The primary purpose of the sermon on the mount was to explain in explicit and practical terms the quality of genuine righteousness of the citizens within the kingdom of heaven. It had to exceed the superficial and hypocritical righteousness of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).
In addition to being a thorough instruction in righteousness, Jesus’ sermon on the mount had another result: “the people were astonished at His teaching” (Matthew 7:28).
Because of its brevity and its purity (see yesterday’s blog), it is an astonishing sermon. To this list of astonishing characteristics can be added:
- Its originality. How simple, vivid, and easily understood are its illustrations—salt, light, a closet, birds of the air, lilies of the field, a speck of dust, a large beam of wood, dogs, hogs, gates, paths, wolves, fruit trees, the foundations of houses. This astonishing sermon bursts with crystal clear illustrations not found hitherto in history.
- Its simplicity. One of life’s toughest challenges—how to treat others—is expressed in words and a way that the very youngest of humans can understand and live by. The clearest, most concise pronouncement of how to be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy is best summed up in the eight verses called the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). Here is post-graduate instruction written on a first grader’s reading level. This astonishing sermon pulsates with simplicity.
- Its profundity. J. T. Fisher and L. S. Hawley once wrote: “If you were to take the sum total of all authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene—if you were to combine them and refine them and leave out the excess verbiage—if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley. And if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount. And it would suffer immeasurably through comparison. For nearly two thousand years the Christian world has been holding in its hands the complete answer to its restless and fruitless yearnings. Here…rests the blueprint for successful human life with optimum mental health and contentment.”
An astonishing sermon indeed!