According to Matthew, the most astonishing aspect of Jesus’ sermon on righteousness was the distinct authority of the preacher—”He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:29).
As is expected of all who speak for God, Jesus lovingly, clearly, and simply spoke the profound oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11). The only traditions of the elders or quotes from Jewish rabbis found in the sermon on the mount come in His contrast between their teaching which resulted in the flawed righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees and His teaching on the authentic righteousness essential to the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matthew 5:20-48).
Jesus’ authority is astonishing:
- Because of His absolute certainty. There are no caveats, provisos, or fine print to the promises found in the beatitudes. The poor in spirit who mourn, are meek, do hunger and thirst after righteousness, are merciful, are pure in heart, are peacemakers, and are persecuted for righteousness’ sake shall (not “could”, “might”, “may”, or “are likely to”) be blessed—i.e. be in the kingdom of heaven, be comforted, inherit the earth, be filled with righteousness, obtain mercy, see God, and be called the sons of God. Those with righteous priorities shall enjoy God’s providential blessings of food and covering (Matthew 6:33). Those misled by false teachers shall be eternally punished (Matthew 7:19). In the sermon on the mount, the preacher never mumbles, speculates, hedges, or utters an uncertain sound. What astonishing certainty!
- Because of His categorical imperatives. In this sermon on righteousness which has been divided into 107 verses, there are 46 imperatives/commands given. Jesus commands such things as: rejoicing; bright, righteous living; reconciliation; extreme zeal for purity; unquestionable integrity; non-retaliation; generosity; love of the unlovely; spiritual watchfulness; secret prayer; prayerfulness; confidence and structure in prayer; wise treasures; worry-free living; proper priorities; righteous judgment; just treatment of others; and the avoidance of false prophets. No sphere of human existence is missed in this extraordinary sermon. What astonishing imperatives!