THE GREATEST SERMON EVER PREACHED
Every time I begin a study of the Sermon on the Mount, I pause to realize that neither I nor any man can do justice to this magnificent dissertation in which Jesus establishes once and for all that God, who is love, is primarily interested in the spiritual drives and concerns of every man. Ours is not a religion of forms and rituals. It is a religion of the heart, and if the heart is not right, all the rest is not only a waste of time, it is an insult to our heritage as the children of God.
At the very beginning of this great sermon, Jesus gives notice that He is going to speak to our spiritual concerns, because God is Spirit and we can only relate to Him with our spiritual selves. The first statement, then, is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”. The import of this short statement is so incredible that we should set everything else aside and prayerfully think about it. First of all, being poor in spirit means simply being humble. But what a demanding concept this is for ego-centered man who has a tendency to always consider himself number one. The prime drive of every human is to please and satisfy himself. It has been characteristic of man since Adam. To put ourselves in a secondary position, and consider others first, takes all of the self-discipline that we can muster, and a soul that calls for God’s Holy Spirit to help us. But the result is the wonderful realization that doing that means we love God, and that brings glorious hope and eternal blessings. Jesus says in this verse that when you set yourself aside and care for the happiness and welfare of others, “Yours is the Kingdom of Heaven”. There is no treasure more wonderful than that.
This is the first of what I consider to be the seven fundamental principles of Christianity. God is Spirit. He is not interested in what we do with our hands but what we do with our heart. The only part that is important about what our hands do is the motivation of their action by a heart attuned to the will of God. Each of the fundamental principles which Jesus lays before us is a spiritual quality. To apply them to our life takes more than a cursory reading of them. It takes serious thought and a prayerful attitude to listen carefully to the messenger God sent in the person of His Son.
The second fundamental principle Jesus challenged us to think about was in a term not many of us will identify with. But we should. Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted”. I just got news that a good friend of mine had been hurt and was in the hospital. I mourn for the family, because of a physical problem that they have. But this is not the mourning Jesus was talking about. His mission on earth was to make it possible for our sins to be forgiven. Sin is the barrier between us and our Father in Heaven. It is the ultimate that closed the Garden of Eden to Adam and closes the gate of heaven to all of us sinners. The main reason it is difficult to effectively preach the Gospel is not that it is a story hard to deliver. It is that too many who hear do not take it seriously, and it has little effect. Why preach a Savior to those who do not mourn for their sins and long for relief? Those who mourn for their sins are the mourners Jesus had in mind. If you mourn that your sins separate you from the Father and the hope of heaven, Jesus has the answer. For those who mourn for their sins, He has brought relief, and in His sacrifice, the mourner finds hope and can be comforted. In other words, if you mourn because your spirit has been separated from God by your sin, you can now be comforted in the forgiveness of your sins, by walking with Jesus. This means God’s Holy Spirit can dwell in you, and there is no greater comfort than that.
In our next essay we will spend much time and thought on the wonderful blessing Jesus promises to the Meek.