Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 5:1a “And seeing the multitudes,. . .”
Jesus spent His first thirty years in relative seclusion, but once He stepped into the public spotlight, His days of privacy came to an abrupt end. He chose a ministry style different from His famous predecessor, John the Baptist, my namesake. John remained essentially in one place, and the crowds came to Him, but Jesus went forth seeking the people. His intense love drove Him toward them.
Jesus did not remain stationary and expect people to gravitate to Him. He went to them. This building, our common house, must never be a fortress for us to hide in, but a training center where we plan forays of ministry and evangelism into a lost and dying world. Many churches would be better off without their buildings, for the four walls have become a prison isolating believers from hurting humanity.
While out among the people, Jesus had healed many. Rumor mills, which can carry news almost as fast as television or radio, spread like wildfire the word about His healing ability. As the sick came streaming toward Him from everywhere, Jesus and His entourage became “a moving hospital” (Robertson). Here in Springfield, if someone asks where a hospital is, we point them to National Avenue, but in Jesus’ day, if anyone asked for the hospital’s location, the answer was mobile, “In Capernaum yesterday, in Bethsaida today, in Decapolis tomorrow.”
Jesus the itinerant not only healed people, but also blessed them. He was not a cold, calculated healing machine. He loved people. He truly cared about them. Jesus the Great Physician had a wonderful bedside manner. He was winsome.
Jesus, in His true and pure form, continues to allure. Down deep, people still yearn to find someone who cares about their inner hurts. If people know someone truly and genuinely cares for them, plus has the power to actually help them, they will be irresistibly drawn to that one as to a magnet. In Galilee, Jesus’ fame spread, and He was popular everywhere. If in Springfield people are not still being drawn to Jesus, it is because He is not being clearly portrayed through us. We must ever examine ourselves. Do people see in us the real Jesus, the winsome, attractive healer of Galilee? Are multitudes being drawn to the Christ in us?
Matt. 5:1b “. . .he went up into a mountain:. . .”
Jesus’ great heart broke for the swelling swarm of hurting humanity around Him. He saw them as sheep without a shepherd; no one to feed them, no one to lead them. He had come preaching the kingdom (4:23), but He knew the people misunderstood Him. Having aroused their expectations, He would not mislead them. They had to be told up front exactly what He meant by the kingdom. Thus, He led the crowd to a mountain, to a secluded place where they could escape the hustle and bustle of life, and where Jesus could without interruption explain His kingdom, and describe the ideal human life, the way God intended life to be lived.
Augustine was the first to title Matthew 5-7 “The Sermon on the Mount.” It is generally considered history’s greatest and most important speech. Daniel Webster, America’s best political orator, said it “cannot be a merely human production.”
Please note where Jesus did not deliver this sermon, His longest discourse. He did not preach it in any of the buildings set aside for religious purposes. In the synagogues and temple, Jesus suffered stifling resistance, and could not speak at length without rebuttal or debate. He the very Son of God came to the houses of God and was rejected by the priests of God. In God’s own buildings, faith had slipped into formalism, law into legalism. Buildings constructed to warm and enhance one’s relationship with God had become cold bastions of dead ritualism.
In this, our new building, may our hearts always be drawn nearer to God. When the wife of Shah Jahan died, he was devastated. Her title was Mumtaz-i-Mahal, “Pride of the Palace.” He decided to build a temple in her honor which would also serve as her tomb. About 20,000 workers built it from 1632 to 1653. Shah Jahan soon forgot the love and became obsessed with the building. One day, while overseeing construction, his leg bumped against a wooden box. He ordered a worker to throw out the box, not knowing it was his wife’s coffin. In this place, may we never lose sight of the love. May Jesus ever feel welcome, and never feel stifled.
Matt. 5:1c “. . .and when he was set, his disciples came unto him,. . .”
Sitting, the customary position for teaching, bespoke dignity and solemnity, commanded respect, and for all who know Jesus, it here denotes our King sitting on a throne. Moses ascended a mount to receive the law. Jesus ascended a mount to give the law, to set forth the fundamental constitution of His kingdom. A king has to make known his policies. This is exactly what Jesus was doing here. He was the King setting forth His agenda, the list of things expected from His subjects.
The crowds had come to be healed, but now had to hear and be corrected. They were overemphasizing the physical and political. They wanted to be healed from diseases and liberated from Rome, but Jesus came to offer something better.
The healings had relieved their physical suffering, but also had deeper significance. The outward, physical healing was Jesus’ way of saying He had come to heal inner, spiritual, emotional, and mental needs.
His mighty miracles of healing did demonstrate He was sent from God and had more power than any political ruler or system. Yes, He could have crushed the Roman legions, but chose not to. His kingdom was not political or of this earth.
The mighty acts of healing proved Jesus had authority over all physical diseases and all political systems, but once He gathered the crowd to explain His mission, He avoided both topics and dealt straightforwardly with the spiritual realm.
The spiritual is the fundamental realm of life. What good is it to be made physically well for a few years, or to live under a wonderful government, if at the end of life one faces an eternity without God? The spiritual is more important than the physical and the political. The ultimate question in life is neither a physical nor a political one, but rather a spiritual one–what will you do with Jesus?
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who loves His sheep, and the itinerant Good Samaritan who goes out of His way to aid travellers wounded along life’s highway, but He must first of all be, in our hearts, King Jesus. The kingdom Christ came to institute is one in which He rules His subjects from within them. He is King of Heaven, King of history, and expects to be King of human hearts, to rule inside you and me. True discipleship entails absolute obedience to King Jesus, a submission which requires us to bow at his feet as servants unconditionally yielded to Him.