What is the point of the sermon? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
When looking at eschatology in the Gospels, one of the main points to establish is really the kingship of Jesus. For that now, we start a look at the Sermon on the Mount. Many of us look at the sermon and see a great list of ethical principles. It is that, but it is so much more.
We are in an election year and so this year, our candidates for whatever office will be going around stating what things are going to be like if they win their election. Jesus is doing the same kind of thing in this sermon. He is not just telling people how to live. He is telling them what matters most in the Kingdom of God and how you are to live in the Kingdom.
The sermon ends with the people being amazed because Jesus spoke with authority. How? He is a king and He is speaking as a king and He is laying down the law. This is quite literal. Throughout the sermon, Jesus is doing something radical. He is speaking on the Law and declaring what is really going to happen.
What’s so amazing about that? Didn’t the rabbis speak on the Law? Yes, but they always pointed to another authority. Jesus doesn’t do that. Jesus is basically getting up and saying “I’m in charge and I don’t need anyone else to back what I say.” He speaks from His own position and authority.
It’s so startling that a Jewish scholar like Jacob Neusner looked at it once and said, “Who do you think you are? God?” Well, yes. He did. He thought He alone had the authority to speak this way.
Jesus’s Kingdom is a reversal of what most kings would give. This is not about how to build up the best army to go after Rome. If anything, the only time Rome is spoken of, it is of how one can better serve a Roman soldier or how one should retaliate from an insult from a Roman soldier or any demand from such a soldier. This is not what you expect from your Messiah.
Furthermore, if you seek to follow the ethical principles, you are falling short if you do not follow the king who gave them. As Lewis said, Jesus is not just coming claiming to be a good moral teacher. He’s claiming to be the King of all. Besides, as Lewis said, we have had a penchant of not listening to our moral teachers and if Jesus was the best one, all the more reason for us to not listen to Him.
So over the next few days, I plan to look over the sermon and see it from a kingly perspective. I hope you’ll join me.