In our study last Sunday morning, we saw that Jesus returned from His forty days in the wilderness, only to hear that John the Batpizer had been thrown into prison by Herod. As a result, Jesus returned to Herod's jurisdiction of Galilee and began His public ministry, preaching the same message as John: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
In addition to teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the gospel, Jesus was also healing every kind of disease and sickness. The news spread throughout all Syria, and people were being brought to Him from all over to be healed. We pick up in verse 25...
It didn't take long before Jesus' public ministry was drawing huge crowds from all over. John the Baptizer had drawn them from Jerusalem, all Judea, and the district around the Jordan (Matt. 3:5), but Jesus was drawing them from an even larger area. Even those from Jerusalem who'd traveled 19 miles to hear John were now traveling at least 70 miles to hear Jesus.
When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain and sat down. In those days, the Rabbis would teach sitting down. He was physically showing the crowds that his was a time for teaching.
Notice that the entire crowd is not said to have joined Him on the mountain, but only those who were His disciples came to Him.The word disciples is literally "learners" (math-ay-TES). Those who wanted to learn came up to hear Jesus teach, those who didn't, didn't.
We see the same behavior among people today. There will always be those who come for the church potluck, for the church carnival, for the bake sale, for the concert, for the excitement, and for the fellowship, but who have no desire to listen to the teaching of the Word of God. People who come to the healing crusade, but won't come to the Bible study.
This is why we don't have "Grow-a-thons" and other programs to try and increase church attendance. My ministry philosophy is that if we simply teach the Word of God, then those who want to learn the Word of God will come.
And although it is unfortunate, the Bible tells us to expect that this sort of thing will only increase:
2Tim. 4:3 ...the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled...
It is interesting to note that when this "Sermon on the Mount," ends, we see the difference in size between the two audiences:
Matt. 7:28-8:1 When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him.
And so we see that while the teaching on the mountain attracted "crowds" (OKH-los), once Jesus stopped teaching it was "large crowds" (pol-OOS OKH-los) who followed Him.
This section of Jesus' sermon on the mountain has been called, "The Beatitudes." I never did know what that meant, but it's just a fancy word meaning, "declarations of blessedness."
- Be poor in spirit - in other words, recognize that you have no righteousness in yourself to offer God.
- Mourn, as James said (James 4:8-10), which is necessary for purifying yourself.
- Be gentle, which Peter said (1Pet 3:4) is precious in the sight of God.
- Hunger and thirst for righteousness, because it is something that needs to be desired and pursued.
- Be merciful, because when you dish out harsh justice, you're going to get it for yourself as well.
- Purify your heart, because God is good to people who do (Psa. 73:1).
- Be a peacemaker to the best of your ability (Rom. 12:18).
- Living like this will bring insults, persecution, and accusation (2Tim. 3:12). But you're blessed when that happens too.
And so each of the blessings on the list show us how we are to approach both God and man.
Jesus then says to His disciples, "You are the salt of the earth." What does that mean? Well, there have been a lot of simplistic answers given about the symbol of salt, but in order to understand Jesus' figure of speech, we must figure out how the Bible presents it.
Salt first appears in Judges 9. Ab-ee-MEL-ek was fighting against the city of Shechem...
Judg. 9:45 Ab-ee-MEL-ek fought against the city all that day, and he captured the city and killed the people who were in it; then he razed the city and sowed it with salt.
When Ab-ee-MEL-ek sowed the city with salt so that nothing would grow there anymore. Salt acts as a restrainer, to keep things from growing.
Next, salt appears in 2Kings 2. The men of Jericho told Elisha that the water there was bad.
2Kings 2:20-21 He said, "Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it." So they brought it to him. He went out to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, "Thus says the LORD, 'I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.'"
And so the second thing we learn about salt is that it is a purifier. Using those two facts, we learn that when Jesus calls us "the salt of the earth," He is saying that we are both a restrainer of evil and a purifier of the world.
To lose our saltiness means that we stop restraining evil and purifying the world. It means that we become just like the world. And if we get to that point, we are utterly useless for anything in the world.
Jesus uses another metaphor to describe His disciples: we are the light of the world. The way we shine that light to the world is through good works which put the focus on the Lord. When Christians establish things such as orphanages, soup kitchens, food pantries, and disaster relief ministries, they are demonstrating good works to the world, that God might be glorified.
Each of us as individuals are called to shine the light of the Lord as well. If we examine our lives, are they shining brightly?