In his lead article for this tremendous series on WISDOM, the author takes us rather quickly to a verse of definition. It reads, “(Jesus) came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’” – Matthew 13:54.
This article attempts to grasp, from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, some of the high, holy and helpful words that we need on a daily basis.
Our Bibles, containing the Word of God, become our text for drinking in the beautiful phrases and promises of Jesus. The task at hand in this writing is to see the wisdom found in Matthew 5 through 7 and then become stronger in our faith in the Father through His Son!
It was Augustine who gave the name “Sermon on the Mount” to this section. This title has stuck. John Stott reckons that “this sermon is the best-known part of the teaching of Jesus, but arguably, the least understood – and certainly, the least obeyed. It is the nearest thing to a manifesto that he ever uttered, for it is his own description of what he wanted his followers to be and to do.”
What Jesus taught in His day, we are expected to keep and obey in our day!
Please do yourself a favour and read Matthew chapters 5 through 7 as we will have to leave some parts untouched for this article.
THE BEATITUDES – Matthew 5:1-12
“Seeing the multitudes, Jesus went up on the mountain and sat down; then His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying….”
There very well may be an unknown factor here in this: “Jesus saw the crowds,” then “he went up on the mountain… and his disciples came to Him.” If we are thinking of those initial twelve men chosen by Jesus, then this could get confusing. A disciple is simply “a follower” as were those first called to follow Jesus and later were told to “go into all the world….” making them apostles or “those sent.”
Perhaps the answer is simply that the crowd watched while the twelve went to hear Jesus and gradually were drawn by his magnetism and became “the crowd.”
There is a profound connection between Matthew noting that Jesus “opened His mouth and began to teach them” with Jesus’ first answer from Deuteronomy 8:3 to Satan’s temptation in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.” Jesus, the incarnate Word, opens His mouth to speak the very word’s of God’s wisdom eternal (recall Proverbs 2:6 in our introductory article).
Since this section of Scripture takes in all of chapters 5 through 7, we can read in chapter seven, “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching”– Matt.7:28. At least by the time that Jesus finished, many people were there, to drink in these life changing words.
“Beatitude“ comes from a word that can mean “blessing.” Jesus taught people not only that there was a way that they could be blessed by their Heavenly Father, but he also set out the details of ‘that way’. It was contingent upon their response to His Son Jesus! Things formerly seen as burdens become privileges in Christ and result in blessings!
Nine different topics are given one after the other, all of which are designed to make his original hearers and now us, much better people. Please read these from your Bible in Matthew 5:1–11.
Jesus then adds “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (5:12).
Isn’t this why we live like we do? Don’t we “count our blessings, naming them one by one,” and live faithfully in the presence of both Deity and dust, looking for the time when each one will be in the presence of our Good God?
These sayings of Jesus are a “one-time for all-time for all-people foundation.” The beauty is observed in the second part of each addition. He promises that the material in the second part of each sentence is better than the first. For example: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
This brief glance at each of these “beatitudes” allows us to read the text and observe two parts: the first is material in mind, the second is the blessing to receive. These are not written in the same way we might frame them, but from the lips of our Lord, blessings are promised for the faithful. Let’s be “faithful unto death” in order to “receive a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
This Bible material is broken down into sections. Matthew 5:13 opens a new emphasis. The question for all of us is “How should we live on planet earth?” The answers comes swift and true. We should think of ourselves as “salt of the earth.” This phrase is defined as “good and honest people trying to make the earth a better place.” Christians should be first in line!
Likewise Jesus teaches us to be “lights that shine before men,” and for which God receives the glory!” (5:14–16). Does this describe your daily endeavours?
As knowledgeable and active as the Jewish Pharisees were, our mandate is not to imitate them but to surpass them both in actions and emphasis (5:20). Please read this carefully as our eternal destination hangs in the balance. We must go beyond their legalistic attitude and actions, or “we will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20). God has spoken!
12 WISDOM PRINCIPLES FROM MATTHEW 5:21–7:23
1. Try to always be at peace with people. Never hold a grudge against anyone. If someone has something against you try to be reconciled with that person (5: 21–26).
2. Be pure in your thoughts as well as in your actions. A man who looks lustfully at a woman is no less a sinner that a man who physically commits adultery (5: 27–32).
3. In your speech, be careful what you say and always speak the truth in love. Never think that you have to make someone believe you by swearing by the temple or “cross my heart and hope to die” (5:33–37).
4. Do not fight back or take revenge against one who hurts you or uses you. Let God be the avenger (5:38–42).
5. Love everyone, even your enemies, as God does. You are a child of God and should act that way (5:43–48).
6. Don’t broadcast your deeds or your prayers to the world. Do your good deeds and pray in secret before the Father only. And pray as Jesus taught us: first for His will, and then for our own needs (6:1–18).
7. Seek God’s will first before your own desires. Don’t worry about what you need in this life. If we are doing His will He will take care of us (6:19–34).
8. Don’t be critical of others and judge them unfairly. Always evaluate the situation and get your own house in order before you instruct someone else. And instruct only those who are worthy—willing to learn (7:1–6).
9. Be dependent on God for everything, and be assured that for any good thing you ask for He will give it to you according to His will (7:7–11).
10. Do for others in love what you want them to do for you. This is the golden rule. Don’t look to others to do something for you. Instead do for them the very thing you want them to do for you (7:12).
11. As for the decisions you make in life, always do the right thing, not the popular thing. Don’t follow the crowd (traveling on the wide road), but follow God instead along with all other true believers (who are traveling on a very narrow path). If you go the wrong way (the popular way, on the wide road) there is danger ahead and you will fall into certain destruction (Galatians 6:7–8; Matthew 7:13–14).
12. Be on your guard against false teachers who will take you down the wrong path. Know that not everyone who says that they are a Christian is a Christian (7:15–23).
The wisdom of this “Sermon on the Mount” is driven by the statements Jesus made in His Beatitudes.
In the next issue of the Gospel Herald we will see application to the “Jesus Way” in more depth and in statements that will challenge the best of us to see and live our lives like that of the Galilean Carpenter.