Sunday, May 25, 2008

Matthew 5-7 The Sermon on the Mount-Introductory Thoughts

As I noted in the first blog post that I wrote on Matthew, this gospel’s primary audience was the Jewish people. I suspect this included both Christians and Non-Christian Jews. The Jewish people were God’s specially chosen people out of all the people on the earth and it was those people who Jesus went to primarily. God had revealed himself to the Jews both by miraculous signs and wonders as well as the revelation of His precious word. However, the Jewish people living in Jesus’ day were practicing a religion devoid of the substance of that truth while maintaining some of the ritual formalities. As we prepare to study this amazing sermon, we should remember and keep in mind the religious hypocrisy that was rampant in the time that Jesus walked the earth.

Their spiritual condition should not come as much of a surprise to us. As students of God’s word, we know the story of the Jewish nation and their relationship to God. We know how He saved them out of bondage in Egypt with awesome, supernatural displays of His power. Yet, as they stood on the banks of the Red Sea, they worried about how He could possibly save them from the armies of Pharaoh. They complained about the scarcity of food and water as if it was too hard for God to provide those things even after they saw His power displayed again and again. They constantly rebelled against His commandments and refused to enter the promised land even after He had assured them of victory. The book of Judges is a sad testament of their failure to truly commit themselves to God as they suffer judgment, repent, are saved by a God appointed leader only to start the whole process over again. The history of the Kingdom of Israel is quite similar with some kings who followed God and some who didn’t. Even after the invasion of the Northern Kingdom by Assyria and the Southern Kingdom by Babylon their heart was still stubborn. By the time of Malachi, their worship had become little more than an obligation they tried to fulfill rather than being something they did out of an overflow of love for God.

By the time Jesus arrived, their worship had only become more stagnant and unauthentic. Some people, like the Pharisees, were pretty good at external displays of righteousness and made a pretty good show. Others, feeling like that could never live up to what they were told by the Pharisees that the law of God demanded, lived a hopeless existence because they saw no way they could ever be good enough for God to love them. In this marvelous sermon, Jesus came to tell the first group that they had it all wrong. I mean, they were completely off base. Not only had they completely missed the point of the law of God they had no clue what true righteousness was or how incapable they were of producing it. To the other group, He revealed not only the truth about God’s righteousness but He also told them how to obtain it.

In short, as we begin to study thought this powerful teaching of our Lord, we should remember that our righteousness is not good enough for God. We can only come to God and have a relationship with Him when we realize how holy He is and how sinful we are. Only then will we recognize our need for a Savior to pay the price for our sins. Praise God that Jesus did just that.

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