And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.
(Matthew 7:28-29, 8:1 ESV)
Yesterday Jesus wrapped up His Sermon on the Mount. Today Matthew reveals to us the reaction of those who were listening to Him.
These people had heard sermons before. They were taught by scribes. We know a “scribe” as someone who takes notes. But in ancient Israel scribes were more than this. Because they were the most literate in society they were also teachers. In this case, Matthew is referring to those who taught God’s word to the people.
These scribes would be considered the equivalent of our pastors today. We learned about the scribes previously when King Herod questioned them about where the Christ would be born [Matthew 2:1-6]. The scribes knew their Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament) well and were able to answer Herod accurately. But we also learned that the scribes only had head knowledge about God. The Scriptures did not affect their life.
As such their teachings were likely less than motivating. We’ve all had a teacher who knew her subject matter but who was unable to make any of the material relevant. They disseminated facts but didn’t influence lives.
But Jesus spoke differently. He spoke as one who had authority. It’s one thing to speak by authority as the scribes did. Their authority was derived from their position in society. But Jesus had authority and the people could see it. There was obviously something quite different about the way Jesus spoke because when He was finished the crowds were astonished at His teaching. They had never heard anyone teach like this before.
The topics Jesus taught on throughout the Sermon on the Mount are the same topics religious leaders have taught for centuries. Every religion or belief has teachings on anger, lust, pride, kindness, etc. The difference with Jesus wasn’t the topics He spoke about. It was how He spoke about them.
Jesus threw human understanding about these topics out the window and replaced it with His (aka God’s) point of view. This apparently resonated with the people as being the truth compared to what they previously thought was the truth.
In today’s society we face the same dilemma. We have our government which tells us that abortion, pornography, and same-sex marriage are all acceptable. We have our culture which tells us that selfishness, greed, and materialism have their place. And then we have the Bible which tells us that all these things we think are right are not.
Man sets a low bar for human behavior. We create all kinds of loopholes so that we don’t have to hold ourselves accountable. This is precisely the issue Jesus addressed in the Sermon on the Mount.
God’s standard is much higher. It is much more than we could ever conceive on our own. When we read the Bible with an open mind the truths it contains are astonishing. This is why great crowds followed Him.
The things God tells us are so amazing that, even to this day, those who hear them leave all their old notions of truth behind and follow Jesus..
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