THE GOSPELS 36
JESUS SPOKE WITH AUTHORITY…HE KNEW THE MIND OF GOD
Before moving into the next section of the Sermon on the Mount, there are a couple
of things I want to clarify. First, while these lessons were taught primarily to the twelve who were to be the lead evangelists to take the story to the world, it seems clear that this was not all preached by Jesus in one sermon. He took the close disciples apart, according to Matthew, at the beginning of this discourse, but it is clear that by the end many others were hearing His teaching also. This means that Matthew has distilled all the teaching of Jesus, which He first gave to the chosen ones, but later also preached to the crowds that followed Him, and has presented them for us here in these three chapters. At the beginning Matthew says He took them apart and sat down and taught them, meaning the close disciples. But at the end the crowds are said to have been amazed at His teaching, which means that this is not just one sermon but a compendium of the teaching Jesus did at the beginning of His earthly ministry.
Secondly, I want to acknowledge my appreciation to the work of William Barclay in his excellent New Testament commentaries. His research into the history of the Jews and of the Jewish religion through the early centuries has been of invaluable help to me in writing these essays. Jesus was working with Jews who had been brought up in the traditions and teachings handed down orally through the centuries. Knowing what these traditions were is a great help in understanding the things Jesus said to them.
An example of this is found in the astonishment these people felt in the manner with which Jesus dealt with The Law. The Jewish religious leaders considered The Law as the ultimate unchangeable direct word from God. When Jesus taught, however, He assumed the authority to alter their concept of The Law, and this amazed them, for no Jewish teacher had ever spoken like that.
In the part of this Sermon on the Mount which follows, we will hear Jesus say repeatedly, “You have heard that it was said…but I say unto you”. Thus He assumed the authority to tell them what God had in mind when He gave The Law to Moses. They said, “He spoke as one having authority and not as the Scribes and Pharisees”. How could one assume such authority? The only possible answer to this is that He knew the mind of God, and that meant He had to be what He claimed, i.e., The Son of God.
This also gives us a picture of Jesus that is quite different from the ineffectual and weak pictures of Him often depicted by artists and in the minds of many. This man not only spoke with authority, but it is obvious that He was believable. When Jesus met with anyone He seemed to carry the aura of authority that even the Pharisees found it impossible to penetrate. He was the kind of man who, when He walked into a room, you knew that He was there.
Therefore, as we read His words in the next part of Matthew’s account, we are hearing from One who knows the mind of God, and who is delivering to us the ultimate truths of Heaven. We will note that everything He has to say deals with the heart and spirit of man, for that is where our relationship with the Father is. Our actions are not the things which either approve or condemn us. They are simply the evidence of what goes on inside of us and where our motivations lie. Ritual actions, even in the name of religion, are meaningless. Only those things which reflect our connection with the eternal are worthy of the Christian personality.