Today is the fifth in a series that we are having on the Life of Jesus Christ. What better subject can we have? We started at Christmas time with His birth. We, Pastor Crutcher and I, will be finishing around Easter time with His resurrection. Today is about Jesus' first sermon.
Now I want you to put yourself in this position: Pretend you were God and you arrived to officially begin your work on this planet and the time had come for your very first sermon, and this will be your inaugural address. There's another one going on today, isn't there? In Washington D. C. Well this one will be in Palestine. So, here you are. I want to ask you, what would you preach about? What would your sermon be about? Of all the things which you could pick, what would it be? Would you base your sermon on an Old Testament text? Or would you just kind of launch out? What would you talk about? Where would you set up your pulpit? Would you go to Herod's temple, the biggest building in Jerusalem? "I think I'll just preach on the steps of this magnificent temple. Maybe I'll get up on the roof and preach from there." I want to tell you that Jesus chose a mountain. That's what He chose. And what was His pulpit? He didn't have a pulpit. Where did He stand? He didn't stand. We are told in Matthew 5:1 that He ...sat down to preach His landmark sermon. That's amazing, isn't it.
Jesus' first sermon was a topical sermon. Now Dr. Bennett has taught a lot of ministerial students how to preach. And we are told that textual, expository sermons are the best type. That's the type I enjoy. But here, Jesus preached a topical sermon. And He did not make an altar call at the end. What an amazing example, and yet we are told over here in Matthew 7 we are told in the last sentences of that chapter the reaction of the crowd. Matthew 7:28,29 says, When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. I wish I could have been there to hear that sermon. Wouldn't you have just given anything to be there and hear Jesus preach? You know, you're going to get to hear Jesus preach some day. It won't be long. We'll all be up there in heaven and we're going to sit at His feet and He's going to be our speaker. What better preacher can you have? Each week Pastor Crutcher and I pray that the Lord will speak through us.
I found in a delightful little book called Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing by EG White, all about this first sermon of Jesus. I read in there something very precious, it meant a lot to me. It was: the night before Jesus preached that sermon, He spent the entire night in prayer. The whole night in prayer! Then the next morning when He got up He was going to preach this sermon, His very first. So, where did He go? He went to the seaside near Capernaum (see Matthew 8:1-5). The first thing you know, crowds started coming. Do you think He printed up handbills? Was He on TV? How did the crowds know He was going to preach this sermon? The Holy Spirit led them to this spot. You can read about them in the first verses of chapter 5. God led them to that place. And I believe that no less than that here on this day of January 20, 2001, God has led you to the McDonald Road church today to hear this message. There's something in Jesus' sermon that is going to fit you today. He led you here. And so, Jesus preached His first sermon. He led that congregation from that narrow beach up to the mountain-side and there He ad them sit on the grass and He sat down on the grass, and we are told that the sweetness of divine love flowed from Jesus' very presence as the fragrance from a flower. His words fell upon them as rain upon thirsty ground (see Psalm 72:6). Jesus' words produced life.
His sermon had Seven parts: A "how to" sermon. Seven is very important isn't it. When I went to the seminary up at Andrews University, we were always taught that our sermons should be divided up into parts. Part one, part two, part three. And Jesus' sermon has seven parts. I like that.
1. How to have true Happiness Matt 5:3-12 2. How to have good influence Matt 5:13-16 3. How to regard the Law Matt 5:17-20 4. How to live a moral life Matt 5:21-48 5. How to be Godly Matt 6:1-34 6. How to treat others Matt 7:1-12 7. How to avoid being lost Matt 7:13-27
Then He finishes up with a parable of the person who built upon the sand and another one who built upon the rock, and a storm came, and how to not have your house go down.
This homiletical masterpiece is the manifesto of the Master. The Old Testament ends with a curse and Jesus begins with a blessing. If you equate the first and second Adam, then the first sinned and left a curse but the second was sinless and left a blessing. Jesus' sermon beautifully and powerfully brought long extinct truth to the heart of each listener. His voice needed no amplification. His message was a masterpiece.
Part one begins:
1. How to have true happiness. Matthew 5:3-12
Jesus' very first concern is about our happiness! Jesus wants you to be happy. That's His concern. That's His major goal in life. No wonder the shortest verse in the Greek Bible is First Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice Always! (2 words in the Greek. John 11:35 - Jesus wept, is actually 3 words in the Greek.) Jesus' concern is about our happiness. He wants us to rejoice always. In the Beatitudes Jesus lists eight things that bring joy. As a serious Bible student you can study those and you can determine that all eight of these things are an advancing line of the Christian experience. That's what it is. It's not just a hodge-podge. In fact, let me give you clue, verse 3,4,5 and 6: those who have felt their need of Jesus, those who have mourned because of sin, those who have sat with Jesus in pain, will learn meekness from Jesus and it advances on from there.
What a beautiful thing! People who have the character traits of these eight beatitudes will soon find that they will become like Jesus. There's a lot of wisdom in the beatitudes.
Jesus quotes heavily from the Old Testament. In fact Matthew's gospel has more Old Testament quotations than all the other three gospels put together. In Matthew Jesus can be seen as the One Who fulfills all the promises in Scripture. Jesus shows His people how the Scriptures show the way to true happiness. People who read scripture are happier!
Part 2. How to have good influence. Matt 5:13-16
Matthew 5:13-14. "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men."
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden." We as Christians are the salt and the light.
Now, how are salt and light the same? Both salt and light enhance the senses of human beings. Salt enhances our sense of taste. Light enhances our vision, our sense of sight. Christians ought to make the world taste better. Christians ought to make the world look better. Where ever we have been, we ought to make the world a better place.
I got my oil changed. We had been up to Cedar Lake to Great Lakes Academy and we came back down and the oil needed changing. I always go over there at Four Corners and look to see if any members of our congregation have their names on those canceled checks pasted there on the window of the Exxon station, and they weren't there! The saints pay their bills. The saints make the world a better place to live in. The world looks better because you are following Jesus Christ. That's what the saints ought to be doing. I think Christians ought to make the world taste better. When people look at you, you ought to have a smile on their face. We ought not to look like we're cloned from dill pickles. We are happy. We rejoice. And why we happy? Because we have eternal life, because we have Jesus Christ. Naturally we're happy.
Part 3. How to regard the Law. Matt 5:17-20
What should our attitude be toward the Law? Matthew 5:17-20. "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
I had a gentleman come to me who was a pastor of another church, I will not mention his denomination, but he said, "Pastor, right there this is proof that the Law is done away with because Jesus fulfilled it." That's not what He means. These are opposites. He said, "I didn't come to destroy it but to fulfill it." Those are opposite terms, aren't they. And what that mean is, He came to even add more meaning to the Law, not to diminish it. That's what Jesus did.
Verse 18. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Have you ever used an expression, "That doesn't make one iota of difference." Have you ever heard that expression? Do you know what the "iota" is? Iota is the smallest Greek letter, and Jesus is saying, "Even the iota, the smallest dot of a pen is not going to disappear until all things are accomplished."
Praise God, His law is there. And so Jesus went ahead and preached.
Pharisees were sitting there. They were the ultra perfect folk. And Jesus said, Matthew 5:20, "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." And people probably thought, "What?! They are the most righteous people there are, and we have to be better than that?" You can see that Jesus' sermon, like every great sermon, stepped on their toes. This is just the beginning of what He would do to them.
And, what does it mean that our righteousness has to be better than theirs? They were legalistically perfect, and we have to be better than that. I will illustrate what their righteousness was like. They felt they could gain extra credit by their deeds. These legalistic folk keep all the laws externally, which they feel will gain them extra credit with God, while breaking them internally by ignoring the spirit of the law. That's like a Seventh-day Adventist who would say, "Well, I would never ever go shopping on Sabbath afternoon. But I'll sleep all Sabbath Afternoon so I can shop all night 'till I drop, or something." They were keeping the letter of the Law, but not the spirit of the Law.
If we're ever going to have righteousness, it won't come from ourselves. Where is it going to come from? It's going to come from Jesus Christ. That's the source of our righteousness.
Let's go back to Matthew 5:19 "Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." I would sure hate to stand in a modern pulpit and teach folk that God's holy law, His ten commandments are no longer binding on Christians. That the 10 commandments were nailed to the cross. Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to magnify it. Let's keep His law in our homes and in our hearts.
Why do we keep the Law? Not to be holy. But we keep the Law because we love the Law-giver. Because we love Jesus Christ. That's why we keep the Law. That's the best motivation you can have. So, let's keep the Law in our homes. Let's keep the Law in our lives. Let's keep the Law in our hearts. Let's allow it to make us into a better person.
Part 4. How to live a moral life. Matt 5:21-48
Jesus gives six examples of how to relate to God's biblical requirements. I can picture folk sitting there in shock with their mouths open in horror as Jesus says that to be angry with someone is as wrong as if you had killed them in cold blood. Have you ever been angry at someone? Then you really ought to go to jail, right? You ought to be on death row. Well, anyone who says: "You fool!" will be in danger of hell fire.
And verse 28, here's one that you don't believe. Look at verse 28. Jesus said: "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Do you believe that? How many of you really believe that it is just as evil to look at a woman in lust as it is to have a full blown affair with her? Do you believe that? They must have sat there with their mouths hanging open. This is some amazing teaching going on here. This is not something little. He's basically saying that the Holy Spirit needs to control your sinful nature. Otherwise you are going to have these sinful desires. And I think that all of God's people need to be morally faithful to their spouses, including ministers. Anybody, and I'm very serious here, anybody should be sure. We should to what is right because we love the Lord.
Jesus said that only marital unfaithfulness gives the right of remarriage. Matthew 5:31-32.
Jesus preached that promises ought to be kept. Especially if the vow was made to God. Matthew 5:33. Surely this includes the marriage vows!
Jesus said we ought to turn the other cheek. Jesus taught that we should love those who hate us and use us badly. Matthew 5:38- 39. "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."
Part 5. - How to be Godly. Matt 6:1-34
He gives many examples. He says the Christian, because he loves God, will be generous, because God is generous. He will be liberal with others. Generosity is a mark of Divinity. Jesus instructed His crowd that If you want to be like God you will also be liberal with others. Therefore:
Jesus pointed to the lilies growing there on the hillside and said: Matthew 6:27-30 "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry. And I think that Christians ought not to worry. Christians should have faith and trust in God.
Part 6 - How to treat others. Matt 7:1-12
Jesus warned His crowd not to Judge others. In fact the one sin that leads to the most unhappiness is the cold, critical, unforgiving spirit that is devoid of love. How we can see that speck of sawdust in someone else's eye when there is a plank in our own eye is a mystery. These critics are the nitpickers in life. They are the most unhappy lot you could eve hope to be. Jesus said not to become like that.
Matthew 7:6 - Jesus said: "Do not throw your pearls to the pigs. That's well said, isn't it. When a teenage girl gives her precious pure body to another who is not her husband, she is giving that which is holy unto the dogs. We can always get forgiveness for our sins, but Jesus wants us to be pure, doesn't He? He does.
Matthew 7:7. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." He says a good father should be like that and give gifts to his children. We ought to treat others as God treats us. God gives good gifts to His children.. Gifts that are far and beyond what an earthly Father will do for his children.
Matthew 7:12. Jesus gave the Golden Rule. ...Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Do you realize how profound that statement is? The golden rule is found in the negative form in rabbinic Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Hinduism, but only Jesus states it in the positive form! Jesus is a positive Person! He want us to be positive.
Part 7. How to avoid being lost. Jesus gives a road map. Look at Matthew 7:13-27.
Matthew 7:13. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." Jesus gets out a road map which leads to life. Jesus warns His congregation to keep on the least traveled path. It will be narrow and hard and uphill, but it leads to life. The broad downhill road leads to eternal death. Hell's path needs no road map, just drift easily down the broad way. The crowds will be going there. They are on the attractive toll- road to death. Toll-road? Yes! There are toll booths all along the way of sorrows, disappointments, thorns, penalties, poisons and pains. It is a toll road. "These are placed there to make it hard for the wicked to destroy themselves." - Mount of Blessing by EG White, p. 139.
That's what God does. The Bible says this in Psalm 146:9 (KJV). The Lord preserveth the strangers, He relieveth the fatherless and widow; but the way of the wicked He turneth upside down. Have you ever driven on the freeway. What if someone took the freeway and turned it upside down and you drove on the bottom side of the freeway? Would it be smooth? God turns the road of the wicked upside down and that's what you have to drive on to get to hell. That's to wake you up. You know, they put those bumps along the sides of the road to wake you up if you start to drive off the road. That's what those things are for. He wants to make it hard for you to be lost.
You can avoid being lost by recognizing what is bad and what is good. How ? Matthew 7:16 (KJV) "Ye shall know them by their fruits." You may question whether or not a certain activity on Saturday night is okay or not. Does it lead you to love God more fully? "What Would Jesus Do?" What will be the consequences of this activity? By examining the fruit of a deed you may avoid being lost.
I was reading of the crisis in Indonesia. Another SDA Christian church has been burned there. This makes a total of 12 that have been destroyed. New violence rages in the Maluku Islands. Christians cannot leave their homes to buy food. Muslim snipers kill them when they leave the house to try and find food for their starving children.
If I were a Muslim I would question if my religion was on the right side because of the trail of blood and destruction it so often leaves in its wake. Killing is wrong. "By their fruits shall ye know them," Jesus said.
Jesus concludes His sermon by giving an illustration. Matthew 7:24,25 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
In this parable Jesus says to build in a safe location and you will not be subject to loss. It has rained almost 5 inches in our community this week and houses are flooded. I saw a brand new house with water 6 inches deep on its new garage floor. Why do folk build a house in a low lying area? I don't understand that
We were at the store the other yesterday and a lady said, "I can't get home. All three roads leading to my house are flooded. A few days after a big hurricane my wife and I were walking on a beach and we saw some houses that had been destroyed. For the life of me I don't understand why they build these houses on stilts right there on the sandy beach. Jesus warned against it.
For the life of me I can't fathom why people build their LIFE on anything less than the solid rock called Jesus Christ. We ought to be building on Jesus. And how do you do that? You get on your knees and read His word, you pray, you make Him your best friend, you get acquainted with Jesus. Then you're building on the Rock. A life is more important than a house. Everything erected on any other foundation than Jesus and God's word will fall. We build on Christ by obeying His word.
Hymn of Praise: #15, My Maker and My King Scripture: Psalm 103:8-13 Hymn of Response: #524 'Tis So Sweet to Trust Jesus 010120Gettys#492
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last updated 1/23/2001 by Bob Beckett.