Sermon on the Mount-Matt 5:1-16 – Part 1
I want to start by saying that we’re finally out of the book of Colossians! Hard to believe we won’t be turning there in our Bibles this morning-mine just automatically opens there now-the pages are rather dog-eared and coffee stained. But we’re beginning a new sermon series for the rest of spring leading us into the summer. And before I introduce it I want to mention that next weekend Monica and I and the kids will be away. We’ll actually be in Chicago for the Erwin family reunion. All of my immediate family as well as my aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews will all be there-including Grandma Erwin who’s 96 and still going strong. She’s super talkative and full of energy-so there’s good genes on the Erwin side-I plan to be super talkative and full of energy at 96! But it will be great to see my family. And after a year of NY pizza I’ll be having some Chicago deep dish so that will be good to compare as a New Yorker now! But we’ll also get a chance to see Monica’s family for a few days before the reunion so it should be a blessed week. While I’m away Dave Cava will be bringing the message. As we all know-God’s been working in a powerful way in their family as they continue to pray for their daughter Gabby’s healing. They’ve been in NC for several weeks-and yet Dave is itching to share what God has been teaching him during that time. I have no doubt it will be extremely challenging and heartfelt! I told Dave I halfway want to cut the reunion short and come back early to be here for the sermon because I know he’ll have a lot to say. So next weekend will be a blessing-especially as so many of you have been praying for the Cava family.
But this week I want to introduce our new sermon series-and as you can see on the screen-it’s the Sermon on the Mount. But to get us started I want the A/V team in the back to turn the lights off. Now it’s not too dark in here with the all windows-but none of us would probably want to sit here for the rest of the sermon with the lights out. Actually maybe you would-don’t answer that! But what do we need? What do we need in any room that’s dark? A light-a lamp to turn on. But what happens when I put a basket over it? Obviously it doesn’t work too well. The lamp is still lit but it’s not accomplishing anything. It’s not projecting light or brighting this room. It’s not doing what it’s supposed to do. Do you have any lamps at home with baskets over them? If you did people would find that a bit weird! What’s up with that? New decorating idea? No one does this at home-it’s absurd. Fixer Upper or Property Brothers aren’t coming up with new design ideas where baskets cover up lamps. This is not the hot new decorating trend! Yet this is precisely the analogy that Jesus is making about our lives. He’s saying that if we’re not careful we could be living just like this-which would be a great tragedy because this room with the lights off is a picture of the world we live in. It’s a place that is darkened by sin and despair, people are hopeless, searching and stumbling in the darkness-and what does Jesus say about you and me and all who follow Him? Take off the basket and be a lamp that shines brightly! Let’s turn on the lights-and as that happens let’s turn to Matthew 5 and hear what Jesus wants to say.
We’ll examine the beginning of this sermon shortly-but I want us to start by looking right at this analogy Jesus makes-Matt 5:14-16. And that’s the idea we want to get inside our heads as we begin this series studying the Sermon on the Mount-You are the light of the world. No doubt you’ve probably heard that before-but let those words sink fresh on your soul this morning. Because Jesus isn’t making a suggestion here. He isn’t talking about some Christians; He isn’t saying that only the really spiritual people act like lamps-while the rest of us are sort of like dim flashlights with weak batteries. Jesus isn’t even issuing a challenge saying-You should think about becoming a light, consider whether your life should be a lamp. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is stating a fact. He’s describing what every believer is called to be, none are excluded. He’s saying-You-as my follower-are the light of the world. When was the last time you thought of yourself in that way? When was the last time you went into work, or gathered with your family and realized-Wow-as a follower of Christ, I’m a light that needs to shine brightly! So let me begin by asking the obvious-but crucial-question-Q1: Is the way I’m following Jesus visibly bright to others or blending in? Is it something that’s shining forth and unobstructed for everyone to see-or does it just fade into the background and blend in with the people around you? By using the analogy of a lamp Jesus is saying that people don’t have to look hard to see it. It’s visible, it’s clear, it stand out. Would that describe you? Or is your spiritual life more the basket approach, something covered up and not very visible? Maybe you say things like-My faith is private, it’s between me and God, and I don’t want to stand out, I just want to blend in with everybody else. I want to keep a low profile, have my Christian life concealed. I don’t want to offend anyone; I just keep it to myself. Maybe you’re motivated by fear or embarrassment, maybe you don’t want to harm your reputation so while at home or at church or with Christian friends you don’t mind letting your light shine, but out in public, or at work or school, or when you’re exercising at the gym, or spending time with unbelievers, it’s a different story and you’re putting the basket on.
But that’s not what Jesus is saying-v. 15-16a-and that’s the key phrase-before others. Your light is bright, it permeates the room, there’s no mistaking it, the people around you can see it. That’s how your life should be. Now if you’re like me you might be sort of scratching your head at this juncture wondering what constitutes a life that shines forth? What does that look like? What needs to be bright and visible? Well Jesus doesn’t leave us in the dark on this-but describes in detail what that looks like.
Glance back at the end of chapter 4 because this is the lead up to the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is just beginning His 3 years of public ministry and as the Son of God come to earth you can imagine the transforming power of His presence. Look at how He interacts with people-4:23-24a. No kidding! Here’s this miracle worker/healer extraordinaire. He’s not just scamming people with a bunch of smoke and mirrors-and alleged healing. He’s the real deal! If you had any sort of affliction or your kids were suffering with something-wouldn’t you come to Jesus? v. 24b-25. Meaning all across the area. Jesus’ fame and popularity spread, His reputation proceeded Him far and wide. And yet-did He just come to heal physical ailments? Did Jesus come to earth to be the best doctor out there? No. Jesus didn’t come to merely our fix symptoms-like sickness and disease-but He came to bring the cure. He came to deal with the real problem which is our sin issue leading to death. Jesus came to conquer death and bring life-new spiritual life in Him. And so what I love about the transition from chapter 4 to chapter 5 is that we see all the crowds coming to get their immediate needs addressed-and they’re important needs as Matthew has described, but look at what Jesus does-5:1a. What did He do? Keep on healing more and more people, eradicating every last once of sickness in this crowd? 5:1-2. This is where Jesus transfers from healing to teaching. This is where He goes from the physical needs to the spiritual needs, from the symptoms to the cure. All His visible healing has been a preparation, a foreshadowing of the real healing their hearts need. And it makes the crowd back then-and us today-ask the important question-Q2:Why am I coming to Jesus? Is it simply to get my immediate needs met from Him-whether that is healing or help or assistance because times are tough. Hey, Jesus-fix this or fix that in my life! Or am I coming to Jesus in order to hear what He wants to say to me? Am I-are we-coming to Jesus in order to sit down like this great crowd-not worried about our schedules, our timetables, our needs, our issues, but simply saying-Here I am to listen. Speak to me, Jesus so that my life might be changed by what you have to say. I think each one of us has to answer that question before we dive into the most famous sermon in human history. Before we can start reading the Sermon on the Mount-our hearts have to be in a place to truly hear and apply this sermon to our lives. Because what Jesus is going to say is nothing short of radical and transforming. When properly heard the Sermon on the Mount will change you. This isn’t some boring sermon where you’ll fall asleep. This isn’t a long-winded exposition that will have you checking your watch wondering when Jesus is going to wrap this up and send everyone home for lunch. Not at all. This is the your Savior telling you the words you need to hear. This is the Son of God Himself telling you what it means to live a life that honors and follows Him; this is Jesus describing a life that shines brightly in the darkness.
Take a look at what He says-Matt 5:3-6. Pause a moment. Do you see where this is going? Things such as humility, mourning, meekness, righteousness, let’s be honest-those aren’t the things that society is chasing after. That is not the stuff of the American dream. We don’t grow up thinking-When I get older I want to be filled with meekness, that’s what I’m chasing after, I’m on a course for humility and honoring others. No way! We’re after riches and power, fame and fortune, we want to be elevated and promoted, regarded as great, not looked on as meek or humble. These Beatitudes, as they’re called, are very paradoxical. Blessed are the poor in the spirit? No-we would say-Blessed are the proud in spirit. Those who mourn aren’t blessed; it’s those who are carefree and happy and living the good life who are blessed. And the meek? They’re not blessed, they get trampled on and overlooked. The meek don’t climb the corporate ladder or get recognition. Blessed are the strong, blessed are the talented, blessed are the successful. And those who hunger and thirst for righteousness? People hunger for pleasure, for comfort and achievements, people hunger for an easy-going, smooth-sailing life. Righteousness? That’s some old religious word. Who wakes up hungering for righteousness, I wake up hungry for breakfast and wanting a good day where everything works out!” You see these descriptions seem quite contradictory to what we want, very much the opposite and paradoxical-because we tend to view a blessed life through the lens of this world; that blessings come from getting all the glory and pleasure that this world offers. But that’s not the message of Jesus. As He delivers this sermon He turns everything upside-down and says blessedness doesn’t fit with the world’s standards, because His kingdom is not of this world. Jesus is saying that the blessedness He gives, the joy and happiness He offers, comes by a much different route. The tree of blessedness doesn’t grow from the soil of this cursed earth; it’s planted in the heaven, that true blessedness is on a much higher level than anything in this world. So right at the start, He’s forcing us to have a rewired way of thinking, for new priorities to form in our hearts, and to ultimately adopt a new way of living. What these Beatitudes are revealing is that the heavenly standard of blessedness is the standard of selflessness. So if we’re seeking to map out Jesus’ sermon and come up with some sermon points that answer our initial 2 questions-Pt1:The heavenly standard of blessedness is the earthly standard of selflessness. I said this is radical and challenging! Jesus is talking about adopting a standard of humility and meekness in our lives. Not occasional humility or momentary meekness-but a daily way in which we live. He’s talking about an ongoing hunger for righteousness and godliness-which is completely opposite from the world’s standard. It’s as opposite as darkness is from light. And yet that’s when living this way allows your light to shine most brightly-because it is so radical and different. That’s what Jesus is driving at.
So it’s no accident where Jesus begins-v. 3. This isn’t talking about some sad-faced, depressed, Christian who’s a total downer to be around. This isn’t like Eyore from Winnie the Pooh who was that depressed donkey with purple ears. Poor in spirit is the person who wisely recognizes his own spiritual emptiness apart from God; that if it wasn’t for God’s grace he’d be stuck, lost in his sins. Poor in spirit is the person who knows he can’t save himself. It’s someone who finally comes to that place of spiritual bankruptcy and utter dependence on God’s mercy alone-and that’s a humbling, spiritually poor, place to be. But when you get there, as Jesus says, that’s the road to the kingdom of heaven. Maybe you’ve lived the bulk of your life thinking you’re a pretty good person who hasn’t done anything too bad, and you’ll enter heaven based on the merits of your own good deeds and efforts, that you’ve tried hard to live a decent life. But that’s not what Jesus is saying here in Matthew 5. Despite what we might think, He doesn’t say-Blessed are the doers of many good deeds who’ve earned their way into the kingdom of heaven-it says-v. 3.
That means those who have nothing of their own-who are totally poor in spirit-are able to enter the kingdom of heaven because they’ve turned to God’s grace. Jesus would later describe this very scenario in Luke 18:9-13 NIV. That’s the poor in spirit-that’s the guy who knows his spiritual bankruptcy-that he has nothing of his own to stand on but God alone. And yet that’s also the very thing the Pharisee is blinded to in his life. He couldn’t see past his own pride and recognize his spiritually poverty. So as we look at these two men-whose light shines brightest? Whose life makes the greatest impact? Obviously it’s not the guy who says-Look at me and how good I am. Too bad everyone else can’t be like me. His pride is nauseating-and maybe you know people like that. But the guy of humility, the one who abandons his pride and falls on his knees in surrender to God, he’s the one who impacts us most-because we all have that same exact need. He’s the one whose light reveals that grace of God that reaches down and saves the poor in spirit. So as we go from those two guys we turn the spotlight back to ourselves, back to you and me. How are you displaying yourself? Is it as a proud, holier-than-thou sort of person? Do you elevate yourself from those around you and send out a message that says-I’m a really good person, I’m better than most of the people out there. God is so pleased with me. If only more people could be like me this world would be a better place. Is that what people see when they look at your life? Are you someone who’s proud in spirit? Someone who’s religious arrogance becomes a turn-off or stumbling block to others? Reflect on that because it’s the proud in spirit who’s light shines dimly. But authentic humility is what causes your light to burn brightly. Huge difference. It’s when you say-Look, I’m a flawed human just like anybody else and it’s only by God’s grace that I’ve been saved and changed. I wouldn’t be anything without Jesus giving up His life fore me. That’s the gospel. Is that the message that’s radiating out from your life?
I love what John MacArthur says on this passage-Matt Comm, 148. That’s what Jesus is wanting us to understand. The kingdom of heaven isn’t just some random country we hope to end up in one day. It’s not just a place with sparkling beaches and glittering streets of gold-it’s a kingdom-which means it has a King. And that King is the one we’re called to surrender to. So let Him humble you and become poor in spirit to inherit His kingdom. Let Jesus reveal your state of total need and receive His forgiveness and new life. That’s Pt2:The light you reveal is a light of brokenness and grace. You’re not revealing a light of completeness or adequateness to the world around you. Hey, I’ve got everything put together in my life, I’ve got it all figured out and am doing great. No-you’re saying-I’m broken and poor in spirit-but God’s grace has captured my heart; He’s healed and restored me and made me new! That’s what Jesus is saying-Matt 5:3-4-meaning those who have a godly sorrow over their sin that leads to repentance. Matt 5:5-And meek doesn’t mean weak. Meek means gentle and kind-hearted. It’s someone who’s patient with others, and reaches out to help, not someone who make demands of others and excepts people to serve them or tiptoe around them. Meekness is captured in Jesus’ words-Mark 10:43-45. Blessed are the meek and gentle, blessed are those who serve and sacrifice for others in love, for they shall inherit the earth. Does your life shine forth with that kind of description? Look at-v. 6. As we said earlier, not those who hunger and thirst for riches and power, or comfort and pleasure-but those whose hunger and thirst is centered on following God and doing what He says. Righteousness might sound old-fashioned and boring-but it isn’t. Righteousness simply means living the life God’s called you to lead; it means saying-Lord, you know best what brings joys in life because you made me-you invented me and know best how I work-so contrary to what the world thinks, obedience to you brings contentment and satisfaction. v. 6-7. Does the light of mercy and compassion shine out from you? Or do you make people pay when they’ve wronged you? Do you hold constantly hold people’s mistakes and shortcomings over their heads and never let them forget it? This statement right here is a call to be like God and forgive others. Blessed are the merciful, blessed are those who overlook the mistakes of others and show forgiveness, blessed are those who treat others with grace, for they shall receive mercy.
Moving on to v. 8. Is that right there not the greatest experience a person could ever have? Nothing in all the universe is more magnificent than seeing God and all His glory. People spend big dollars to go to the mountains or go to the ocean to see something big and glorious. The snow-capped Rockies or the Swiss Alps are amazing-but who made them? God. Or think about Elon Musk’s company SpaceX that wants to build a human settlement on Mars. Wouldn’t that be amazing to see-you’re standing there on another planet. But who made Mars? God did. This is talking about seeing the Maker and Creator of the entire universe! And for those whose hearts have been purified and born again, that’s their destiny in eternity-to see God. It’s not a pipe dream but a concrete reality! Look at v. 9. Does your life shine forth with peace? Do you make it easy for people to talk with you? Or are you always fighting with people, always causing friction and stirring things up? Are you always trying to assert your rights and get what you deserve-creating conflict wherever you go? Jesus is saying that peace, being a peacemaker, someone of harmony and love is what should be displayed in your life, even when it’s hard or hurts. Look at this next statement-v. 10. And the moment persecution or pain or sets in, we want to walk away from all these Beatitudes. I’ll live this way, Lord-showing mercy, being meek and humble, acting as a peacemaker-but the moment it hurts, the moment there’s a cost or I have to give something up and my comfort or reputation are on the line, then forget it. I’ll go back to living how I always do. But that’s precisely what you can’t do. It’s no accident Jesus ends by talking about persecution. Look at how He continues-v. 11-12. The Lord knows, He totally understands what you’re going through and His call is for you and me to be a people of commitment, a people who stand up and let the character of our light shine with godly integrity even when it hurts, even when we want to lash back at someone or demand our rights or grow bitter or give in to temptation. Because in the face of insults and hardships and persecution, in the face of darkness is when your light shines the brightest, giving people a glimpse of Jesus-who stood up under the mocking and jeers of the crowd who wanted Him dead. Look back at Mark 10. You see, Jesus came to this earth and walked the same roads you’ve walked, endured the same painful circumstances you’ve endured, faced opposition and insults like you’ve faced-and yet He came for the very purpose of being persecuted until He was put to death. Jesus was nailed to a cross and crucified-the One person in all of human history who should have been celebrated and commemorated-was crucified. He wasn’t given a crown of gold but instead a crown of thorns-and yet through it all He never lost sight of His focus. And that’s because His focus wasn’t this earth, it wasn’t the fleeting things of this world. His focus was something much greater.
Do you remember what He said in-John 8:12. His focus was eternity, pointing people to the eternal life that can only be found in Him. The light of life cannot be found on planet earth. We haven’t discovered the fountain of youth, modern medicine can’t extend our lives to last forever, no one’s missed death or bypassed it. The light of life is only found by believing in the One who is life, the One who is the source of all life. And what does He say to you and me? I want your focus to be my focus. Jesus is saying-If I am the light of the world, then as my follower you also are the light of the world. Follow in my footsteps. Don’t cover up your light or grow dim-v. 15-16
How are you letting your light shine? What will your life display when you head into work tomorrow morning or the next time you’re with friends or family, what will they see? Might they begin to see the things Jesus has listed in verses 3-12. As we jotted down on the outline-might they see that standard of selflessness you’re setting, the sacrifices you’re making, the way you serve others. Might they see the light of your brokenness. That you’re not some holier-than-thou, judgmental person-but rather someone who humbly and honestly says my life has been changed by grace. Letting your light shine before others isn’t just being nice. Isn’t it easy-often tempting-to think that’s what Jesus is talking about? As long as I’m nice at work and put on a smile, try not to complain-I’ll be the light of Jesus. And sure-those are good things-but it goes so much deeper than that. There’s a reason Jesus is talking about being poor in spirit, about being meek and merciful, about hungering for righteousness, about being a peacemaker and willing to be persecuted. Those are the things the world notices-those are the qualities that amaze and impact people, that’s the stuff that causes your light to shine brightest.
I just want to end by picking up this basket-because we all do. Q3:When am I tempted to cover up my light? How would you answer that? Maybe at church you’re fine-but at work the basket goes on? Or maybe at school with certain friends you’ve got the basket on? Maybe you’re too embarrassed or scared? Maybe you don’t want to stand out or shine too brightly? Maybe you think it’s easier to not be noticed. But as a follower of Jesus that’s not what you’re called to do. He’s not singling out the really spiritual people among us saying-you guys shine, the rest of you just blend in. No-as THE light of the world, He’s commanding each one of us who’ve been saved by His grace to be the light of the world! Don’t hold back! May even the small flicker of our lives be a glimpse of His magnificent brilliance!