- A few notes and reflections as I approach the Sermon on the Mount
Jesus, the Jewish Palestinian peasant and the brown-skinned God-Man, proclaimed and enacted the Kingdom of God.
The time has arrived; the reign and rule of the Father are being revealed. That which the covenant community has longed and prayed for—the coming age in which evil is defeated and homesick exiles find their long-awaited rest—is being inaugurated in the person and work of the penniless preacher from Nazareth.
The prophets looked forward with longing hope, and now the day has arrived for those dwelling in the land of darkness and death to see him who is the Light of the World (Matthew 4:15-17). A new day, the 'day of the Lord,' has dawned.
Jesus begins to preach and proclaim the central theme that runs as a golden thread throughout his ministry: the Kingdom.
“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'” (Matthew 4:17, ESV)
This prophetic proclamation, this announcement, brings with it a call to repent. Not only are the first headers to recognize that the reign and the rule of the Father has arrived but also they are summoned to recalibrate and reorient one's life in response.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims and embodies the kingdom by calling disciples (Matthew 4:18-22) and goes through Galilee proclaiming the ‘gospel of the kingdom’ and demonstrating what this looks like by 'healing every disease and every affliction' (Matthew 4:23-25).
Jesus' aim, however, isn't simply to bring about physical healing. The kingdom is exemplified in the words: 'the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news preached to them' (Luke 7:18-23). Yet, it is also more than this. The kingdom, a multifaceted tensive symbol embedded within a story of healing and hope for the cosmos, is actualized not only in healing and deliverance but in a community that lives out a kingdom ethic in how they treat each other and relate to the world.
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) , Jesus seeks to shape a kingdom community that embodies the vision and values of the future reign in the present. Though storms will come, and persecution is present, those who obey the countercultural change of the kingdom will be like a wise man who lays a strong foundation before the wind and rain arrive (Matthew 7:24-27). This blessed countercultural community is to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Seeking the 'kingdom of God and his righteousness' (Matthew 6:33) this community of disciples reject the hoarding of wealth, violence, hatred of enemies.
This community, responding to the call of the sermon, are those who will bear fruits (Matthew 6:20) and enter the 'kingdom of heaven' (Matthew 6:21).
In our modern era, the call to discipleship remains a vibrant and essential beacon for navigating life's complexities, especially in the face of climate breakdown and conflict. The teachings of Jesus, particularly as articulated in the Sermon on the Mount, emphasize love, justice, and a commitment to the Kingdom of God, calling for responses rooted in non-violence and peacemaking. The challenges we face—such as environmental crises, socio-political unrest, and moral ambiguity—cry out for a resolute response echoing the countercultural message of the Gospel.
As Jesus invited his followers in the Sermon on the Mount to live out the values of the Kingdom, contemporary discipleship calls for a similar response: to be Jesus-shaped agents of healing, cruciform bearers of hope, and kingdom-centered champions of justice and peace in a world yearning and groaning for transformation.
“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, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matthew 5:1–13, ESV)