The Transformational Gospel of Jesus #9: How did Jesus start his best sermon?
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them. -Matthew 5:3-11
Many of you probably have seen the Trick Baby testimony of Bishop Ron Archer, how God’s word delivered through a Gideon Bible toting teacher transformed him from a bed-wetting, stuttering, born of a prostitute, ten-year-old boy putting a gun to his head so he could end his misery into a mighty man of God being used around the world for the gospel. When God speaks, powerful things happen. Bishop Archer is a visible example of this.*
God speaks and what comes out is the Word. John uses this strong picture in how he presents Jesus in his gospel’s opening statement. Jesus, the Word, became a living and breathing human being. He opened his disciples’ minds to what the Father wanted them to hear so their lives would be transformed. For this reason Matthew gives us a record of Jesus’ teaching, which we call the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ because it was on a hillside where Jesus sat down in the manner of a rabbi and began to teach.
“He opened his mouth . . .” When this phrase is used in the New Testament, it refers to the seriousness of what is to follow. Pay attention! Don’t miss this! When Jesus opened his mouth, what he will share will change the shape of the disciples’ souls—our souls. It will cause them and us to rethink all we think we know about righteous living, and challenge us to pursue the righteousness of the kingdom in place of that of the religious leaders.
Jesus started with eight Beatitudes, referring to a series of blessings that Jesus declared are characteristics of those who are under his reign. Often people try to understand these statements separately, but they should be taken progressively instead. Rather than describing different aspects of Kingdom living, each blessing leads to the next, moving people towards a transformational goal. Not only does this approach make better sense of the Beatitudes, these then become the signs of personal growth progress as we enter on the journey towards becoming whole. Each one shows us something about our personal progress.
Why do I say progressive? I think that there is something in us that wants to jump to the end of the transformational process. Are we there yet? Aren’t we done? We embrace the good news of Jesus and long to be holy and blameless in God’s sight. But the next test comes. The next temptation bangs on our door. The page turns in life and all we thought we knew about God’s reign has to be relearned all over again. Not because God is making the good news hard. It’s because we know so little about our own hearts—because we, too, have been affected by the Fall—because He has planned to transform us deeply and, no, we are not there yet.
What Jesus opened his mouth to say here will matter in your next stumble. When you look into the mirror and are appalled by what you see. At that moment, the good news that Jesus is speaking here will be light in the darkness. You have not lost your way. The Beatitudes reveal the pathway you are on towards becoming the person you were created to be.
Listen to him.
* If you haven’t seen the video, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_x1RpFwrKOU