The Greatest Sermon
Many respected people down through history have called The Sermon on the Mount the greatest sermon of all time. Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi and Augustine (just to name a few) viewed “The Sermon on the Mount” as the greatest sermon ever delivered. Augustine wrote,
If anyone will piously and soberly consider the sermon which our Lord Jesus Christ spoke on the mount, as we read it in the Gospel according to Matthew, I think that he will find in it, so far as regards the highest morals, a perfect standard of the Christian life. (Augustine’s book: “Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.”)
Jesus did not follow the common sermon outline standard of an introduction, three points, and a conclusion. He skipped the introduction and went straight to the blessings of “the Beatitudes.” He taught His listeners that they were the salt and the light of the world. He taught them that they could, in truth, be more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees. They were to control their anger and their lust. They were not to swear, but were to keep their vows (and in particular, marriage vows). They were not to seek revenge but were to forgive, and to go beyond what was commonly expected: they were to love their enemies.
In chapter six Jesus’ followers were taught to give without fanfare; to pray in faith with humility, to fast secretly, and seek the kingdom of God first without worrying. In this greatest sermon Jesus establishes the eternal truth that worry will not eliminate tomorrow’s sorrow, it only robs today of its joy. Worry will not change things. But it will make you feel bad and to clog your arteries.
Chapter seven brings us to the conclusion of this great sermon. Jesus’ disciples must be careful not to be hypocrites in making judgments but to be kind and show favor toward others. In verses 7-11 Jesus speaks of God’s generosity toward those who ask of God who gives good things to those who ask. Then, having pulled his hearers in with God’s great benevolence toward His hearers, Jesus, in verse 12, “sets the hook” by calling upon all who love God’s generosity, to be generous themselves: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” There are only two paths His hearers could take: the broad way or the narrow gate. It is here that Jesus provides second way of knowing the difference between a true disciple or a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” It is by the fruit they produce.
Jesus, in this “greatest sermon,” does give a conclusion—an application for His hearers. Those who fail to be hearers and doers of His words will not stand firm in times of troubles. They will be blown away by the storms of life. But those who hear and do his word will stand strong when the stormy winds howl and the floods rain down upon their life. And they can do so without fear.
Jesus then calls His listeners to action: “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Mat. 7:21). Being a listener to Jesus’ words will not provide the entrance into the kingdom of heaven. But neither will being a believer who does not keep our Lord’s words. In verses 22-23 Jesus warned, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
On the “greatest day,” the day of judgment, when you are standing before the greatest judge, what will you think about the “greatest sermon”? Will it be a reflection of your life along the narrow way leading into the kingdom of heaven, or, will it reflect your lawless life leading you into the pit of destruction? It may all depend upon how you view this sermon today.