Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying: (Matt 5:1-2 NIV84) [see full text below]
What drew people to Jesus? Many followed Him when He began His public ministry. They came from far away to be close to Him—to see Him, to be touched by Him, to hear Him (Matt 4:17, 23-25). He was the ultimate Rabbi or Teacher. But what was it that drew people to Him?
Jesus was unlike other rabbis who had their own interpretations and traditions based on the Law of Moses. Other rabbis were exclusive and expected their disciples to accept and respect their teaching and authority. But Jesus was not like them.
The message Jesus taught was simple yet deep. Not deep in an unreachable sense but it penetrated the heart—the inner being and spirit of a person.
The condensed version of the Lord’s message is found in Matthew 4:17—
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
For the complete message of Jesus, we need to read all four of the gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—and be familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures He referred to and those He fulfilled as the Messiah.
The Sermon on the Mount is the expanded version of the Lord’s message on the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew’s gospel is written from a Jewish point of view, so he uses the term Kingdom of Heaven, which is the term the Jews favored out of reverence for God’s name.
The other gospels use the Kingdom of God. They are essentially interchangeable terms to describe the realm of God’s sovereign rule.
The Sermon on the Mount—a collection of teachings
These three chapters in Matthew—5 through 7— are Matthew’s collection of Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven (God). It is the heart and soul of God’s kingdom—God’s sovereign realm or domain. It is neither geographic nor political but much greater and more personal.
The Jewish view of God’s kingdom became geo-political—localized to the physical region of the Promised Land on earth and their national identity as Israel. This is similar to the view of the church during the time of the crusades.
Sadly, these same limits exist in the hearts and minds of many self-proclaimed Christians today. But as said before, God’s kingdom is much greater. It is not limited to a physical territory or sense of national identity. The Kingdom of God (Heaven) is not a geo-political realm but spiritual and eternal.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll consider how great and pervasive the Kingdom of Heaven is through devotional studies of the Sermon on the Mount.
The Kingdom of Heaven (God) is the realm of God’s reign within a person’s heart and mind. When someone chooses to become a follower of Jesus, they choose to have God reign in their lives—their heart, their mind, and their actions.
The reign of God in a person’s life is not intended to be private but to influence and impact the lives of others around us. This is the essence of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
Redefining the Nature of God’s Kingdom
Jesus was the ultimate rabbi but His message wasn’t restricted to a few or for the most spiritually minded. His message was intended for all who would hear Him, listen to Him, and trust Him. While He taught His disciples, other followers heard Him also.
His message wasn’t exclusive and neither did He exclude those who followed Him.
People from many walks of life, regardless of economic or social status, were drawn to follow Jesus. Even those He chose as apostles were from many different backgrounds who would not associate with one another if not for following Jesus.
In the first portion of Chapter 5, Jesus redefines the nature of God’s kingdom. This is seen in the list of attributes or heart attitudes known as the Beatitudes and the metaphors of salt and light used to describe the influence and impact of those in God’s kingdom.
Next week, we’ll begin to look at the Beatitudes. But read ahead—there is a richness and depth to these simple statements of Jesus known as the Sermon on the Mount. Our goal in these devotions is to discover truth which will impact our life and the life of those around us.
How has the Sermon on the Mount impacted your life…or has it?
The Kingdom of Heaven (God) is not a geo-political realm but spiritual and eternal. When God reigns in a person’s life it ought to influence and impact the lives of others around them. This is the essence of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
Even if you’re familiar with the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, ask God for fresh insights and applications of truth from it, as you read and study. If you’re not familiar with it, ask the Lord to open your understanding of what He intended for those who trust in Him.
Devo Scripture Text
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5:1-12 NIV84)