There are probably an endless amount of sermons that could be based upon what is considered by many to be the greatest ever preached “The Sermon on the Mount”. I have often wondered why such a great sermon, full of rich and applicable content, would be named after where it was preached (on a mount), rather than “what” was preached. As a way to help us remember the “what”; perhaps we could divide it into these parts: Walk, Worship, Work and Wisdom. If we can keep focused on these four elements then perhaps we can remember to apply this priceless teaching to our lives.
Matthew chapter 5 applies to our walk and making sure it is free of hypocrisy and aligned with the thinking and will of God. It starts in vs. 3-12 with the “beatitudes” which speak to the attitudes and characteristics Disciples of Christ are supposed to embody. Next, in vs. 13-16 Jesus refers to those disciples as being the “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”. In our walk of life, we are to shine forth as lights of righteousness that bring glory to God. (Eph. 5:8) In vs. 17-20 Jesus speaks to our standard of righteousness and that we are to be pure and true in obedience. Throughout the remainder of chapter 5, Jesus illustrates examples of this type of righteous walk; which is born from a righteous attitude free of hypocrisy. Again the standard of righteousness is laid out in the last verse of the chapter when Christ says, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (v.48) In our walk of life, we must have God as our standard, we must be obedient to His will of righteousness, and we must do so in purity of deed rather than hypocrisy of speech.
Matthew 6:1-18 deals with our worship unto God. Hypocrisy is another main theme that permeates the text. Christ talks about different forms of worship (Giving v. 2-4, Prayer v. 5-15, Fasting v.16-18) through the text, and addresses how our worship is for God, and not for the notice or adoration of man. He speaks about how our worship is to be from the heart, and not just “meaningless repetition”. (v.7) While that verse is specifically talk-ing about prayer, the principle could apply to all of our worship. When we sing or par-take of the Lord’s Supper or read the word of God it is not to be “meaningless repeti-tion”; but instead, we should be fully conscious of what we are doing and why we are doing it. Jesus again provides an example and standard in the chapter when He says what is commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer”. More than Christ’s words; His hu-mility and sincerity are the characteristics that are to be truly mimicked and manifested by us as disciples. We must always keep in mind that our worship, though it may be done in public, is not for mere public consumption or for the praise and/or reward of the public; but rather, “your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (v. 4, 6, 18)
Matthew 6:19-7:23 deals with our work as disciples. What are we working for and who are we working for? How is our work judged? Where does our work lead us? All of these questions are answered throughout this portion of the sermon and the answers remind us to keep our focus where it needs to be, God’s kingdom and His righteousness.(6:33) Matthew 6:19 -34 shows us that our priority of working for God and for spiritual treasures rather than working for the world and earthly mammon. The first 5 verses of chapter 7 remind us to be concerned about our own work rather than the work of others; that we are not to be hypocrites in judging others. Likewise, we are reminded in verses 6-12 that God knows our needs and that He will provide for us. In verses 13-14 Jesus tells us of how our work will lead us to either the gates of heaven or the gates of hell. And before we judge our own work and send ourselves to heaven we are told by Christ in vs. 21-23 that God is the judge and looks beyond what we claim of ourselves (“did we not prophecy in your name…”, etc.), so let us work in truth and purity according to His will. Let us beware of those who would lead us astray from these pure and simple truths (v. 15-19); for they will face their due penalty.
And last of all, may we remember that none of this teaching will do us any good if we don’t take it to heart and apply it in our lives - wisdom. For Jesus finishes the sermon with the parable of the wise man who built his house on the rock vs. the foolish man who built his house upon the sand. (7:24-27) If we hear the words of Christ and act upon them, then we are wise. If we merely hear, then we will die the fool. Let us remember the teaching of Jesus as it applies to our walk, worship, and work so that we might be able to dwell in the glory of the Lord for all eternity having lived the wisdom of Jesus' teaching.