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 and His categorical imperatives (see the last blog post). It is equally astonishing:
- Because of His many areas of expertise. Righteousness is a wide-ranging subject. Though less than the age of 40 (Luke 3:23) and–unlike Saul of Tarsus–never a disciple at the feet of a world renowned Jewish rabbi like Gamaliel (John 7:15), Jesus was an expert on such spiritual profundities as prayer, Gehenna, false teachers, and discerning between pseudo- and genuine righteousness. What astonishing expertise!
- Because of His clear denunciation of unrighteousness. Superficial spirituality, pretentiousness piety, and hypocrisy are thoroughly condemned. Dogs, hogs, and wolves in sheep’s clothing are too. Wide gates, broad ways, and houses foolishly built on sand are exposed as treacherous and deadly. It requires an immense amount of help to misunderstand Jesus’ clear denunciation of these spiritually lethal things. What astonishing denunciations!
- Because of His stunning references to Himself. Being persecuted for Jesus’ sake will be greatly rewarded in the life to come. He came to fulfill every jot and tittle of the Law and the Prophets. Those who have gone before have taught and you have heard it said…but I (emphatic in the original) say to you…” He will be the judge who reads the sentence of eternal condemnation to all who practice lawlessness. It is the hearing and doing of His sayings which determines an individual’s wisdom or folly. Stupendous claims about Himself are found in this concise sermon on righteousness. What astonishing references!