The Kingdom's Message
Here in chapter five, we find what has been traditionally dubbed the sermon on the mount. In verse one, we find crowds coming to an unnamed mountain, likely in Galilee and near Capernaum, and gathered around Jesus and His twelve disciples where Jesus began to teach them.
Jesus’ chief message had been a radical change in the way a person thought so they could actually touch and handle the Kingdom of God. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus began to describe the Kingdom they would begin to handle and experience as they changed the way they thought, putting Yahweh at the center and ultimate in everything.
Jesus was about to explain not the conditions for entering the Kingdom but what the Kingdom would be like for those entered by faith and through repentance.
Jesus makes three key points about the Kingdom in the sermon.
1. Righteousness in the kingdom goes deeper than external compliance.
" ... unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:20 ESV
2. The kingdom goal is to bring followers to a point of "perfection" or complete devotion to Yahweh.
"But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:48 NLT
3. The kingdom is entered on the basis of listening, then believing, leading to obedient behaving.
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of My Father in heaven will enter." Matthew 7:21 NLT
Sermon on the Mount Outlined
Three Multiples of Three
Multiple One: Blessed and Being a Blessing
1. Nine Kingdom Blessings (3-12)
2. The Blessing of Preservation (13)
3. The Blessing of Guidance (14-16)
Multiple Two: Heart Righteousness
1. Righteousness Surpassing Religion (17-20)
2. Six Teaching Contrasting Outer Righteousness and Inner Heart Change (21-48)
3. Three Examples Contrasting External Spirituality and Inner True Spirituality (6:1-18)
Multiple Three: Major Internal Conflicts
1. Teaching on Greed and Anxiety Built Six Examples (6:19-34)
2. Three Teachings on Judging the Motives of Others (7:1-12)
3. Three Teaching on Assurance of Entering God's Kingdom (7:13-27)
Multiple One: Blessed and Being a Blessing
Nine Kingdom Blessings (3-12)
Blessed simply means happy or fortunate. Those who enter Kingdom life will not only act a certain way as a consequence but they will be "happy."
Happy are the dependent; they will operate in Kingdom authority (3).
Happy are those who lament their sin and lack of response, for they will experience comfort (4).
Happy are those who don't act macho; the earth will prosper under their care (5).
Happy are those who have a spiritual appetite for Yahweh above all else, for they will live satisfying lives (6).
Happy are those who express mercy, for they will be shown mercy (7).
Happy are those who have one sacred focus in life, for they will experience God's abiding presence (8).
Happy are those who are instruments of reconciliation, for they will be dubbed those who reflect who God really is (9).
Happy are those persecuted, for they will experience great reward in heavenly places as the Kingdom of heaven will become more real than they ever imagined (10-12).
The Blessing of Preservation (13)
To demonstrate the difference “Kingdom-happy" people would make in the earth, Jesus used two metaphors: salt and light.
Salt was the necessary ingredient for preserving and keeping decay and corruption to form in unbridled ways in society.
The Blessing of Guidance (14-16)
Light is a shining force illuminating the path of life, preserving society from having no sense of direction. The “Kingdom-happy" were to be a great light on a hill shining out to the world. While the light was to be an inner experience in those it entered, to the world the light was seen in the works of those who were so inwardly illumined. They lit up the world not in lectures but in good deeds, which showed off Yahweh, not human achievement.
Multiple Two: Heart Righteousness
Righteousness Surpassing Religion (17-20)
Jesus then makes the most important point about His Kingdom: it is not a kingdom of external obedience to a set of rules and traditions as the Pharisees supposed. The Kingdom of heaven was internal (Luke 17:21); so revolutionary that it was able to produce a righteousness better than those who taught the law (20).
Jesus made it clear that He had not come to abolish the law of Moses, nor the writings of the prophets. Jesus had come to accomplish what the law of Moses and the writings of the prophets had purposed Yahweh to accomplish all along—the Law of Moses being the first five books of the Bible and the writings of the Prophets being the remainder of the Old Testament (17).
Jesus had come to make sure every promise, the smallest letter and stroke of the Hebrew letter, would be fulfilled, completed, and realized before the disappearing of the heaven and earth as we know it (18). To ignore the least command or to treat it as insignificant would cause those who did such things to be Kingdom-irrelevant.
Jesus was not saying these laws were to be externally kept, but the laws, even the smallest ones, were to be treated as sacred, and followers were to watch carefully their fulfillment in the Kingdom of heaven through Christ (19). As followers focused on Jesus fulfilling the law and put their faith in Him to change their own hearts and lives to be like Jesus, the magic of transformation would begin to take place.
Six Teaching Contrasting Outer Righteousness and Inner Heart Change (21-48)
Jesus then launched into six contrasting teachings where He demonstrated the true inner change Yahweh had been seeking all along, opposed to the outer keeping of the law by religious leaders.
a. Teaching on Anger (21-26)
The law forbade the taking of a physical life; Jesus however was looking for those who would not even contemplate injuring another in any way. Anger is merely a way of taking a position of superiority over another person. In the Kingdom, Jesus wanted name-calling to be considered the same as murder. Especially heinous to Jesus was name calling such as "fool" or "cursed" or "demonized." Such activity left the angry person in danger of serious judgment (21-22).
Jesus gave a remedy for anger in the Kingdom. Those angered would leave their act of worship (offering at the altar) and go pursue the sister or brother who had been harmed by their anger, their insult, or their curse. They would be reconciled with everyone they had harmed and who was seeking their harm before they came to worship God (23-24).
In the Kingdom, even legal accusations were to be handled differently. Those being accused were to go to their accuser and work out terms beyond the courtroom. Those who had harmed others would not win those cases and would end up paying in the end. They were to intercept those, taking them to court and offer an acceptable settlement (25-26).
b. Teaching on Lust (27-30)
Jesus takes on lust in the same way. The law forbade the physical act of sleeping with someone who was not a spouse. Jesus got at the heart of the issue: the curing of lust. The lust here was the lust of looking at a person unmarried with the thought, "I would wish to sleep with her or him." Jesus referred to such a thought as heart adultery (27-28).
Jesus’ remedy to lust in the Kingdom was rather simple—a destroying of the eye or hand or any part of our being which looked and thought to sleep with the person not our spouse or to grab for anything driven by our lusts. Jesus made it clear in His remedy to lust that "happy" people would gladly maim the inward part of their person which was responsive to lust because the consequence of unbridled lust is a resurrected body (John 5:29) lost to the judgment of hell fire (29-30).
c. Teaching on Divorce (31-32)
Jesus recognized Moses made provision for divorce but went on to say any divorce, except in the case of adultery, was strictly forbidden. Marriage, in Jesus’ view, was for life. Even if someone did divorce their mate and their mate remarried, the new marriage was considered as an act of sexual immorality because God's view was marriage for life. In the kingdom, "happy" people marry for life.
d. Teachings on Oaths
Moses taught in Leviticus 19:12 and Deuteronomy 23:21 to fulfill all oaths and vows. Jesus claimed oaths and vows were unnecessary in the Kingdom of God where "happy" people naturally keep their word (33). It was the tradition of Jews to swear in different ways, depending on how serious they were about keeping their word. To take an oath revealed the deep wickedness of their heart demonstrating their complete lack of intent of keeping some of their words and some of their commitments.
To have varying degrees of commitments for certain promises also shows great levels of deceit. Jews held that if God's name was mentioned in a promise, then the oath was more binding. They would argue how much of God's name was invoked if the oath was swore by heaven or how much more or less if by the throne, the earth, or Jerusalem. Each of these had differing degrees of the Lord's name associated with them, and depending on how much they could prove the Lord's name associated with what they swore by determined how binding their oath (34-35). Even swearing on their own heads was argued, for man was created in the image of God (36).
In the end, Jesus promoted a Kingdom life based on a simple yes and no, deeming of all other forms of swearing foolish and unnecessary (37). Jesus’ point was that “Kingdom-happy" people keep their words.
e. Teaching on Retaliation (38-42)
Jesus then took on Moses' law regarding retaliation (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21). Jesus quoted the "eye for eye" and "tooth for tooth" teaching. This law was given of course to limit retaliation from straying further than the depth of the offense. The law did not demand retaliation, but it did limit it. An Old Testament person could forgive and not demand the right of retaliation. Jesus encouraged nonresistance—offering the other cheek instead of a brawl (38-39). He encouraged giving up possessions over battling it out in court. Jesus encouraged walking an extra mile when someone as oppressive as a Roman soldier asked you to carry his pack. Jesus encouraged not resenting the beggar nor the borrower but to treat both with honor. Jesus’ point was that “Kingdom-happy" people do not give people what they deserve but seek to love and honor them.
f. Teaching on Enemies
Moses had taught love of enemies (Leviticus 19:18), but the Jews of Jesus’ day taught that they should hate their enemies. Jesus taught that the same love people had for their neighbors they should extend to their enemies and persecutors. They were to show their love first and primarily by praying for them (43-44).
Jesus gave them the example of the Father Who sends rain and sunshine equally on everyone, the righteous and the unrighteous. In essence, Jesus viewed God's love as extending to everyone. "Happy" people are children of God, and in acting like God, Jesus said they would treat neighbors and friends alike (45). Those who could only love those who loved them were not the "happy," blessed people transformed by faith. Even the most notoriously unprincipled men, tax collectors, could love those who loved them back. The "happy" were different—they didn't—they did not ignore greeting people they felt awkward around, even people separated from Yahweh; they could greet people who made them feel comfortable (46-47).
Jesus clearly taught that those who were "happy," those receiving and experiencing God's Kingdom, would become complete as Yahweh became the center of their affection (48).