For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
A Kingdom of Grace
The Sermon on the Mount is a message that seeks a place in the human heart, so that the character of Christ may be expressed in the earth.
"And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them ... And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes ... When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him."
(Matthew 5:1-2; 7:28-29; 8:1, KJV)
A Scene on the Mount
Close your eyes: Imagine Jesus climbing up the hill near to the Sea of Galilee with a multitude of people following Him. There you can see Syrians, Galileans, Trans-Jordanians and many from Jerusalem, Judea and Decapolis; and maybe, among them, certain Greeks, and even pious Romans. The fame of the Lord Jesus had spread in such a way that the afflicted, tormented, demon possessed, insane and the paralyzed, all came to be healed. Through out Galilee the gospel of the Kingdom of heaven spread. Jesus embodied the presence of that Kingdom! "My Father's Kingdom that is in the heaven -he said- is near, repent." (Mat. 4:17)
"From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (KJV, Mat. 4:17)
How near the Kingdom of heaven has been made for us through Him! So, behold, there, seated on a stone, while on the grass, that beautiful pasture, the multitude were tendered under His watchful gaze.
He has begun to speak: "And he opened his mouth and taught them saying." In the historical records there is no other teacher like Him: His voice, His presence, His profile, His grace, there has not been a comparable. Christ is unique! The Son of the living God has not found a more solemn classroom than that of a rural mount, a sufficiently high hill for such an exalted discourse. There was non worthier or more select audience than those poor in spirit. Here those hungry and thirsty for righteousness, with such pleasure heard the "program" of the Kingdom of God.
When we read: "Opening His mouth" , we find that such detail has a remarkable repercussion. Because whenever he opened up His mouth, it was to declare words that transcend time and space. Words that, even in this century of materialism, globalization, fully resonate with virtue and glory. Hallelujah! Yesterday's listeners, countrymen of humble condition, Jews habitually given to the practice of rites and ceremonies, listen for the first time to the true fount flowing with the grace and light that came to this world. "The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." (NIVMatthew 4:16).
"The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up" (KJV, Matthew 4:16).
Behold Him there, sitting before the illustrious unknown, who are now risen to the status of disciples, transformed into citizens of the Kingdom of heaven. Oh, what a blessed and memorable day! What a formidable day to hear the greatest word ever heard! Christ fills the whole atmosphere!
The Voice of Freedom
A nation subdued under the Empire of Rome, subjected to the will of a temporary power, considered as sub-class citizens, that day finally heard the voice of freedom. A comforting voice whose redeeming message announces a Kingdom with out space or place in the earth: the limitless spiritual Kingdom that enters into the heart of men that really love God.
Therefore, in opposition to the eloquent who receive the violent, the skillful and cunning, the abusive, the warlike winners; the archetypes of sin and madness, the implacable ones, in short, all that is applauded in the gentile world, is put below those who in poverty of spirit, Christ calls "Blessed." They are the meek, the peacemakers, those that cry, those that are hungry and thirsty for righteousness. How these words challenge the forces of evil! There is nothing more opposed to the bloodthirsty, worldly kingdom, void of piety and without mercy that act according to their own righteousness. Such words make the humble hearts tremble.
They were hearing what never had been revealed before, being little, unschooled, common people, the Teacher taught them in such a way that the words fell like droplets of grace on their hearts. The floodgates of the glorious freedom opened up in Christ! God gave them a new identity, the affiliation with the heirs of the Kingdom of heaven.
Demands in Grace
"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the Teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20).
The Scribes and the Pharisees constituted a religious cast. They were jealous guardians of the righteousness according to the law, but in their hearts there was no sincerity. On the external, rigorous; on the internal, corrupt hypocrites! The Lord Jesus himself referred to them in this way. The appearance of godliness is an act. The hypocrite is nothing more than an actor, joker or comedian of the faith. But in the Kingdom of heaven things are established differently. Christ, for example, made these demands:
"Be Perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is..." (5:48)
"let your light shine before men..." (5:16)
"Seek first the Kingdom of God..." (6:33)
"Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven..." (6:20)
"love your enemies..." (5:44) "
"do not worry about your life..." (6:25)
"cut it off and throw it away. It is better .. than for your whole body to go into hell..." (5:29,30)
"Do not judge, first take the plank out of your own eye..." (7:1,5)
"Simply let your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no' 'no'...." (5:37)
These and the other demands that we find in the Sermon on the Mount are the fundamental pillars of the Kingdom of God. Christ's demands are not in opposition to the law, but rather they transcend it. Are they perhaps unjust and excessive? Are they out of place? Are they separated from grace? No, by no means.
Considering some of the aspects that we have addressed as Christ's demands, we can see the following: As for character, one must be perfect. As for righteousness, it is not to be seen. As for knowledge, called to be light. As for wealth, treasures in the heavens. As for love, loving the enemy. As for judgment, judging oneself first. In speaking, sincere, loyal and authentic.
It is in the grace of His Kingdom where it is possible to live in the fullness of the greatest demands. His love enables us. His grace helps us.
Being Consistent: Hearing and Doing
"Therefore, anyone that hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." (Matthew 7:24). "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22).
It is time to leave the camp of mere concepts. It may well be that the Lord's words move and affect one's knowledge, and don't go beyond an unreachable ideal.
For a believer, an internal change is necessary. It is a repentant and forgiven soul that converts to Christ. It is God's grace that touches the most intimate of one's being to produce such changes in harmony with the Kingdom of God. If this is true, one will become the wise man who builds his house on the rock. That rock is Christ, His word, His faith, His godliness (piety) , His love.
Hearing such beautiful words from the mouth of Christ is not enough, although it is the beginning. Putting these words into practice is to build the Christian life on solid, sure and eternal ground. This is good sense. This is wisdom. This is taking the Kingdom of God and putting it into practice. Being consistent with Christ's words is to hear them and to do them: "Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matt.6:10)
The Kingdom of the Blessed
All those who are joyous in having the life of Christ within, have such a precious blessing! Once Christ is established in the heart, then the Kingdom of God will manifest the perfect way to the merciful, to the peacemaker, to the meek, to the pure of heart, to the one who has the capacity to "keep his whole body in check" (James 3:2). and to forgive those who sin against us just as the Father forgives us of our sins (Matt. 6:14). The Kingdom of heaven settles in the heart, and from there graces of God are manifested that neither the law nor the flesh can produce.
Still better said, as it is written in James 1:25: "But the wise man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it- he will be blessed in what he does."
The End of the Sermon
When Jesus finished saying these things, the large crowd, together with Jesus, descended the mountainside and were amazed by His teaching. He taught as one that had authority, not as the Scribes that sit in Moses' seat and who the Lord says: "do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach." (Matt. 23:3). The foundations of the Kingdom of God were stamped on hearts, written in the Gospels, and flowing like a pleasing perfume in the air through the centuries, forever and ever. Amen.