This Sunday (30th April) we start a new sermon series working through chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew’s Gospel. This section is commonly referred to as ‘The Sermon On The Mount’ (because of Matthew 5:1).
These chapters are some of the most famous in all of the Bible – trumped probably only by the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). While it is great that these chapters are so popular, it also brings a difficulty: it means that we can easily assume that we know everything there is to know. Or we can assume that we already understand them. One of the biggest dangers for any Christian is when we open up the Bible and assume that we already know what it means, that we already understand the passage, that we already know what God is going to say.
So we need to proceed carefully through our series on the Sermon on the Mount. We will never get a perfect understand, and there will always be things we don’t understand – but our attitude must always be seeking God to speak through his Word to transform us.
The rest of the post gives a few notes to help us get started and a few resources from others that might help us grasp and live these teachings.
In late 2016 and early 2017 we worked through Matthew chapters 1-4 (see the Sermons page).
The key thing to remember from the context is that in Matthew 4 Jesus begins his public ministry (Matthew 4:12-17) and calls his first followers (4:18-22). This is really important because it reminds us that, by the time we get to 5:1, Jesus has gathered a large crowd around him, but he has a smaller, closer group of disciples. It is this smaller group – his followers – that he preaches to in chapters 5-7.
In other words when we start to think chapters 5-7 and what they mean, we must understand them as teachings to people who already follow Jesus. The sermon on the Mount is not a guide for ‘How To Become a Follower of Jesus’ (that was chapter 4:12-22). Rather, chapters 5-7 are ‘How to Live as a Follower of Jesus.” This is important because it is easy to misunderstand verses such as 5:20 as some kind of entry requirement for being a Christian. The Sermon on the Mount does tell us how to become a Christian – it tells us what life as a Christian should look like.
There are lots of different ways that preachers and writers have organised these chapters. It it relatively easy to break the chapters into small units. Below is an attempt to show how each small units fits alongside its neighbours.
- The Blessed Life (5:1-12). These first few verses are the opening section. The succinctly and artistically express some of the basic tenets of life as a Christian.
- The Distinctive Life (5:13-48)
- 5:13-16 state the basic characteristic of a follower of Jesus: distinctiveness.
- 5:17-48 form one big section (you can tell by the repeated “You have heard…but I say…”). In this section, Jesus shows what distinctiveness looks like. It means living out life in the same realm as everyone else (i.e. a world where there is anger, lust, divorce, etc.) but doing so in a way that is characterised by love and grace flowing from a transformed heart.
- The Rich Life (6:1-34)
- Rewarding giving, prayer and fasting (6:1-18)
- Treasure in Heaven (6:19-24)
- “Much More Valuable” (6:25-34)
- 7:1-12. It is tricky to understand how these verses fit in to the larger flow of the passage! 7:12 seems to mark the end of a section as it echoes back to the mention of the “Law and Prophets” in 5:17.
- Hear and Do (7:13-27). Matthew closes the Sermon with a series of pictures showing that simply hearing what Jesus says is no use. The theme throughout these verses is hear and do (e.g. Matthew 7:16, 20, 21, 24, 26).
This series will take us through to the end of July (although we will break in the middle for a few weeks).
|30th April||Matthew 5:1-12|
|7th May||Matthew 5:13-16|
|14th May||Matthew 5:17-32|
|21st May||Matthew 5:33-48|
|28th May||Matthew 6:1-18|
|2nd July||Matthew 6:19-24|
|9th July||Matthew 6:25-34|
|16th July||Matthew 7:1-12|
|23rd July||Matthew 7:13-29|
Nicky Gumbel has some really helpful and insightful comments on the Beatitudes.
An excerpt from R Kent Hughes’ Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount (covereing 5:1-7)
One useful idea for following along a teaching series is to print out the passage(s) with wide margins so than you can colour, note, underline, scribble all over them without worrying about mistakes. So here’s a PDF file of the whole of chapters 5-7 ready for printing (A4) so you can annotate to your heart’s content.