We said that God sent Jesus to establish His kingdom on this earth. How? By transforming our hearts. That’s what the Sermon on the Mount is all about. It’s the foundation to being a disciple of Christ.
As excited as we are to jump into this sermon this summer, we had to give you a warning. God’s kingdom is completely different than the kingdom we live in. It’s radically different. So as you read through this sermon, you may find yourself wrestling with what Jesus says.
In fact, I believe you might have the following reactions.
First, God’s kingdom might not make sense to you. Jesus says things like, ‘love your enemies,’ ‘you can’t love God and money.’ As you read about God’s kingdom being established in your heart, it might not make sense.
Secondly, you might struggle to go all in. Jesus said, you are spiritually blessed when you hunger and thirst for God. That’s different than hungering and thirsting for a better job, newer car or just getting your way all the time. As you read about God’s kingdom being established in your heart, you might struggle to go all in.
Lastly, to put your trust in Jesus radically changes everything. This means you might have to change how you live. If I am for real, my faith with change my behaviors. How I treat others changes. How I spend and give money changes. My worry and fear of tomorrow changes. As you read about God’s kingdom being established in your heart, you may struggle to place to faith in God.
Before I read and talk about this next chunk of scripture, I want to prepare you for something. In the days of Jesus, the religious leaders controlled everything in the culture. By contrast, it seems like our culture today is aggressively trying to get God out of everything we do. In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders, called Pharisees, aggressively pushed God into everything they did by making sure everyone followed the religious rules and judging those who didn’t follow the rules.
Over time, the problem the Pharisees had was, they would follow the rules legalistically but failed to love others. Jesus called them hypocrites. Here is an actual story when Jesus had an argument with the Pharisees.
10 Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. 11 When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff-raff?” 12 Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? 13 Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” MSG Matthew 9:10-13
Do you see it? “I’m after mercy, not religion.” Jesus was saying, I’m not after your religious ability to follow out rules, I want you to be kind, merciful and gracious towards others. The point of the rules was to love. They turned the rules into a way to control and hurt people. Jesus said this because he was trying to establish God’s kingdom in our hearts. In Jesus’ day, that was radical. To those hearing Jesus, it almost sounded like blasphemy. It seems like Jesus cared more about grace than He did following the rules.
Before I read this next section of the Sermon on the Mount, understand the people hearing Jesus only understood the rules and regulations of religion. The religious leaders, called Pharisees, would have been pretty proud of themselves because they followed the rules and judged others. The regular people would have felt the burden of never living up to the rules. So, imagine Jesus saying the following.
17 “Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures – either God’s Law or the Prophets. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. 18 God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working.
19 “Trivialize even the smallest item in God’s Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously, show the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom. 20 Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom.
21 “You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ 22 I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.
23 “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, 24 abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
25 “Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. 26 If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine.
27 “You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ 28 But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices – they also corrupt.
29 “Let’s not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here’s what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer. You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile. 30 And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump.
31 “Remember the Scripture that says, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him do it legally, giving her divorce papers and her legal rights’? 32 Too many of you are using that as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending to be righteous just because you are ‘legal.’ Please, no more pretending. If you divorce your wife, you’re responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity). And if you marry such a divorced adulteress, you’re automatically an adulterer yourself. You can’t use legal cover to mask a moral failure.
MSG Matthew 5:17-32
I just read that to you in the Message Version. Now, we are going to break this up into sections and walk through this scripture in the New Living Translation version.
17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them. 18 I assure you, until heaven and earth disappear, even the smallest detail of God’s law will remain until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you break the smallest commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
20 “But I warn you – unless you obey God better than the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees do, you can’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven at all! NLT
The religious leaders had to like where this was going. Jesus just said He wanted to complete the law and the goal for everyone would be to live out the rule like the religious leaders.
Jesus said He didn’t come to demolish the law but fulfill it, complete it. In the Old Testament time period before Jesus came, there was a system to rules and sacrifices to deal with their sin. For 1,500 years, day after day, week after week, month after month, people brought animals to be sacrificed. The blood from the animals covered their sin. All those animals, all that blood for hundreds of years pointed to Jesus, the perfect sacrifice. Everyone knew, the rules and sacrifices where temporary until the Messiah would come.
Today, we don’t have to sacrifice animals any more. The blood from animals doesn’t cover our sin anymore. We have Jesus. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice so that for those who believe in Him, they experience God’s grace. We are free from the Old Testament law and that system. Free from the rules and sacrifices.
Some people might think, God’s grace is awesome. I have the freedom now to do what I want. I am free from rules. Jesus clearly says, I didn’t come to demolish those rules. My grace isn’t here so you can live a lawless life. In fact, to get into heaven, you have to live a life better than what the Pharisees lived. The Pharisees prayed, fasted, tithed and lived out every rule in detail. They held a very high standard.
When Jesus said this, He was introducing a new understanding of rules. You could even say, a new kind of righteousness. It was a higher standard of perfection. I need to explain.
There is a difference between a kid who has to go to play soccer and a kid who loves soccer. The kid who has go to soccer, puts on their shoes and soxs but can’t wait till the game is over. The kid who loves soccer, goes home and practices soccer all night. Jesus wanted us to not just follow the rules but to be overwhelmed with God’s grace and love.
Have you ever followed a rule because you had to verse following a rule because you wanted to? That’s what is going on in the days of Jesus. They were following the rules, but their heart wasn’t into it. They didn’t have the right attitude or right motive.
Jesus said, He didn’t come to abolish the law, He came to complete the law. That means, He wasn’t eliminating rules, He wants us to follow the rules with the right attitude, right motive, right heart.
Jesus said, to get into heaven, we have to live out the rules better than the religious leaders did. Jesus knew that we couldn’t do that. What Jesus was saying was, you need to believe and trust in Jesus, the only one who lived a perfect life.
Entering heaven wasn’t about following the rules because you have to, it’s about the right heart. It means we believe in Jesus who fulfilled all the rules for us and we surrender our attitudes, our motives, our hearts to Christ.
In this sermon, Jesus begins to talk about the rules and how he raises the bar. Jesus talks about murder, adultery and divorce. And this is when the Pharisees started to become offended.
21 “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.
23 “So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. 25 Come to terms quickly with your enemy before it is too late and you are dragged into court, handed over to an officer, and thrown in jail. 26 I assure you that you won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny. NLT
When Jesus said, don’t murder. Everyone got it. The Pharisees would have proudly thought they were in the clear because they follow the rules. But Jesus raised the bar. He said, if you are angry with someone, you committed murder. Then Jesus raises the bar even higher. If someone is mad at you, search them out and go make it right.
This would have nailed the Pharisees. This had to make the Pharisees squirm. They couldn’t hide behind the law anymore. They were mad at people, but they didn’t murder them. They knew people were mad at them, but they didn’t murder them. Jesus comes and rocks their world and basically says, you are great rule followers, but you still murder because your heart is messed up.
Do you see what Jesus just did? He didn’t come to abolish the law about murder but to complete it. In other words, Jesus came and said, I’m establishing God’s kingdom in your heart so your heart matters. It’s not just about the rules and legalistically following the rules. Murder isn’t just about killing someone, it’s about what’s in your heart. To have God’s kingdom established in your heart; you must surrender.
So let me ask you: for Jesus to transform your heart, are you angry with someone? I mean, are you living in anger over a long time period? Do you know someone who is angry at you? Maybe you need to surrender to Christ and do heart work to get that junk out of your heart.
27 “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your eye – even if it is your good eye – causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand – even if it is your stronger hand – causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. NLT
Jesus continues to offend the Pharisees. They didn’t sleep with someone else’s spouse. They would never do that, everyone would know. But they would have been filled with lust in their hearts, they could hide that. Jesus was calling them out. They couldn’t hide behind the law anymore. Jesus was saying, you might not be sleeping with another person’s wife or husband, but your heart may still be full of lust. Stop playing religious games. Do whatever you have to, to stop your lustful behavior.
That being said, don’t go to a church wear all the men have one hand. It’s about the heart.
Do you see what Jesus just did? He didn’t come to abolish the law about adultery but to complete it. In other words, Jesus came and said, I’m establishing God’s kingdom in your heart so your heart matters. It’s not just about the rules and legalistically following the rules. Committing adultery isn’t just about sleeping with someone, it’s about what’s in your heart. To have God’s kingdom established in your heart; you must surrender.
So let me ask you: The application today would be, ‘I didn’t have an affair, but I’m on the internet, on Instagram, up late at night on all the wrong cable channels and I do like to leer.’ For Jesus to transform your heart, are you engaging in lustful behavior? What do you need to do to radically bring an end to it?
31 “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a letter of divorce.’ 32 But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. NLT
Jesus does it again. You can follow the rules, but your heart is still a mess. Giving your wife a letter of divorce might be following the laws of Moses but you are doing it because you are prideful and selfish. So stop playing religious games. So yes, the way you are handling marriage and divorce, you are hiding behind the law but you are using the law to please yourself. When you do that, you are making your wife commit adultery.
Do you see what Jesus just did? He didn’t come to abolish the law about marriage but to complete it. In other words, Jesus came and said, I’m establishing God’s kingdom in your heart so your heart matters. It’s not just about the rules and legalistically following the rules. Divorce isn’t just about you being selfish or prideful, it’s about what’s in your heart. To have God’s kingdom established in your heart; you must surrender.
So let me ask you; how do you treat your spouse in marriage? Do you have a set of rules and expectations for your spouse? Or do you love your spouse? There is a difference between a contract and a covenant. A contract is based on rules and performance. A covenant is based on your commitment to love even when your spouse doesn’t meet all your expectations.
What if we are divorced and read this? Do we feel guilty and believe God is now against us? No. Read how Jesus loved the woman an the well. She was divorced five times and was living with someone. What Jesus was saying about marriage and divorce was, it’s more than a rule. It’s about your heart.
Do you see what Jesus did in this section? He smashed religion. He introduces a new kind of righteousness. We can’t live a perfect sinless life, but we can believe someone who did. We believe in Jesus and ask Him to forgive and love us. It’s about surrender. It’s about the heart. But doesn’t that make sense? God sent Jesus to establish His kingdom in our hearts.
The real question isn’t about your ability to follow the rules, it’s about you surrendering to Christ as your Lord and Savior.