as we study together.
Out of all of the places Jesus carried out His ministry, more work was done in and around Capernaum than anywhere else. Among other things, He healed two blind men, Peter’s mother-in-law and the paralytic. He raised a girl from the dead and healed a man that had a withered hand. Matthew even identifies this as Jesus’ own city, in chapter 9, verse 1. Yes, Jesus spent lots of time in this area. Capernaum was attractive to many people in the first century because it was located on the northern shore on the Sea of Galilee. It was a great place to catch fish. Here in this Sea, Jesus found a coin in a fish’s mouth, which He used to pay His tax. The disciples caught more fish than they could get into their boat, after having fished all night and catching nothing. The farming was good, too. The dark volcanic rock had weathered into a rich soil. A historian records, every inch of the soil has been cultivated by the inhabitants. In this area, just northeast to the Sea of Galilee, is the traditional site where perhaps Jesus shared His most important teaching, that teaching is called the “Sermon on the Mount.” Can you imagine hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people sitting on this grassy slope listening to Jesus talk about loving one another, and being the salt and the light of the world? Some two thousand years ago, Jesus was at work teaching people what it meant to be His follower. That same teaching is important for us today. It is found in the early chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, and I hope you will take it seriously and allow it to change your life forever.
Some have suggested that the “Sermon on the Mount,” found in Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7, is a collection of teachings that Jesus gave throughout His public ministry; and, perhaps that is true. Others suggest that Jesus shared this message on one specific occasion to a certain group of people; and, perhaps that is true. Well, whatever the case might be, Matthew, chapters 5, 6, and 7, is filled with some great and important teaching. Jesus spent a great deal of time on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, and this was where He chose many of His apostles. It was also here that we find the remains of those villages called Capernaum and Bethsaida, and Chorazin. And in this area one can still find some very beautiful plains and grassy pastures. Well, according to Matthew chapter 5, in verse 1, as people follow Jesus, He went up on a mountain side and He sat down. He taught His followers many things, beginning with the nine beatitudes. Perhaps we have heard about them before. We call them ‘attitudes which ought to be’ and they are attitudes of the heart which translate to the very best way to live. Jesus also talked about the importance of those who follow Him to become the salt of the earth and the light of the world. And then Jesus made this statement, in Matthew 5 and verse 20, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Now this is what we call His thesis statement. Everything else that He states revolves around this one point. This is most important. Jesus is telling His followers, if you want to be my follower, your righteousness must be better than that of the scribes (or the teachers of the Law), and the Pharisees. Oh, they were people who did not, in their heart, believe what they were trying to practice on the outside. In other words, they were not practicing what they preached. And so, Jesus states your righteousness is to be real and genuine, it is to come from the heart. Oh, Jesus’ mission was not to overthrow the teaching of the Law and the prophets, but rather to fulfill it. In part, as Jesus offered these teachings, He came to give a deeper meaning to the teaching of the past, and He came to offer this kind of teaching to show what real and genuine righteousness was all about, and Jesus does that beginning in verse 21 of the 5th chapter. And throughout the end of chapter 7, Jesus’ message is, “This is what your life is to look like, if you chose not only to be my follower but to be my disciple.” Yes, Jesus called upon His followers to be on the inside what they claim to be on the outside; and, that righteousness was to be real. It was to come from the heart. And these teachings are the foundation of how people can be a disciple of Jesus Christ even in the world today. They offer insight on how we can move from being just a follower, to being a committed disciple. And as Jesus share’s these words, we are to see how they can be incorporated into our own lives. Well, I want us to look at some examples here, that we find in the “Sermon on the Mount.” Let’s begin with one that’s found in chapter 5, verses 21 and 22. Jesus said, <“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and any one who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that any one who is angry with his brother, will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in the danger of the fire of hell.”> Previous teachings suggested that you can be angry with people, you can be upset with people, but do not take it to the point that you take away their life. And that was the attitude and that’s the way many people lived; they lived any way they wanted to live but they stopped short of killing another person. And Jesus said, “No, those who follow me do something different. You might become upset with a person but do not become angry with that individual to the point you say something bad about him or her, or that you even call them a fool; because, if you let your anger get out of control then you will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Here’s another teaching that Jesus offered, it is found in chapter 5, verses 43 through 48. <“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be a child of your Father in Heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, are you doing more than others? Do not even Pagans doing that? Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”> Well, again, the teaching long ago was love those who love you and you can hate those who hate you. But Jesus says that’s what the tax collectors, that’s what the Pharisees are doing, and your righteousness is to exceed that. You are to love those who hate you. You are to even pray for those who persecute you. And then He says, think about how God loves people. He loves the good and the bad. He sends the rain and the sunshine on everybody. In other words, God is perfect in His love toward people and you are to be the same way, according to verse 48; that, if you want to be my disciple, you will be perfect in your love to all people. Here’s another statement from Jesus in the “Sermon on the Mount,” beginning in verse 1 of chapter 6: <“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”> Yes, there were some people in the day of Jesus who wanted everybody to know what they were doing for others. And when they gave to those who were poor, when they put their money in those jars, they wanted to sound the trumpets and say, “Look what I have done.” But Jesus states, if your righteousness is real then you will give in secret, even to the point that one hand does not know what the other hand is doing. And it really doesn’t matter what kind of attention or praise you receive here upon the earth. What is important is that you receive your praise from God, and you are giving to the poor and you are helping other people in the sight of the Lord; and, He will reward you. Lets take a look at another passage of Scripture here in the “Sermon on the Mount.” Listen to this teaching from Jesus, found in chapter 6, verses 19 through 21: <“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourself treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”> Jesus states that His disciples do not give in to the temptations of this world to store up treasures. And that is a big temptation, isn’t it, to pursue those things this world has to offer, and to gather up as much money and possessions and assets as we possibly can. Jesus states, those who follow me, those who are my disciples will store up treasures in heaven. And that is in contrast to the things here on this earth, which will soon pass away and be destroyed, but when we store-up for ourselves treasures in heaven, that is something that will last for all eternity. And so we invest in eternal life instead of investing in that which will not last very long. Lets look at one more passage of Scripture, in which Jesus offers a new way to live, in chapter 7, verses 1 through 5: <”Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of saw dust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take this speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”> It’s an interesting teaching, isn’t it? But Jesus is basically saying, do not judge other people. Who are you to stand in the place of God and to judge those who are not like you? Rather, instead of doing that, take the opportunity to evaluate your own life. Look at perhaps some of your own mistakes or short-comings before you begin to try to judge or cast out those mistakes that are found in other people’s lives. Oh, Jesus’ teaching here invites people to be of supreme character. We are to be content with what has been entrusted to us. We are to love others as God has loved us. We are to live a life of humility. We are to be people who pray and who trust God to provide for the things in our life. Yes, these are some of the most basic lessons Jesus ever taught. These are things that will transform our lives into being the true followers and disciples of Jesus Christ. And when we put them into practice, then, people around us will see that indeed our righteousness is real and that it comes from our hearts. We might even say that the “Sermon on the Mount” is the foundation for how we are to live as disciples of Christ. Well, the “Sermon on the Mount” then ends with four warnings; there are four contrasts that we find here in the last part of chapter 7. Jesus states there are two ways, the broad and the narrow way, in verses 13 and 14. He then makes a contrast between two trees, in verse 15 through 20; one that is healthy and one that is unhealthy. There are two claims in verses 21 through 23; people claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but the difference is some actually do what they’re commanded, while others do not. And then the last contrast that we find is there in verses 24 through 27, where Jesus contrasts two builders. Let’s notice what He states there, in Matthew 7 beginning with verse 24. <“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”> Well, the contrast is obvious, isn’t it? The person who builds his or her life on a foundation, the rock of Jesus’ teachings, is a wise person. And yet, the person who does not practice these things and does not build his or her life on these teachings, but rather on the shifting sands of time, is considered to be a foolish person. Oh, in each of these contrasts Jesus asks us to not only know about God’s Word and to know about His teaching but to begin to practice it, to do it; and, there is a big difference between the two. For example, I know several things about Jesus and His public ministry upon the earth, and the death and the burial and the resurrection. And, no doubt, you know some things about that as well. The difference comes, however, to not only know those things but to allow them to make a difference in our life, to not only know about Jesus but to truly know Jesus as our Lord and as our Savior. Allow me to illustrate it this way. What if I were to come to you and say, “Well, I read a book about brain surgery this afternoon and I even watched a short 20 minute video on YouTube® about doing that, and I believe I am ready to be a brain surgeon. Who wants to be my first patient?” Well, nobody would take me up on that offer, would they? That really doesn’t make much sense. And likewise, we can know about Jesus and about His teaching; but yet, to actually do it, and to put it into practice, and to know Jesus and His teaching and who He was is what is most important. Yes, we can know what Jesus tells us to do in these three chapters. We understand clearly the point He makes in each and every statement. But actually doing what Jesus teaches is another matter. And when we do that, we will become like that wise man who built his house upon a rock a firm foundation. A wise person represents those who put Jesus’ words into practice, and a wise person’s life will withstand anything that comes that way. On the other hand, those who pretend to have faith, or only have a passing interest in knowing about Jesus, are what He would call the foolish builders. And when the storms of life come, and obviously we know they will, then the structure of their life will not be able to withstand that storm. Yes, the “Sermon on the Mount” is the foundation for which disciples of Jesus build their lives. These are the essentials of not only a good relationship with God but also how to have a good relationship with the people whom God puts into our life. Well, the message here in these three chapters ends with one final challenge. And even though Jesus does not state these words Himself, they call for us to submit to His authority in our life. Let’s notice the last two verses of Matthew chapter 7. <When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the Law.> Yes, the crowds were amazed at Jesus. They were astonished at the way He spoke and how He was able to communicate a new meaning and a new significance to the teaching of the past. The teachers of the Law, with whom these people were most familiar, were quite different than Jesus Christ. They knew and they taught only what they had been reading or what they had memorized from the authors of the past. In other words, they spoke not on their own authority but they spoke on the authority of the religious leaders and the prophets and the teaching of days gone by. But Jesus was different than those teachers of the Law, He was the Master Teacher. He spoke on His Father’s authority and He had His Father’s approval. He spoke exactly what His Father wanted Him to say, as He came to fulfill His Father’s purposes here upon the earth. But many people could not handle that. They turned away from following Jesus Christ. They did not believe He was God’s Son. Yes, Jesus ushered in a new perspective. He presented a new way of life. He brought fresh wine to old wine skins. And it did not involve strict observances of rules and laws, but rather it focused on a relationship with the Lord God Almighty. One day Jesus spoke these words, John 5 verse 39, <“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, and yet you refuse to come to me, to have life.”> And that is basically what Jesus is trying to communicate to us here in the “Sermon on the Mount;” that we can read and we can study these passages and these Scriptures, but they always point us to Jesus Christ and how we can have a relationship with Him. Oh, the “Sermon on the Mount” revolves around putting into practice a new way to live. It includes a different attitude and a change of heart; and, it is about a relationship with God and with other people. And so, we end with two final questions. Number one: Will we be those who are simply amazed at Jesus’ teaching or will we put His words into practice; and two, will we remain a distant follower or will we become a committed disciple? My prayer for each one of us is that we are making those good and right decisions, and that we are moving simply from being a casual follower to being a committed disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Thank you for tuning in to today’s broadcast. I do hope this message from Jesus is a reminder of how He wants us to live as His followers. These truly are some of His most basic and important teachings. Perhaps you would like to hear this message again. If so, it can be found on our website, keytothekingdom.com. You can download it in a variety of formats without any cost or obligation. It is entitled “The Greatest Sermon Ever.” Other messages are on the site, as well, and they too are freely available. Please feel free to listen to any that might be of interest or that provide spiritual encouragement. On the website you will also find one minute devotional thoughts and short inspirational videos. A copy of our latest newsletter is available for your reading pleasure, and other studies and information might provide additional things to consider. Roku® television, a free phone app for smart phones, and Facebook® are additional ways to access “Key to the Kingdom.” I hope you will consider the best way to stay connected to this mass media ministry. Thank you again for joining us for today’s lesson. My desire is that these weekly messages build you up spiritually and assist you in drawing closer to the Lord. Please consider watching the next episode on this same channel and at this same time next week, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom."