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15 September 2019

Sobering Words of Jesus

SYNOPSIS - One ignores the words of Jesus at great peril - As he himself warned at the conclusion of his “Sermon on the Mount” – Matthew 7:21-28

Mountain top - Photo by Carl Cerstrand on Unsplash
Often, the so-called ‘Sermon on the Mount’ is seen as unrealistic, an idealistic dream that does not work in real life. In part, this view stems from a failure to understand the purpose of this discourse - It is not a program for reforming civil society or economic justice. In its concluding section, Jesus stressed just how pivotal his teachings were for his disciples, and he invested them with ultimate authority. - [Photo by Carl Cerstrand on Unsplash].

Jesus concluded his Sermon on the Mount with an ominous warning. To modify, compromise, or ignore his words is to risk everlasting destruction:
  • (Matthew 7:21-28) - “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord! Lord! shall enter into the kingdom of the heavens— but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in the heavens. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord! Lord! did we not in thy name prophesy, and in thy name cast demons out—and in thy name many works of power perform? And then will I confess unto them, Never have I acknowledged you— Depart from me, ye workers of lawlessness! Every one, therefore, who heareth [these] my words and doeth them shall be likened to a prudent man, who built his house upon the rock; And the rain descended, and the streams came, and the winds blew, and rushed against that house, and it fell not; for it had been founded upon the rock. And every one who heareth these my words and doeth them not shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand; And the rain descended, and the streams came, and the winds blew, and dashed against that house, and it fell; and the fall thereof was great. And it came to pass, when Jesus ended these words, with astonishment were the multitudes being struck at his teaching” - (The Emphasized Bible).
Why will some men and women who perform great works in his name be rejected at the Judgment? Jesus does not depict those who are rejected as pagans or egregious sinners - They called him “Lord,” prophesied, and exorcised demons in his name - They did many mighty works for him. And the emphasis in the Greek text is on the term “many.”

Jesus did not classify their miracles as fakes, counterfeits, or satanic. The problem was something deeper than doing good works and mighty signs. According to him:
  • Everyone who hears my words and does them shall be likened to a prudent man who built his house upon the rock.” In contrast - “Everyone who hears these my words and does them not shall be likened to a foolish man who built his house upon the sand.”
In the preceding statement is the key - Those who wish to enter the kingdom must HEAR and DO the words of Jesus. However, which “words” does he mean?

At the outset of this teaching discourse, Jesus warned all men and women who would hear his words:
  • Do not think that I came to pull down the law or the prophets—I came not to pull down, but to fulfill. For, verily, I say unto you, until the heaven and the earth shall pass away, one least letter or one point may in nowise pass away from the law, till all be accomplished. Whosoever, therefore, shall relax one of these commandments, the least, and teach men so shall be called least in the kingdom of the heavens; but whosoever shall do and teach, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens. For I say unto you, that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, in nowise, may ye enter the kingdom of the heavens” - (Matthew 5:17-20).
The Pharisees were renowned for their scrupulous observation of the Torah, going well beyond its minimum requirements. Nevertheless, according to Jesus, that was insufficient for entering the kingdom of God - Jesus came to fulfill all the “law AND the prophets,” not simply to reiterate or renew the Law with its purity regulations and sacrifices. Something more was required.
In the concluding paragraph, the “words” that must be heeded to avoid future rejection are the words spoken by Jesus that are recorded in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’ – All of them.
Anyone who desires to follow him must live a life characterized by humility, hunger for righteousness, mercy to others, pure hearts, avoidance of retaliation, peacemaking, honest communications, and a willingness to endure unjust suffering for the sake of the kingdom - (Matthew 5:3-12).

His disciples must be lights in a darkened world. Not only are disciples forbidden to kill – They must not harbor any anger toward others. A disciple of Jesus is to make reconciliation with an offended party a top priority - (Matthew 5:13-26).

The disciple must not lust after someone who is not his or her spouse. Instead, he or she is to uphold a lifelong commitment to his or her own spouse. Rather than swear oaths, a believer must speak plain and true words - Let his “Yea be yea, and nay, nay” - (Matthew 5:27-37).

To inherit the kingdom, the disciple must eschew retaliation and violence. Instead, he or she is summoned to love and pray for enemies. In doing good and showing mercy to them, the disciple emulates the heavenly Father and becomes “perfect” as the “Father in heaven” - (Matthew 5:44-48).

Teaching on the Mount
Jesus did not distinguish between “private” vengeance and collective retaliation - He did NOT include exception clauses for retaliation carried out at the behest of the State or society. His disciples are called to something higher than the world’s way of doing things. The mind that seeks and creates loopholes in his words is not the mind of a disciple.

Believers must not do their works of righteousness to attain the applause of others. Hypocrisy is to be avoided. A disciple is to focus his or her life on the “Kingdom of God,” to lay up treasures in heaven rather than on the earth. Heirs of the kingdom “cannot serve two masters.” Allegiance to him must be absolute – “Dual citizenship” does not exist in the kingdom of God - (Matthew 6:1-24).

A disciple need not be anxious about his daily needs - God will provide all that is necessary. Instead of seeking the things the world values, the disciple must “seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness” - (Matthew 6:25-34).

A follower of Jesus must not judge or condemn others. Judgment is the prerogative of God alone. Instead, he or she should seek continually after the things of God. Treating others as we wish to be treated is how we “fulfill the law and the prophets” - (Matthew 7:1-6).

The disciple is summoned to stay on the narrow path, not on the popular and the “broad” roads of this age. At all times, the believer is to beware of false prophets who can be discerned by their fruits - (Matthew 7:7-20).

Much is at stake in how we respond to the words of Jesus. Those who do not hear and do them will be cast into outer darkness “on that day” - It is exceedingly unwise to ignore his words of Jesus or pick and choose which ones to obey.

The Sermon on the Mount is a guide for how the disciple of Jesus is to live in a lost world, regardless of the values, demands, and expectations of the surrounding society. Loyalty to God’s kingdom must take precedence over all other allegiances. Jesus conformed his life to this program in his ministry, trial, and execution, a pattern of self-sacrificial service all true disciples must emulate if they are to “inherit the kingdom.”

By claiming - “Only he who hears these words of mine and does them will enter the Kingdom” – Jesus vested his words with ultimate authority. We ignore and modify them at our own everlasting peril.

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