Made It to the Mount
We have made it to the mount. I’ve read this text over and over and over for the last few weeks. I’ve listened to it on runs. I have attempted to let it just saturate my mind. My prayer is that not only will our minds be touched throughout this time together, but also our hearts. Our very desires, that we would want more of the Kingdom that is introduced us to…for those of us who profess Christ our Savior—the Kingdom of our eternal home.
I would be remiss if I did not speak of our dear brother Glenn Lahm who passed away on Thursday. As I knew that this was the text coming up for this week, and kept praying for God’s faithfulness to be present with Glenn and Loyce, I began to think, wow Glenn was such a Kingdom-minded person. He was able to walk through that narrow gate. And see his faithful Savior — it still brings me to tears — that he gets to literally sit at the feet of Jesus right now.
Though we are not as fortunate at this immediate moment to actually sit at Jesus’ feet, we are so to speak ready to take our place in that grassy meadow near the Sea of Galilee. As we orient ourselves in the midst of that grassy mountainside — we see again that Matthew is pointing us to the fact that Jesus is that one the entire Jewish Bible points to. That He is the long-awaited one. That this is God’s rescue plan for His people — His own Son. Jesus. He begins by starting to assemble a New People. As we were reminded last week — He begins with the outcasts. He chooses His most intimate followers to be simple fishermen. Not academic elite’s — rather ones that Jesus will make “fishers of men”. Not only is Jesus preaching the “Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand”. He is also doing great signs and wonders in order to authenticate His mission and message. He’s gathering this following — this crowd. In Capernaum — a big city, pagan ideas in their religious practice, looking for the next new thing that will give them hope amidst their despair. I mean put yourself in that crowd’s sandals so to speak, or one of the newly called disciples. This guy is claiming some big news — it’s just like that prophet John. But, this guy, He’s not just dunking people in the water. He is doing things only God does — healing the lame, healing the sick, making the blind see, and casting out evil spirits. He’s making things new again. He’s reversing the effects of our sinful world.
What will He do next?
Let’s see. Let’s ask that question together, here now in 2021 — What will He do next? Or to frame it differently — What are the implications of the Sermon on the Mount?
The importance of verses 1 & 2
Some of you may be thinking — “Ok, what importance could Bucher possibly get out of these simple sentences?” And to be honest, I really second-guessed myself this week. I thought I just want to get into the meat of the beatitudes, but this is the structure or outline that I kept coming back to during my planning. So I was torn — then I read one of the commentators that put it this way.
“…verses 1-2 serve as the foundational introduction to the whole of the Sermon. They are not mere ornamental words to be skipped over quickly on the way to the real meat of the Sermon.”
Ok, Ok – Got it. I mean it’s like the Spirit was saying, “Hey — don’t mess this up!” I really checked myself, how arrogant am I that any of the Words of Scripture should be taken lightly or second rate? As I continued to ponder the simple sentences it was made clear that indeed this is setting up how we understand what Jesus is about to say. In these first two verses we see a rich context that helps us in the rest of the teaching. We see the audience that He is reaching and we see implications of His teaching.
So, I want to start with just verse 1. So we start with the audience. Jesus saw the crowds — maybe you have an image like this in your head. Or, maybe more likely closer to this second image. These are the same crowds of people that have followed out of all these towns in Galilee that have heard Him proclaim the “Kingdom is at hand”. They have seen the works He has done. They are asking that question, “What will He do next”? Think about this idea of the crowds for a second. There are all sorts of people, with different motives for being there. Some want to see the spectacle — some are leery of the focus of the crowd. Some are just infatuated with a personality — some are genuine in their desire to answer that question. In a crowd like that, if the song were written in the 1st century, someone would have yelled out Freebird — just to see if Jesus could replicate the shredding guitar of Lynyrd Skynyrd. And in response, we’d all say — “there’s one in every crowd”. Crowds are wide-ranging and often fickle. Think of the crowd of God’s people when exiting slavery in Egypt. “Yes — God we will do all that you have commanded us.” Moses heads back up the mountain for more personal instruction from God. Then someone in the crowd yells out — Golden Calf — and many in the crowd are like — yeah seems like a great idea. So Jesus begins His sermon with this crowd of various types of people with various motives, knowing the hearts of all who listen. Knowing there are some in that crowd that were only there for following of the crowd — jumping on the bandwagon so to speak.
There is also another audience that Matthew specifies — the disciples. Remember those simple fishermen? They weren’t brought up in any special rabbinical school, but they culturally know, when their Rabbi is preparing to speak — they listen intently. It’s the whole point of being a disciple, to literally watch every move and listen to every word, so the follower can literally be just like the master. We don’t know to the extent of their knowledge of who Jesus is yet. At least they know, He is a great man of God, one who speaks clearly the truth of Scripture, looks to be continuing the prophetic work of John the Baptist. They have left their profession, their livelihood, their families. They are all in. He’s the guy that they have devoted themselves to — given their life to. Many of the words we speak of about our own conversion and claiming Christ as our Savior! Jesus prepares to speak to both of these audiences. The one that is often fickle and the one that has given up all to follow Him. Yet, Jesus doesn’t separate any of the content as He does elsewhere in the Gospels. He knows some will have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand, yet not all.
Jesus begins His Sermon with a united message to two groups of people. This is why I get up here each Sunday — it’s why I proclaim the Gospel in each sermon. From Jesus’ life on earth until now and until Christ returns — all people who proclaim the Word of God will have these two types of audiences. Those who have ears to hear and those who don’t.
I love how this commentator put it:
“Rather, the concluding reference to the crowds shows that the Sermon is to be understood as a general call to all people, an epitomizing of Jesus’s teaching concerning the kingdom, and that ‘he who has ears to hear’ should respond. The hearing, understanding, and obeying moves one from being part of the crowd to being a disciple.”
The next significant thing we move to is the context of the setting. “He went up on the mountain”. Remember Matthew’s intent — fulfillment — showing how the Old Testament is pointing us to Jesus. I’ve already mentioned it before — who else ascended a mountain? Moses. Matthew didn’t say that just for us to now to picture where Jesus was delivering this message. No, he wanted to relate Jesus to Moses. But pause for a second, think about the importance of mountains throughout the landscape of scripture. Where did the Ark land — on a mountain. Obviously Mount Sinai. Then in the promised land — referred to often in the OT as Mount Zion. Mount Carmel, Mount Gilead, Mount Moriah, Mount of Olives, Mount of Transfiguration…Even in the evil times of the people of Israel, when they worshiped other gods. What did they do — they made altars on the “High Places”. Mountains signified a divine religious experience.
And here we have Jesus going up the mountain. We know what’s coming. It’s a revelation of some sort. This is to perfectly link Jesus and Moses as I said earlier. Think of the narrative that Matthew has already displayed to link them—birth and escape from slaughter. They both left Egypt. They both wandered in the Wilderness, 40 days and 40 years. They both did great signs and wonders. And now Jesus prepares to teach the people of God on a mountain the ways of God. Matthew wants to signify that indeed — this mountain Sermon will have great implications for the people of God. The people that will enter that narrow gate to the Kingdom. This mountain will also be a divine religious experience as well. Jesus is the better Moses — where Moses failed — Jesus will not. This is an important implication — perfect fulfillment
Jesus begins His Sermon with fulfillment as the second, perfect Moses. These are important things to grasp — fulfillment — Jesus is the one that everything has been pointing to. And now on this mountain do we see a second Moses preparing to teach God’s people, God’s ways. Lastly, we come to verse 2. What is the purpose of Jesus being on on this mountainside? We’ve mentioned it already. He was to teach. I referenced the difference last week between teaching and preaching — preaching is reaching the will — teaching is aimed at the mind, to inform action. So now, not only has Jesus preached and proclaimed that all who hear should Repent — change their desires — change their allegiance from evil to God. But, He is now teaching the people — He wants them to understand with their minds. He wants them to know how God expects them to behave as His people. His set-apart people — There are clear lines of separation between His people and not His people.
We skimmed over the fact that Jesus sat down…Which in our context almost sounds passive. If I decided to sit down on the top step of the stage, you would think I was being really informal or lazy. But in the context of Jesus’ 1st-century Jewish culture — this was an immediate sign that Jesus had something important to relay. The rabbi or teacher was about to depart wisdom and instruction on His followers were to live their daily lives. So as soon as Jesus “went up the mountain” and sat down — the disciples would have instinctively known that Jesus was not just taking a break, but rather they should come near in order to hear well the important instruction. The disciples knew that this was not just Jesus getting ready to do some wonder or sign. No, He was going to give them knowledge, understanding, He was going to speak on Old Testament material and give His own interpretation to daily life application. So His sermon was supposed to do both the purpose of preaching and teaching. One would need to have a transformed will or desire as well as understanding how life was supposed to be lived in light of changed desires.
I do think it’s interesting to note that Matthew records Jesus as “opening His mouth”. And as one commentator had mentioned, we shouldn’t think that Matthew was pointing this out because he sometimes spoke as a ventriloquist. Rather it was a formal recognition that the teaching was about to commence. Though I really appreciated the way one of the early church father’s commented on this small description:
John Chrysostom says, “And for what reason is the clause added, “He opened his mouth”? To inform you that in his very silence he gave instruction, and not only when he spoke. At one time he taught by “opening his mouth,” while at another by the works that he did.” 
He was forming the minds of all the crowd as they followed through Galilee — look who has the power and authority to do things only God does—Jesus. He has been teaching them through His signs and wonders — this time — He opened His mouth. His words will be the instrument of formation and transformation.
Jesus begins His Sermon with the intent of instructing the people of God. That is an important fact. This is not just a wise saying or charismatic speech. It is instruction aimed at reaching the people that would be citizens of the very Kingdom that was at Hand. It is for the masses indeed — but it only applies to people that are of a different citizenship.
Martin Lloyd-Jones put it this way: “He meant them to be taught, He meant them to be practiced. Our Lord Himself lived the Sermon on the Mount. The apostles lived the Sermon on the Mount, and if you take the trouble to read the lives of saints down through the centuries, and the men who have been most greatly used of God, you will find that, every time, they have been [people] who have taken the Sermon on the Mount not only seriously, but literally.” 
The intention of Jesus to teach the people of God again mirrors that of the way Moses so dutifully taught God’s people before Him. And now we see the great importance of how to understand the very dear words of Jesus that are to come. To understand the significance of the setting and the audience.
I have a few things that I want you to leave with today that will encourage us, help us, and prepare us for Jesus’ teaching.
Take away – 1
We must understand that the coming teaching can only be followed by the help of the Holy Spirit.
Take away – 2
We must trust that God is faithful to save His people.
Take away – 3
We must diligently apply the coming teaching to our daily lives.
When we pray that Jesus would give us eyes to see…We must understand He does this by His sacrificial life, death, resurrection, and ascension in order that the Holy Spirit would guide our lives. Trust that it was on your behalf, on my behalf. Whether you never have before, or you have for 15-20-50 years or more — trust that every day. And do as Jesus preached — repent — have your desires transformed — leaving the ways of old — and following Christ Jesus with everything you have.
1 Jonathan T. Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing (Grand Rapids, MI : Baker Academic, 2017), 137
2 Jonathan T. Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing (Grand Rapids, MI : Baker Academic, 2017), 143
3 Jonathan T. Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing (Grand Rapids, MI : Baker Academic, 2017), 138
4 Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 78.
5 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, MI : W.B. Eerdmans, 1976), 22-23