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Teachings of Jesus – Sermon on the Mount

My book “Secrets of the Mustard Seed” amplifies the top ten words of advice in the New Testament.  It keys on finding out what the teachings of Jesus actually emphasize the most.

This is a script I wrote some time ago for a television program about the teachings of Jesus which focused on the Sermon on the Mount.   It helps give a broader picture to this topic, in terms of what kind of faith the Master actually pictured for us.

Jesus’ Religion – Written on the Heart
Steven Mosley

Early in the morning, Jesus had been higher up in the hills, alone as
usual with His Father in prayer.  When He came down toward the lake, he saw
that a crowd was already gathering, eager to hear from the rabbi who astonished
everyone.  Yes they’d come for the teachings of Jesus.  They probably assembled
close to the shore at first, but as people kept arriving from Galilean villages,
from Judea, even from Phoenician cities along the Mediterranean–they crowded
their way up the mountain side.
Jesus, accompanied as always by His closest disciples, had to move up to a
spot overlooking the lake, so he could be heard by the multitude.  This is one
of the most likely sites, in fact, for the justly famous Sermon on the Mount.

This is where the teachings of Jesus shined brightest.

Here, echoing down the green slopes of Galilee and out toward the blue,
rippled surface of the lake, the words of the Master Teacher fell on fishermen,
farmers, merchants, scribes and priests.  It was Jesus’ greatest discourse.
And Matthew, sitting here with the other disciples at the feet of the Savior,
made sure that it would echo down to us.
The world’s most profound moral insights are compressed into three
chapters in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters five, six and seven.  In the Sermon
on the Mount Jesus unveiled the kind of religion that would win over the whole
world.
Just what is the religion that shines through this sermon?  I suggest it
is essentially this: God’s law written in human hearts.  Jesus wanted to
revolutionize religion by taking it from the outside to the inside.
He opened with the Beatitudes.  Certain people are commended as those who
will inherit the kingdom of heaven.  Who are they?  The poor in spirit, the
pure in heart, the meek and merciful, those who hunger and thirst for
righteousness.  These are basically invisible qualities.  You can’t put your
finger on purity of heart.  You can’t nail down a heart-longing for
righteousness.  These are internal, spiritual traits.
But unfortunately these are precisely the things that many religious
people miss.  We instinctively focus on externals.  It’s human nature.  We go
to a certain church; we nod through a certain worship ritual; we sign on the
dotted line below certain doctrines—and that’s our religion.  Think about
it.  When someone says they belong to such-and-such a denomination, how do we
respond?  Oh that’s the church where they don’t use music.  Oh, that’s where
the ministers walk around in robes.  Oh, those are the people that don’t eat
meat.
The externals are what click in our minds.  Those internal
qualities—well they’re just harder to grasp.
But these teachings of Jesus, his Sermon on the Mount, zeroes in on things
that can only happen in the human heart.  Listen to how he expanded on the law.
The Master pointed to the command that says “Do not murder.”  Then he
warned of being angry with your brother and abusing him.  Why?  Because that’s
where murder starts; that’s where the problem must be dealt with, in the anger
that simmers in our hearts.
“Don’t commit adultery.”  Jesus’ hearers were acquainted with that command
as well.  But He made them look deeper.  The one who looks lustfully at a
woman, He said, is committing adultery in his heart.  You’ve got to deal with
that.
What’s the religion of Christ all about?  I believe a good summary of it
is found in Matthew 6:19-21.  Listen:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves
treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be
also.

What matters is where our heart is.  Have we got it nailed down to the
external things around us–even external religious things?  Or is our
investment in the qualities of heaven?  The imperishable commodities of purity
and unselfishness?
Jesus urged his hearers not to get wrapped up in worry over food and
clothing.  The external necessities.  If God clothes and feed them so well,
won’t He do the same for us.  Seek first the kingdom of heaven, Jesus advised,
and all these other things will be provided.
People, we desperately need this kind of religion of the heart today.
This is the only kind of faith that can win over the world.  Do you know that
people in Northern Ireland are fighting in large part because religion has
gotten stuck on the outside.  Religion has become a political tool; it’s about
who controls what neighborhood; it’s about who has the most economic leverage.
It’s about parades up and down the streets, showing off the externals of one’s
faith as a challenge to the opposition.  I can guarantee you it’s not about the
pure in heart or those hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
Why were Christians and Muslims fighting in Lebanon for so long?  For the
same reason.  They were wearing their religion on their sleeves.  It had become
a battle over turf.  You planted the banner of faith down in a certain
neighborhood in order to own it, in order to shore up your political power.
Religion that’s all on the outside is a complete disaster my friends.  And
that’s what Jesus came to change.  He came to put it inside where it belongs.
I believe that kind of faith can change the world.
Not far from the slope where Christ delivered his Sermon on the Mount
stood the Jewish synagogue at Capernaum, a place that embodied the ancient
faith of Israel, the covenants of Yahweh—and also a religion plagued by
legalism.
The synagogue whose pillars you see here was built after the time of
Jesus.  But it stands on the same site as the one in His time.  Jesus was in
this very place, teaching here.
In His Sermon on the Mount He tried dealt specifically with the Jewish
faith, and how to turn it from the outside to the inside.  That’s essential to
the teachings of Jesus.  Devout Hebrews who entered this holy place emphasized
three principle duties: prayer, fasting and the giving of alms.  But these,
like so much else in religion, could become merely a form, something totally
separate from what happens in the heart.
The Master teacher described those who come with alms to the
temple–preceded by trumpets announcing their great offering.  Their gifts,
according to Christ, were a sham.  Giving from the heart is what counts.  When
you give to the needy, Jesus told His hearers, don’t let your left hand know
what your right hand is doing.
Jesus rebuked those who made their most fervent prayers on street corners
or standing in the synagogue, to be admired by others.  He recommended instead,
prayers in the closet, in secret, with only the Heavenly Father for an
audience.  That’s where the heart really speaks.
Jesus then turned on those who made a great show of fasting, disfiguring
their faces and walking about in sackcloth and ashes.  These, the Master
implied, fasted too loudly.  Better to do it in secret–with only the Father as
company.
The teachings of Jesus are about heart religion.  God’s law written on the
inside.  That’s the kind of faith that can win the world.  We’ve got to come up
with a religion that’s more than just a rote observance of externals.  As Jesus
put it, we’ve got to find a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees.
And Jesus became quite specific about what His religion of the heart would
do.  If love is welling up inside, instead of anger, if generosity is welling
up inside instead of pride, if a longing for righteousness consumes us instead
of a longing for more possessions—then amazing things will start to happen.
Jesus actually suggested that if a bad-tempered person strikes us on the
right cheek, we turn to him our left.  If someone wants our tunic, we should
offer our cloak as well.  If a Roman soldier forces us to carry his pack one
mile, we should disarm him–by carrying it two miles.
Jesus words about loving ones enemies must have been the hardest for those
people on the Galilean hill to take.  It’s easy to love your family and
friends, He said.  What demonstrates genuine religion is to show love for one’s
enemies.
Let’s step back a bit now and look at these teachings of Jesus, this Sermon
on the Mount given two thousand years ago on that hillside.  It’s starting to
look humanly unattainable.  Everything Jesus said goes against human nature.
It’s natural to want to hit back, not turn the other cheek.  It’s natural to seek the
blessing of riches and high position, not the blessedness of the meek and poor
in spirit.  It’s natural to point to the speck in our brother’s eye, not deal
with the beam in our own.  It’s natural to hate our enemies, not pray for
them.
We simply can’t do the things Jesus asks of us.  He might as well have
commanded us to walk on water.  But maybe that’s part of the point.
Remember that Jesus emphasized a heart religion, the law written inside
us.  Well, the prophets promised that, in the new covenant, God would write His
law in our hearts; He would take out our hearts of stone and give us hearts of
flesh.
The teachings of Jesus are not something we just drift into naturally.
They demands a supernatural religion.  Only the Spirit of the Living God dwelling
inside us can produce these qualities.
I think it’s interesting that Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount while
overlooking this Lake of Galilee, the site of so many of His miracles.  Here is
where fish multiplied miraculously in the nets of His disciples.  Here is where
Jesus calmed a raging storm.  Here is where Jesus, yes, walked on water.
That’s the point.  We can’t walk on water, but Jesus can.  We can’t
fulfill His idealistic religion, but He can.  Jesus can write His new law in
our hearts.  And when that happens, believe me my friends, we can do the
impossible.
Late one evening three men conversed in a small flat in Budapest, a
Lutheran Pastor named Richard Wurmbrand, his landlord, and Borila, a huge
soldier on leave from the front where Rumania was fighting as a German ally
during World War II.  Borila dominated the conversation, boasting of his
adventures in battle and especially of how he had volunteered to help
exterminate Jews in Transmistria and killed hundreds with his own hands.
Wurmbrand realized with horror that his own wife’s family had been
murdered in the same place.  This man bragging before him may well have been
the killer.  The pastor was filled with indignation.
But as they continued talking, something else began to fill his heart.
Wurmbrand himself had been converted from a life of immorality when he read the
life of Christ in the gospels.  Christ’s teachings had overwhelmed him.  And
one of them was to love one’s enemies.
Wurmbrand began to see in this cruel man someone Jesus was trying to
reach.  So he invited him down to his apartment to hear some of the Ukranian
melodies he said he liked.
Wurmbrand began playing the piano–softly so as not to awaken his wife and
baby son.  After a bit he could see the soldier was moved by the music.  He
stopped playing and said, “If you look through that curtain you can see someone
is asleep in the next room.  It’s my wife, Sabina.  Her parents, her sisters
and her twelve-year-old brother have been killed with the rest of the family.
You told me that you had killed hundreds of Jews near Golta, and that is where
they were taken.  You yourself don’t know who you have shot, so we can assume
that you are the murderer of her family.”
Borila leaped from his chair, his eyes ablaze, looking as if he could
strangle the pastor.  But Wurmbrand calmed him by proposing an experiment: “I
shall wake my wife and tell her who you are, and what you have done.  I can
tell you what will happen.  My wife will not speak one word of reproach!
She’ll embrace you as if you were her brother.  She’ll bring you supper, the
best things she has in the house.”
The pastor then came to the punch line: “If Sabina, who is a sinner like
us all, can forgive and love like this, imagine how Jesus, who is perfect Love,
can forgive and love you!”  He urged Borila to return to God and seek
forgiveness.
The man melted; rocking back and forth he sobbed out his confession: “I’m
a murderer; I’m soaked in blood…”  Wurmbrand guided him to his knees and
began praying; Borila, having no such experience, simply begged for forgiveness
over and over.
Then the pastor walked into the bedroom and gently awakened his wife.
“There is a man here whom you must meet,” he whispered.  “We believe he has
murdered your family, but he has repented, and now he is our brother.”
Sabina came out in her dressing gown and extended her hands to the huge,
tear-stained soldier.  He collapsed in her arms, both wept greatly, and amid
the overwhelming emotions of grief, they embraced fervently.  Finally Sabina
went into the kitchen to prepare some food.
Wurmbrand thought that his guest could use a further reinforcement of
grace, since he was laboring out from under such horrible crimes.  So he
stepped into the next room and returned with his two-year old son Mihai, fast
asleep in his arms.  Borila was dismayed; it had been only hours since he
boasted of killing Jewish children in their parents’ arms, now this sight
seemed an unbearable reproach; he expected a withering rebuke.  Instead the
pastor leaned forward and said, “Do you see how quietly he sleeps?  You are
like a newborn child who can rest in the Father’s arms.  The blood that Jesus
shed has cleansed you.”  Looking down at Mihai Borila felt, for the first time
in ages, a surge of pure happiness.
When this soldier rejoined his regiment in Russia, he laid aside his
weapons and volunteered to rescue the wounded under fire.  The Sermon on the
Mount had been written in one more person’s heart.
Mark on slope before Sermon on Mount church.
The church here which overlooks the Lake of Galilee was built to
commemorate Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.  It is actually constructed in an
octagonal shape.  Inside, on each one of its eight sides, is inscribed one of
the beatitudes.
It’s nice that we can build monuments of stone to this greatest of ethical
discourses.  But even more important is the monument which Christ wants to
build in our hearts.  God’s law written in our hearts; religion turned from
exterior things to interior qualities; that is the faith that can make all the
difference in the world.
Mahatma Ghandi once remarked that if Christians would live the Sermon on
the Mount, all India would follow Christ.  That is what Jesus calls every human
being on this planet to do.  Yes, Christ’s ideals are humanly unattainable.
But He wants to put His ideals in our hearts.  He wants to turn people who have
lost their savor into the salt of the earth.  He wants to turn people who are
hiding under a bushel into the light of the world.
That’s where the teachings of Jesus take us.  You can begin living the
miraculous Sermon on the Mount right now.  You can share the kind of faith that
will win millions to the Master.  The teachings of Jesus do indeed compel.


Here’s another take on Teachings of Jesus. It’s important to get the context.  Those wonderful words of wisdom come out of an incredible, dramatic parade moving swiftly through Galilee and Judea.   And that parade gives the Messiah’s words all the more impact.

THE SWIFT PARADE
The Teachings of Jesus Embodied
What was it like to respond to that original “Follow Me” and get swept up in Christ’s wake, as he traveled through Galilee and Judea?  Think for a moment what the procession that usually followed Christ must have been like.  It had a special kind of momentum.  In it were people who had just been delivered from a whole array of physical and spiritual afflictions.
Former cripples, leaping as they walked, exulted in their supple limbs.  Men born blind gazed wide-eyed at the glorious scenery.  Those long bound by demons walked erect and clear-eyed, conversing happily.  Former lepers wept for joy at the thought that none of the faces close by in the crowd fled from them in terror.  Several who had been dumb couldn’t stop shouting praises.  Former prostitutes, tax-collectors and others who had crawled out from the underbelly of society followed gladly, knowing they could now live pure lives in the open sun.  Men and women shut in for years by deafness now walked fascinated by bird sings, wind in the trees, and Jesus’ voice.
Everyone in that procession tingled with new powers.  They rejoiced in abilities that a few days or weeks before had seemed forever beyond reach.  It’s difficult to imagine a more intense celebration.
Other kings returning from their conquests led in triumph groups of bowed and chained captives.  But the trophies of Christ’s successful campaign are these liberated Galileans who sweep up others in their wake.
Christ’s procession functioned somewhat like a circus parade.  In the “good old days” summer circuses coming into a town always staged a big parade to attract the people to their three-ring show.  The clowns, tigers, elephants and acrobats promised a world of exotic wonders.  Men left their barber shop debates, women postponed their laundry and kids emptied baseball lots.  Everyone followed the parade to the big top.
Christ’s parade displayed a menagerie of the re-created.  His followers showed the depth and breadth of his healing powers.  And those watching from the sidelines were eagerly told that, yes, the Master could perform His wonders on them too.
Jesus’ parade was a potent force cutting a swath of healing and joy through the grim, backward villages of Judah.  His sweep through Galilee can be seen as the moral equivalent of General Sherman’s fiery march to the sea.
It came to a climax in Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  By that time a large part of the population had caught the spirit of his parade.  They broke out in joyous celebration for their Servant King, spreading their cloaks, waving palm branches.
The irresistible parade of Christ stormed Jerusalem’s temple.  Petty priest/merchants wheeling and dealing in its courts were swept aside.  In their place came the blind and the lame.  Jesus healed them.  And soon the “den of robbers” resounded with children’s praises.

Please check out “Secrets of the Mustard Seed” in the Books & DVDs section of this website.  That’s where you’ll find the Top Ten Words of Advice in the Teachings of Jesus and His Disciples.

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