Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
(Matthew 5:1-2 ESV)
Today begins a very famous portion of Matthew called The Sermon on the Mount. Jesus went up on [a] mountain and taught His disciples. This “sermon” will last through Matthew 7.
Notice that Jesus sat down to teach. In this day rabbis sat to teach as opposed to today where pastors (and any teacher, really) stands. We still have this notion today. For example, when the Pope speaks on certain issues the Catholic church says he is speaking “ex cathedra”. This is a Latin term meaning “from the chair”. Likewise, universities have what are called academic “chairs” – professors who rank above all others within their field at a given institution.
The first eight verses of The Sermon on the Mount are called The Beatitudes, the name of which comes from the Latin for “blessed”. Each of the eight beatitudes consists of two phrases – a condition and a result. In that way they are similar to Proverbs. These 8 verses by Jesus give us a picture of what a true disciple of His looks like.
Jesus here is at the beginning of His ministry. Many people are following Him because of the miraculous healings they have witnessed and experienced. But as we learned yesterday, Jesus came to heal a bigger problem than any physical or psychological ailment. He came to heal our relationship with God which is broken by sin. It seems to me that The Beatitudes are Jesus’ way of letting people know that following Him is more than entertainment or a way to receive something. Following Jesus costs something.
To that end each of the eight Beatitudes describes a condition or attitude of a true follower of Jesus. This conditions will include spiritual poverty, meekness, and peacemaking. None of these describe the natural state of man. Hence, many people will reject Jesus’ message. That is, they won’t “repent” [Matthew 4:17] – change their mind about who and what they are.
I found it interesting that Jesus went up on the mountain to teach. I wonder if the reason Jesus did this was to weed out those people who were not willing to be inconvenienced – those who only wanted easy gains. Notice that those who came to Him were called His disciples. The Greek word for “disciple” here is ματηετεσ (pronounced: math-ay-tes’) which means “learner; pupil”. Those people who came to Jesus on the mountain wanted to learn. They weren’t simply looking for a hand-out. They were willing to endure the difficulties of hiking up a mountain to hear what Jesus had to say because they knew that what He had to say would make a difference in their lives.
As we’ll see as we read through The Beatitudes, and the entire Sermon on the Mount, following Jesus is anything but easy. It requires a different mindset from what the world tells us will bring happiness and fulfillment. For this reason very few people will actually follow Him. In fact, He tells us this very thing at the end of the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 7:13-14, 21-23].
This is incredibly sad because Jesus is leading us to heaven. Those who don’t follow Him won’t end up there [John 14:6].
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