As you read through the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7, it’s not difficult to see that Jesus is talking to his disciples about what it means to be an authentic disciple. The beatitudes describe the beautiful attitudes of those who have truly placed their faith in Christ. Jesus preached about disciples who do not hide their light as they bring gospel saltiness to the world. Jesus also explained that his authentic disciple is less concerned about meticulous law-keeping than the state of their hearts from which obedience flows. Disciples are not focused on what is seen and acknowledged by men but are primarily concerned about their hearts before God in private. Disciples do not need from this world that can only cause anxiety but put all hope in the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. Disciples acknowledge their own need for mercy and resist the hyper-critical, condemning attitude of the self-righteous. Disciples are able to recognize their own sin and live out active repentance before trying to fix other people. Disciples love their enemies and live out the golden rule of the way they treat others. Disciples go through the narrow gate. Disciples bears good fruit. Disciples make true claims, and the disciples build their lives on solid rock. Everything we read from Jesus’ amazing sermon helps us to understand his call on our lives when we claim to be his disciples.
As humans, we tend to read these words and think solely about what it means for us. While it is essentially true that this sermon is all about what it is to be an authentic disciple, it is impossible to read this sermon and not see the authentic Christ. Let us never forget that Jesus is preaching discipleship to his own disciples. Sitting around their Master on a hill, with a great crowd surrounding them, the disciples are hearing Jesus teach them what it means to follow him. After three years of living with Jesus in active ministry and then witnessing the resurrected Lord, the words from Jesus’ great sermon would surely ring in the ears of the disciples in an infinitely more powerful way. I can just imagine their post resurrection conversations about the Sermon on the Mount.
We might just hear statements that sound like this:
“When Jesus told us that we should be poor in spirit, we had no idea that it was actually HIS holiness that exposes our sin.”
“Yes, and do you remember when he was telling us that our righteousness needs to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees? Jesus’ righteousness actually did!”
“What about those things he told us about the law? When he said that he came to fulfill it, that was actually true. It’s impossible for us to fulfill his standards, but he did it all for us. Then he took our penalty for what we couldn’t do.”
“That statement about being perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect keeps echoing in my mind. You have to be God to keep that standard, and Jesus kept it”
“Remember how he told us not to look for rewards from men? He said that knowing that he was actually going to get crucified by men in order to be glorified by the Father.”
“When Jesus told us to love our neighbors, I had no idea that this was what he was doing to us all along and even going to his own death.”
“What about those closing remarks? If all these other things were not true about Jesus, his closing remarks would be arrogant delusions of grandeur. Who is Jesus to tell us that we have to go through his narrow gate unless he has authority to claim that he is the only way?”
“That’s true, and Jesus actually said that on the last day we will stand before him and call him Lord. He actually made the statement that he is the one judging who does and does not go into the eternal Kingdom. By what authority could he possibly determine anyone to be in the kingdom of heaven? He had to have all the authority of the everlasting God.”
“I don't know if any of you doubted that authority when we actually heard him preach. After his resurrection all my doubt has been removed.”
I think it would be a safe assumption that conversations like this between the disciples did actually happen. One of those disciples, Matthew, wrote us a gospel. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Matthew penned the words of Jesus and then gave us a short summary of the type of conversations we just imagined. Instead of recording all the statements of the disciples and the crowd, Matthew simply finishes chapter 7 with these final words, “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” Matthew 7:28-29
Yes, this is the authentic Jesus.