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"Sermon" on the Mount?

For many years now, Jesus’ famous, so-called “Sermon on the Mount” has been understood to be a collection of Jesus’ teachings about how we should live. When people say that Jesus was “a great teacher”, they are vaguely referring to this portion of Matthew’s gospel, which includes sayings such as “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” and “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” To western ears, a “sermon” is a very mild word. A sermon is when someone tells you to be nice, in a nice church, or it is when someone warns you about a hell that you don’t believe in, in a tedious church. Most people will assume that Jesus falls into the first camp, while few others will insist that Jesus falls into the second. But the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), is not actually as sermon in this sense at all. It is an announcement of the beginning of a revolution. When Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, He is not saying that when the poor die, they will go straight to heaven. Jesus is saying, in effect, now that I am in charge, this is the way things are going to be from this point on! It is not insignificant that one of the three key temptations Jesus experienced in the wilderness was the offer of the kingdoms of the world through the seemingly small price of offering worship to the satan (Matthew 4:8-9). Jesus came to claim His kingdom and if He did not, this temptation would have meant nothing to Him. No, Jesus came to claim His kingdom, and this is the beginning of the movement to make it a reality. And one of Jesus’ first moves as king is to set the captives free! The poor, the mourners, the gentle, the hungry for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted are the ones who are about to be vindicated. They are the ones who will be raised up in this Kingdom of God movement. (Matthew refers to the Kingdom of God as “The Kingdom of Heaven”, which was normal Jewish way of showing reverence by not saying the name of God too often and so lose reverence for it.) Make no mistake, Jesus is announcing the arrival of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. What follows in the rest of this “sermon” needs to be seen in this light.

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