Original post at http://jmsmith.org/blog/sermon-on-the-mount/
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chs. 5-7) is perhaps Jesus’ best known teaching.
In it we find some of His most famous sayings such as: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” or “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
Many Christians have (rightfully) looked to the Sermon on the Mount to understand God’s desires for them, how he would have them live and act. Unfortunately, however, it is often taken out of its historical context: dulling its teaching and causing much of it to be misunderstood entirely.
When Jesus was on earth, Israel was in a terrible position. Other than one bright spot in their history (which turned out to be more like the flare of a match), Israel had been under foreign oppression for 600 years.
As we’ve seen recently in the Middle East, when somebody is oppressed long enough, sooner or later they begin to revolt. Such was the case with Israel. Tempers were hot, people were frustrated, and they wanted to know where God was. When was He going to act? When would His Kingdom come?
Certain religious leaders, especially the Pharisees, believed that God wasn’t coming to the aid of His people because they weren’t upholding His law properly. So they put laws around the laws to make sure that people were doing the right thing.
However, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lets the people know they had it terribly backwards.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches the people that their problem wasn’t ultimately with their actions, with upholding the law. It was with their heart. Out of their hearts was flowing all kinds of evil. They thought lustful thoughts, were allowing anger to grow inside them, and were prideful.
He told them: if you’re a good tree, you’re going to produce good fruit; but if you’re a bad tree, you’re going to produce bad fruit.
The beautiful part of reading the Sermon on the Mount from this side of Jesus’ work on the cross is that when we accept Jesus as our savior, He gives us a new heart. He creates a fresh-water stream where sin used to reign.
So as we look back at the Sermon on the Mount, as we see Jesus’ teaching to 1st century Israel and speaking into their situation, we can see what Jesus wants to flow from our hearts – we can put his words into practice, building on rock, rather than building on sand.