Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesus of Montreal, The Book of Daniel Jesus, The blond hair, blue-eyed Scandinavian Jesus, The Last Temptation of Christ Jesus, The Passion of the Christ Jesus, The Health and Wealth Jesus, The go to Hell Jesus, My Buddy Jesus, The Wise Teacher Jesus, The Prophet Jesus, The capitalist Jesus, and we could go on and on and on. The most influential person that has ever walked the earth, Jesus Christ, has been packaged and re-packaged in so many different ways. I want to challenge you to open your Bible (Download the YouVersion Bible app if you don’t have it) and peel back the layers that every generation has piled on Jesus by discovering Jesus through the lens of his teachings in Matthew 5-7, called the Sermon on the Mount.
There are many different ways to describe censorship, but at the core censorship is about editing, about cutting out the offensive parts of a movie, book, work of art or even history. When it comes to Jesus there has, unfortunately, been some censorship of what he said and particularly what he taught in what is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount- which was probably more like the Sermon on the Hill- is the most prolific, deep, rich, all encompassing teaching that has ever been recorded. The great Saint Augustine said of it, “a perfect standard of the Christian life.” The theologian and preacher John Stott said, “It is the nearest thing to a manifesto that he ever uttered.” Devotional author Oswald Chambers wrote, “The Sermon on the Mount produces despair in the heart of the natural man.” The Study of the Sermon on the Mount prompted the author and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer to write, “When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.” An honest study of the Sermon on the Mount is not for the faint of heart. It is not for those who want a safe, sanitary Jesus. It is not for those who want the uncomfortable parts edited out and censored. It is a teaching that will literally X-ray our hearts. Like a parent advisory warning on a show, these teachings of Jesus should have a people advisory warning. Our hearts and minds, if open to the teaching of Jesus in his sermon, will be expanded, comforted, confronted, irritated, and ultimately renovated.
The Sermon on the Mount begins in Matthew 5 with the Beatitudes and ends before chapter 8. Originally this message probably covered hours of teaching as Jesus took the customary teaching position, sitting, of a Rabbi of his day. His popularity was growing and so he leaves the crowds and only those who are most serious about learning will follow up the mount (possibly a couple hundred disciples). The theme of this sermon is entering the Kingdom of God. What is the Kingdom of God? It is the here, but not yet reality of God’s intent and plan (The “Inaugurated Kingdom”). It is, in part, what we often think about when the word heaven is mentioned. The place of no more pain, sorrow, sickness, war; simply no more sin. But it is more than just life after death. Jesus is peeling back the veil between this side of eternity and the next. He is revealing that the Kingdom of God on the other side must, and can, begin to manifest itself today in the life of those who know and follow him on this side of eternity. The Kingdom of God is what we are praying for in the Lords Prayer, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
In an aggressive teaching philosophy (Jesus, like most 1st century Jewish teachers often utilized hyperbole to make a point) Jesus breaks through and shows us our hearts in relation to God’s Kingdom reality. In doing this he reveals how far we are from the Kingdom yet shows us the path to the Kingdom (The way of experiencing the fullness of God in our life and in our community today).
This is the message of the Sermon on the Mount. It’s important for us to understand that in Jesus’ day information for information sake was not part of the cultural landscape. The aim of the mainstream teaching of Jesus’ day was never to just impart information but to make a significant change in the hearts of the hearers; to take, as speaker Brennan Manning said, the 1,000-mile journey from the mind to the heart. It is in this journey that we are radically transformed both internally and externally. As one author writes, “Jesus’ purpose was not to ignite theory, but a God saturated historical movement.” Take some time to turn off the noise of life, pick up a Bible (or open the Bible App), and dive into the uncensored Jesus as you read the greatest sermon ever given. As you slowly read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), invite the Holy Spirit to convict, to irritate, to comfort and to transform.
You can also read the Sermon on the Mount by going to www.biblegateway.com