History is filled with great lines in the midst of various speeches or messages. Last century, we saw several which were great for a variety of reasons. Consider lines which were meant to inspire (JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”) Some lines are great because they serve as a reminder of extreme adversity (Roosevelt’s “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy.”) or provide extreme hope (King’s “I have a dream.”). And some stand out because of the character of the person and a reflection beyond what might be otherwise considered (Gehrig’s “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”)
As these examples, and many others, show, we often remember a line or two, but we tend to forget most of the speech which means we often lose the message as well. But that is not true of the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon by Jesus some 2000 years ago is quoted over and over every day of the week by people who have chosen to follow Jesus and people who are against Him.
I have no real evidence for the claim I am about to make, but I believe it could very well be true. Apart from one stretch of 21 verses, another stretch of 16 verses, and two other stretches of 12, I think most regular church attenders would recognize any part of this sermon within four to five verses (the sermon is 107 verses long). And many non-Christians know parts of the sermon as well. Let me give you a few examples.
Starting in Matthew 5.3, the first verse of the sermon, we have the Beatitudes. Most Christians would recognize at least one Beatitude such as verse 8, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Then five verses later, we have “you are the salt of the earth” and the next verse, you are the light of the world. Now in verse 17, we may find some holes in what many people might know until verse 38 which talks about “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” and then “turn the other cheek,” and “go the extra mile,” and finally in verse 44, “love your enemies.”
Again, we might have a jump of 16 verses here, but then we have the prayer called the Lord’s Prayer. And a few verses later, we hear Jesus talking about laying up “treasures in heaven.” After another jump, we have Jesus command to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” followed two verses later with “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Five more verses pass until we read, “ask...seek...knock” and then another four verses until we find the Golden Rule. Finally, we have another gap of as many as 12 verses before we hear Jesus talking about the wise and foolish builders.
All of those memorable ideas in one speech, which, in part, makes this message so memorable, and even admired. But as R. T. France states succinctly, “The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is not meant to be admired but to be obeyed.” Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount was not to give us some memorable ideas that sound good, but to challenge and inspire us to live well as citizens of His Kingdom.
As we conclude this sermon series this week, hopefully, we can all agree that this sermon we have reviewed is the greatest sermon ever preached. The audience of Jesus’ day certainly knew something was different about the message they heard. But the question for us is ultimately the same question they faced on that day – how to respond? Did they act upon the message or did their astonishment soon pass because of the cares of the world? What will we do? Either way, Jesus spoke with authority because He had authority. And His authority will be our focus today.
Read Matthew 7.28-29.
Jesus Taught with Authority
The words of Jesus were unlike anything His generation had heard. The comparison in verse 29 is between the authority of the words of Jesus versus that of the scribes. Now, that statement can bring to mind many thoughts about the scribes, but let me bring two of them to light.
First, the scribes did not have the authority Jesus did. Occasionally a scribe, or more likely a rabbi, would reveal a new understanding or teaching, but largely the scribes were to teach what God had already said. That is, they were to take the Old Testament, and using Scripture plus oral and written tradition, they were to teach what God wanted His people to know. In reality, the scribes were much like myself. I have no authority to create new Scripture, only to interpret what God has given in the past. And my mind is not perfect, so I review trusted commentaries to help me gain clarity, and sometimes to help me understand at all. Then, I teach what I believe God has given me to teach to you (or others) based upon my understanding. That is largely the same thing the scribes did.
However, the second idea is that the scribes did not always teach accurately. Consider the last one-half of Matthew 5 where Jesus repeatedly says, “You have heard it said...but I say.” The people had heard what the scribes (and Pharisees) taught, but they were not always right on every issue. Unfortunately, neither am I. I strive to be accurate in examining the text, in interpreting the text, in processing the text, in teaching the text, and in applying the text, but I am imperfect too. But, if Jesus were to stand here and talk to you, I am sure He would say about some things I have taught, “You have heard Andy say, but I say...” Certainly, some teachers do a better job of teaching biblical principles correctly, and I pray that I am one of those teachers. But anyone who thinks they are beyond such correction is wrong – except Jesus. And the people with Him that day recognized the difference. Jesus taught with authority.
Consider the word authority for a moment. The root of the word is author, and Hebrews 12.2 teaches us that Jesus is the “Author and Perfecter of our faith.” Jesus has the authority because He is the author. What He says matters, nothing else. And when the people heard Jesus’ speaking that day, they knew something was different. Jesus spoke with authority, not just as someone who read, tried to understand, and then taught others (again like me). He taught with understanding because He was the original author of the material being taught.
Jesus could say, “but I say to you” because He not only had the authority to say it, but is the authority who judges what is said. Jesus is the living Word of God and the Bible is the written Word of God. Thus, Jesus’ life is a perfect picture of what God has written or what He didn’t have to write because people could see Jesus. In other words, Jesus had the authority to teach it because He lived it.
Jesus Lived with Authority
In a previous sermon series (Follow Me...In the Footsteps of Jesus) based upon the Gospel According to Mark from April 2016 to April 2017, we saw this truth continually. Jesus showed His authority in many ways and areas. For instance, He displayed His authority:
- over illnesses (see Mark 1.34; 5.34; 10.52, etc.).
- over demons (see Mark 1.25-26; 3.11-12; 9.25-26, etc.).
- over Satan (Mark 3.27).
- over the dead (Mark 5.41-42; see also the story of Lazarus in John 11).
- over nature (Mark 6.48-50).
Certainly, we could review the other gospels and find more instances, but regardless of where we look, we will see that He had complete authority while He lived, even up to, and including the moment He died (see Matthew 26.53; John 18.36 and 19.11; Luke 23.46).
Jesus Lives with Authority
The last point was not to distract you from the full truth; rather, it was meant as a progression of the truth. Jesus did live with authority, but remember the claim of the angels on Resurrection Morning, “He is not here, he is risen” (Matthew 28.6; also Mark 16.6; Luke 24.6). Jesus did live with authority, but He also lives with authority.
One of the most ironic ideas in the Bible is found in what Peter taught in Acts 3. Verse 15 says that the people “killed the Author of life.” Again, the idea of being an author gives a full measure of authority, but the people tried to usurp that authority from Jesus by killing Him. Yet, the verse continues with the great truth “whom God raised from the dead.” You may try to cast God aside, but He is in control. You may ignore God as you live your life, but He is in control. And as Peter reminds us here, you may even think you have permanently removed God, but He will not lose His authority.
Paul writes about the hope of the Christian because death has been swallowed up in victory and has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15.54-55). Why? Because Jesus overcame death. Yes, Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5) and Lazarus (John 11) from the dead, but those moments were just a prelude of what was to come.
We must remember that Satan offered Jesus authority if Jesus would bow down and worship him. But Jesus would not because the power Satan offered would not have left Jesus with full authority – He had bowed to another. However, when Jesus completed His mission, the Father gave full authority to Jesus. In Matthew 28.18, Jesus says, “All authority has been given to me.” God, the Father, granted Jesus authority during His life to do what God wanted/needed done. But now, all authority has been given to Jesus and one day He will return in authority to fully claim what is rightfully His (Matt 26.64; Revelation 19.11-16).
So, yes, we can read the words of Jesus’ great sermon and realize what the people thought on that day some 2000 years ago. These words, and this teaching, are special, because they are truly the Word of God. But what we know, and they didn’t, is that Jesus would go on to prove the authority He really had, and that He still has. However, the question remains for us, as it did for them, will we choose to follow the authority of Jesus or do we just find His teaching interesting?
How would having a knowledge of the glory of the Lord affect this teaching?
This question has been asked each week I have preached during this series. And the answer has been contextualized to each message, but the overall principle for correctly answering the question is this: Do you really mean what you pray when you say the words “on earth as it is in heaven.” That phrase within the model prayer is the basis for the title of this sermon series. And it is the title of this concluding message within the series because the glory of God and authority of Jesus is fully recognized in heaven. So when we pray, “as it is in heaven,” we are clearly implying we want God’s glory and Jesus’ authority to be fully realized here as well. But for that to happen, each of us must make it true for ourselves. Each individual must take ownership of that statement and allow Jesus to have full authority over your life. You might think that someone else needs to do more, but when we are seeking first God’s Kingdom and righteousness, we have less time to be concerned about the faults of others – at least, until the log is out of our own eye.
So, do you want God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven? Then what do you need to do to further submit to Jesus’ authority and accomplish your part of doing His will?
Jesus taught with authority and the people were amazed. But just because they were amazed does not mean they followed. Today, Jesus still has all authority, but the question is how we respond to that authority? Will we be wise and do what He says, or be a fool hearing Him, but not responding with action. Again, those were the last words of Jesus in His great sermon as we saw last week. He can say them because of the authority He has. But Jesus does not demand our allegiance. He desires our allegiance, but He allows us to make the choice of which master we will follow (Matthew 6.24).
That choice, however, is not like our vote for a president. Someone may vote for a person to be president and if that person doesn’t win, and is disliked, a slogan such as “not my president” begins. But a king is different. And our King is supremely different. Jesus is not a president, or even a king, who is elected by popular vote, or is even concerned with current polling numbers. Jesus is the King because He is also God. Someone may disagree or may even revolt, but Jesus is still King. One day even those who might want to say “not my king” will bow and proclaim Jesus to be the rightful Lord (see Philippians 2.11-12).
But for those who call Him Lord now, we must not let the term be merely a word we use. Rather, by calling Him Lord, we are announcing His authority over our lives. But the question we must consider daily is do we truly embrace His Lord-ship over our lives? That is, do we accept His authority as we live our day to day lives?
And, thus, our JOURNEY letter for today is: J – JESUS
Jesus is the beginning and the end of the journey. We begin our walk towards Him when we respond to His command “Follow Me.” And we finally arrive with Him when our journey in this life is finished. After all, Jesus is the Way, so following Him only makes sense if we want to live our lives faithfully before the Lord – who is the One with he authority.
Based upon today’s message, how can we raise the bar and live on earth as it is in heaven?
NEXT LEVEL STEP(S): LIVE
We live our lives by submitting to Him. We have referred to this as Next-Level Living throughout this series. Next-level living includes raising our bar in:
- Discipleship – observing all that He commanded so as to be considered wise.
- Fellowship – uniting as brothers and sisters in Christ so as to prove our love for Him.
- Worship – revering God in all of His glory and submitting to the authority of His will.
- Service – nurturing one another to do unto others what should be done.
- Sharing – engaging others with the message of the Gospel so they can have a great journey as well.
I started this series with a quote from Abraham Lincoln and I will end this message with the same quote. The idea is to make your life count.
“It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln
We can make our life count by submitting to Jesus, our true authority, who reminds us to begin with “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”