THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, PART 1
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
The world to which Jesus came with His message of love knew little of Christian virtue or the gentle graces that make happy living. The world was ruled by the Romans, and theirs was called the kingdom of iron because of their strength and the brute force with which they governed. There were vast armies of strong Roman soldiers; gladiators fought in the arena to show their physical power; and men strove hard to excel one another in running, Jumping, throwing the discus, and in other sports. The poor could live only to satisfy the wicked desires of the rich and powerful. When the emperor went for a ride in his chariot, slaves would run ahead and shout to all the bystanders, "Bend the knee." Children had to work so hard that some of them never grew up; women were given little consideration. Anyone weak or gentle was despised.
Then came Jesus with His doctrine of love, gentleness, meekness and kindness. He told the people, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . . Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. . . . Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."
When Jesus saw the great crowd that had come out to see His work He went up to a mountain where there was plenty of room, so that everyone could listen to Him talk. Jesus has never kept His message for a select few, but has preached it so that everyone could hear and be saved.
The Poor in Spirit
He opened His sermon by telling the people what would make them happy. "Blessed [or happy] are the poor in spirit." It meant that they should be humble; and He said that theirs was the kingdom of Heaven. The people were looking for Christ to set up a kingdom on earth and overthrow the Roman rule by force, to release the Jews from bondage. But Jesus told them right from the beginning that He had a different method of winning the hearts of men: the meek shall inherit the earth. The people could not understand how such things could be, but through the eye of faith we can see that the children of God who are going through their humiliation now are going to rule the world during the Millennium after Jesus comes again.
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." One cannot be a Christian and quarrel and fight. When Jesus puts His peace into our hearts the troublesome nature is taken out. A little boy who was a Christian came home from school and said to his mother: "Mamma, do you know a good way to make people stop doing something you don't want them to do? Just let them go on, and they will stop. A boy kept pushing me and punching me with his foot, as he seemed to want to start a fuss. But I prayed inside, and pretended not to notice, and he stopped." Jesus gives each one of His children power to overcome when they are tried.
The Children's Kingdom
Jesus loved the children, and said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God" (Mark:10:14). One time when Jesus was in the Temple the children sang "Hosanna to the Son of David," and the priests were displeased; but Jesus said, "Have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?" Jesus wanted the children to sing praises to Him. He often called His followers, even the grownups, "children," because He said that unless men became humble and obedient as little children they could never get into Heaven ([Matthew:18:3]).
Your Light Shining
A little later in His sermon, Jesus said, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid." Another time Jesus said, "I am the light of the world," so you see He expected His followers to be like Him.
How do we become a light? By getting saved and having Jesus in our lives. If the Light is in us, He is going to shine out. Again we are commanded: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." People are not -- listening particularly to the one who says he is a Christian; but they are watching his life to see if he lives like Christ.
It doesn't take a big light to be seen of men. We are told that the light of a match can be seen for a mile in otherwise complete darkness. Each one of God's children has a light, and he must let it shine where God places him.
“Jesus bids us shine, with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine."
Someone has said, too, that the sunshine of life, which lights the whole world is made up of very little beams, that are bright all the time. That is what is important: let your light shine -- and all the time. People have no confidence in those who are saved one week, letting their light shine; and the next week backslidden and their light out. It is wonderful to keep saved, so that at school or anywhere you have something that helps you and glorifies God. There is power in Jesus' Blood to keep us saved all the time.
The Heart Seen by God
Jesus went on to talk about the Law and that the people were falling short of its commandments. The scribes and Pharisees, who were the religious people, declared that they obeyed the Ten Commandments, and were very careful that no one saw them break one. But they did not have any love in their hearts for God or their fellow men. They would stand and pray long prayers in order to appear holy, and then would "devour widows' houses" (Matthew:23:14). They probably charged more taxes for the upkeep of the church than the poor women could afford, and thus took away everything they had. Jesus told them they had omitted the "weightier matters of the law, judgement, mercy, and faith" (Matthew:23:23).
The Law said, "Thou shalt not kill"; but Jesus said a Christian would not even have the thing in him that would make him want to kill. One might never kill a man; but if he hated, he was already a murderer. Jesus said, "Love one another" -- even your enemies. He said if you love only those who love you, how are you any better than the sinners? Jesus loved us when we were His enemies, and He expects us to love our fellow men so much that we will be kind to them, and pray for them so that they will get saved, too. God lets the sun shine on the sinners as well as on the Christians, and the rain falls on all alike.
When Jesus gave the command, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect," He was not giving them a new commandment. God had told Abraham the same thing, "Walk before me, and be thou perfect" (Genesis:17:1). When Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God," He gave us the secret of perfection. Purity of heart is sanctification, holiness, through which we gain Christian perfection. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews:12:14).
1. What should be our attitude if we are persecuted for Jesus' sake?
2. How can we let our light shine?
3. If our brother has something against us, what should we do about it
4. What did Jesus teach about lending and giving to others?
5. How did Jesus instruct us to treat our enemies,
6. Does Jesus expect us to be perfect?
7. Commit to memory "The Beatitudes."