SPECIAL TOPIC: SERMON ON THE MOUNT (from Matthew 5; see detailed notes for each chapter online)
Contextual Insights to Matthew 5-7
A. This sermon has been called
1. "The Ordination Address to the Twelve"
2. "The Compendium of Christian Doctrine"
3. "The Magna Carta of the Kingdom"
4. "The Manifesto of the King"
The term "Sermon on the Mount" was first used by Augustine (a.d. 354-430) in his Latin Commentary on Matthew. This title came into our English Bibles through the Coverdale Bible of a.d. 1535.
B. "The Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 5-7 is possibly the same as "the Sermon on the Plain" in Luke 6. The difference in the contents can be explained by comparing the target audiences of the Gospels writers; Matthew's readers were Palestinian Jews and Luke's were Gentiles. However, because the differences are so great, many believe they are not the same sermon. They may be examples of often repeated themes used by Jesus in many places with differing audiences. An example of this is the parable of the lost sheep. In Matthew 18 it was directed to disciples, but in Luke 15 to sinners.
C. Under God's inspiration, the Gospel writers were free to select from Jesus' teachings and actions and to combine them in non-chronological ways to communicate theological truth. See Fee and Stuart's How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, pp. 127-148. The Gospels are not biographies—they are evangelistic tracts and discipleship manuals. Matthew combines Jesus' teachings and miracles into thematic units, while Luke records these same teachings in different contexts throughout his Gospel.
D. The structure of Matthew's first and longest discourse of Jesus is very Jewish, possibly a conscious structural parallel to the Ten Commandments. The statements are pointed gnomic sentences, often paradoxical, which attempt to summarize truth and aid memory. Thematically they are loosely related but grammatically separate.
E. These teachings are the ultimate kingdom ethic meant to convict the lost and motivate the saved. The audience was comprised of several different groups: the disciples, the curious, the sick, the skeptical and the religious elite. Different texts were intended for the differing groups (but the text does not designate which group).
F. These teachings are basically an attitude toward life or a "worldview" which is radically reoriented toward faith and obedience to God. There is an obvious play on the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.
G. A good book which describes Jesus' teaching and preaching methods is Robert H. Stein's, The Methods and Message of Jesus' Teaching, Westminister Press, 1978.
H. The purpose is not to show the lost how to be saved, but how God expects the saved to live. The new kingdom ethic is so radical that even the most committed self-righteous legalists feel inadequate. Grace is the only hope for salvation (i.e., Isa 55:1-3) and the Spirit's power the only hope for kingdom living (i.e., Isa. 55:6-7).
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