My battalion and I are reading the Sermon on the Mount — that time when Jesus sat his crew down and said, “Dudes, you’ve got it all messed up; let me set you straight.”
I know, that’s not what I thought it was either. I always thought the Sermon on the Mount was Jesus telling me how blessed I am — “Blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are the peacemakers” — but those phrases are just the beatitudes, and I am learning that I really didn’t even understand those correctly.
I’m only half way through the study, but I think I could summarize the key idea –“The way you thought you were supposed to do stuff? Totally wrong. Sit down, let me explain.”
He tells the listeners — the disciples, a bunch of other people, and us — Jesus followers — that we are salt and light. We are preservative and clarity. We are seasoning and illumination. We should be noticeable. We notice salt in our food. We notice light in the dark.
What should we be noticed for? For doing stuff that you wouldn’t expect — for reconciling with our accusers instead of seeking retaliation, for loving our enemies, for giving to anyone who asks. It’s not what we are taught in our culture is it? Our culture screams — “get what’s coming to you! make him pay! don’t get sucked in!” So when we act in a way that our culture doesn’t expect, it’s noticeable.
And, let me tell you, when Jesus gave this Sermon on the Mount, He was noticeable. He went up on the side of a mountain (or possibly just a hill), sat down, and spoke to the crowds. He said, “You have heard…” and reminded them of the commandments. Then he said, “but I tell you…” to correct what they ‘had heard’. He was changing the rules. But not really. He was changing our understanding of the rules. We had seen the letter of the law — “do not murder.” Fine. Done. I won’t kill anybody. But he pointed out the heart of the law — “if you even tell someone they are worthless, you have killed them.” Ouch. I’ve probably done that. Especially during those difficult teen years. His point? We have all sinned. We have all broken every single commandment. The crowd felt the weight of the law — the whole law.
But they noticed something else. He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” In fact, he started there. He prepared them for the hard words they would hear. He said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” And then he showed them how to show mercy — “First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” He pushed further — “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. If anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” What? Then what am I going to wear???
Well, we haven’t reached this part in our study, but I know what is coming. I looked ahead…He said to them, “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
In fact, the message of the Sermon on the Mount is “You are of so much value, that I, God, chose to come down among you, sit with you, and spell it out for you.” What?
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” But, come on, I am surely not pure in heart! “You’re seeing me, aren’t you?”
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.
We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.