On the 30th of January I am preaching on Matthew 5:1-12. Otherwise known as the ‘beatitudes’, these constitute to some of the most stirring, most memorable words of Jesus’ teaching. In Matthew’s Gospel, these statements are the prologue to Jesus’ whole teaching. These statements make sense of the rest of his life and ministry, and show the reason behind his actions
I am pretty anxious about preaching on these words. I’ve heard a dozen sermons on these words – each one different, each one illuminating and I’ll probably hear dozens more. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite this nervous about a passage I am going to preach.
So, I am going to spend the next few days exploring these statements here, because maybe my reflections can be helpful to others and it would be nice to have some feedback.
At this point in Matthew’s account of Christ, he has already recorded Jesus’ credentials as the Messiah, the promised king of David’s line. He has already shown how Gentiles are welcome to bring their offering to God. Matthew has shown Jesus as vanquisher of the devil and caller of men. By the end of Matthew 4 (Matthew 4:23-25), Jesus has gathered a large following aside from his disciples, drawn perhaps to his teaching, his healing or maybe drawn by the crowd.
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. (Matthew 5:1)
So, Jesus has a following and he brings them to a place in order to teach them. This strikes me immediately in it’s similarity with the Mount Sinai meeting between Moses and Yahweh (Exodus 19:20) however on this occasion God didn’t descend on the mountain. He climbed it, wearing human flesh. Yahweh at that time has liberated Israel from slavery, but stops them before they reach their promised land to tell them the Law. Similarly, Jesus has announced that the Kingdom of God is at hand (Matthew 4:17) and takes his people to a place where they can be taught how they ought to live in this new kingdom.
It should be noted that we see two groups of people: The crowds and the disciples. The disciples were called and the crowds were drawn. There is a difference. The crowds came because they had seen Jesus heal, teach and declare the good news. The disciples were taken by Christ from their lives into his service. As I go on with these reflections, I’ll try to imagine how the disciples heard these words, and differentiate between how the crowd might have heard them. Perhaps therein is a lesson for believers today. But I digress.
Jesus is on the mountain. Jesus: Messiah for all nations who brings victory over sin and Satan, Son of God and perfect lawgiver.
What shall his declaration be?
Matthew goes on:
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: (Matthew 5:2)
Who is Jesus teaching? Are these words for the masses? For the disciples? If for the masses, the disciples are simply sitting close by their master. If for the disciples, Jesus has taken his followers away from the crowd as if to teach them what they ought to know when they continue in their ministries. Is Jesus teaching reserved for those who are his called disciples, or can anyone listen and hear him? We can find an answer to this question by looking to the end of this sermon. We know the crowds heard his teaching from their amazed response (Matthew 7:28-29).
Jesus seems to have no concerns about teaching any and all who would come to hear. His is no secret wisdom, but a word for everyone.
What kind of a man can do such a thing? And what is he going to tell them?
Check back tomorrow for more.