THE PROBLEMS JESUS FACED
Before getting into the heart of the Sermon on the Mount, I have been thinking about the factors which led to this lecture to His closest followers, the ones who would be responsible for taking His message to the world. These factors not only determine the content of the sermon, but also the urgency of making certain things clear to these important men.
First, one needs to realize the incredible task that Jesus faced as He brought the Gospel of grace to a people who had, for hundreds of years, been taught the Law as the only access they had to God. To bring grace and faith to a people whose family and national religion had been strictly a legal relationship with God, was a monumental task. It is the same today. Thousands of people, who claim to be Christians, follow religious principles that are completely antithetic to what Jesus taught. However, persuading them, or even discussing with them, the principles of true Christianity is almost impossible. Their family religion is the only right way for them. The search for Truth is ignored. This is true of many people in every religious group, no matter what their stated purpose is.
Generally speaking, most of the people in the Christian world feel that going to church, taking care of the rituals and not doing anything really wrong is all that is necessary to be pleasing to God. Of course, all of this ignores the spiritual growth which is our real relationship with God and with our fellowman. It was Jesus’ task to make this clear to the men who would take God’s message to the world.
Even worse, the Jews had thought of God as their personal possession, and to have Him accept non-Jews was utterly unacceptable to them. So, when Jesus came, fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham that through his seed “all the families of the earth” would be blessed, this hurt the intense Jewish pride, and they rejected Him. It is the same today when people in each group claim that those who reject the things they believe in, are not Christians.
When I view the world today and find thousands of groups in competition with one another, but all claiming to be Christian, I am both amazed and sorrowful. Each of these groups believes that they are right and that those who disagree with them are wrong. Therefore, the “oneness” that Jesus prayed for is lost. If men had stopped placing legal differences and protocol differences ahead of “love your neighbor as yourself”, such would not have happened. The whole Christian world is caught up in a concept that our relationship with God is based on legal correctness. Someone has said that the Law of Moses has been replaced by the Law of Christ. That is true, but the Law of Christ is the Law of Love. It is not a legal document which demands that we do every small thing in a precise way that is dictated by the scriptures, or is the way the disciples did it in New Testament days. It is too bad that, when we try to imitate the New Testament church, we do not strive to have the same spirit of love and fellowship that characterized it. If we had that, the small legal niceties, which some men have found, would never allow a rift in the love and fellowship of those who claim to be followers of Christ.
But this is the problem Jesus faced, and He is here making quite sure that these men are fully taught the real principles of God’s salvation for all mankind, as opposed to the legal interpretation of these things that was the standard taught by the Jewish rabbis.
Jesus had to combat a traditional family and national religion based on legal statutes. He also had to combat the egotistical feeling that the Jews had, which made them believe they were the only people acceptable to God. This forms a barrier that the Truth finds it difficult to get through, and the same is true in the world of divided Christian organizations today.