The Sermon on the Mount
That which is called the Sermon on the Mount(Matt ch 5) is a searching and powerful utterance of Jesus. The very high standard that Jesus sets can only be appreciated by those who are called by God and who accept the Word of God without question. It shows clearly the outlook and the attitude of the mind of Christ, and it is impossible for us to appreciate these ideals without understanding Jesus. Therefore to those who are prepared to accept the invitation of Jesus to forsake all and follow him there is no greater guide than these words that he uttered.
The opening words, called the Beatitudes, are designed for life, and although we probably know them by heart, do we have them in our heart? Although there is a vast difference between the speed and tensions and temptations of today and those of the days when Jesus taught in the land of Israel, the challenge to obey the words of Jesus remains just as strong. The words of Jesus are not so much a set of rules as a set of principles which are timeless in their application and demand our wholehearted response in spirit rather than the letter of the law.
The Sermon on the Mount gives directions. The words that Jesus speaks are not nice separate ideals, but different aspects of the complete new man in Christ. All the words of Jesus are essential. It is a waste of time for us to say that we apply parts of the words of Jesus and forget other parts.
So whilst we analyse the qualities that Jesus sets before us one by one, we must not lose sight of the whole picture presented to us. That which Jesus wants us to do is based on his own character. The words �blessed are� refer ultimately to the blessings of the future Kingdom, but inasmuch as the disciple strives to live the perfect life, there are wonderful blessings for those who in their ways and characters love God and keep all His words.
The first words are 'the poor in spirit'. The word poor indicates being destitute and implies the words recorded by Isaiah 57:15, "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." We recognize our helplessness and our unworthiness, and if we are wise we throw ourselves upon the love and mercy of God. Poverty of spirit is the opposite to natural wilfulness.
We follow Jesus during his greatest mental emotional trial in Gethsemane. When he knew that the greatest hour of his suffering was near, he prayed, and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood, so great was the struggle within him. Then from his heart he uttered these words which we ourselves are often reluctant to say, "not my will, but thine be done".
It is hard for us to say those words, especially if they are going to cause us grief or pain, but we must ultimately remember that God does know what is best for us. So the first words of Jesus tell us the first requirement of the true disciple. And this requirement is emptying ourselves of pride, of wilfulness, of the things that the flesh desires, and this is necessary before we can fill our minds with the things that our Lord shows are important in God's sight, to make ourselves more like Jesus every day.
So Jesus says, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." Why should a brother or sister be blessed for mourning? It appears a contradiction in terms. We grieve realising our inadequacy in keeping to the high standard set by Jesus. This grief must have the sincerity of Paul when he exclaimed, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord, so then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin" (Rom 7:24-25).
That which is in the mind is vitally important. As a man thinketh, so is he. In our minds, in our hearts, in our desires, in our works and faith, it is essential that we serve God. We are of course saddened by the grief and evil around us in the world, and whilst we pray for the day of redemption, we see the example of Jesus, who took away the misery of thousands by healing them. He gave comfort even to those who walked away from him. Paul says, "Do good unto all men especially unto them who are of the household of faith" and Jesus is our example. (Gal 6:10).
In Matthew 7:12 the Lord Jesus Christ says, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."
Paul said in Galatians 6:7-9, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
Paul tells us in Galatians 6:2, "Bear ye one another's burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ." Also in chapter 5:22-23, he says "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law".
Paul says, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."
Bro. Joseph Oppong (Shama, Ghana)