Matthew 7:28-29 New International Version (NIV)
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
Tonight we are finishing off the series through the sermon on the mount. Now the way that Matthew finishes off the sermon on Mount, inspired by the Holy Spirit is truly profound because not only does it sum up what Jesus is talking about, but again forces us to see the message of Christ for what it is!
Jesus through the last 19 weeks has not given us some self-help guide on how to be better people, He has given himself, a declaration of the fundamental reality of his own character and the character of all those who find him.
So tonight we are going to look again at this message Jesus brings we will see where His authority lies, why the Scribes missed it and what is our reasonable response.
So let’s dive in;
1. Why the Scribes Miss it?
I find it fascinating that the people could say with confidence that Jesus’ teaching was superior to their own professional teachers. So, what was it about the way that Jesus taught that was different to the way that the teachers of the law taught.
Well, firstly, what was a teacher of the law? These were professional interpreters and defenders of the Old Testament Laws, essentially a lawyer or advocate in today’s world. They were consulted on the application of the Law and how it would be applied in every situation.
Now, kind of like lawyers; they looked for precedence not at the very life in the Law itself. They would quote great teachers of the Law rather than the law itself. For example The rabbis of the time would quote and debate among themselves. An example: “The School of Shammai say: One should not kill a louse on the Sabbath. But the School of Hillel permit it.”
Now, they had to, they were human, they had to appeal to others, the Scribes and teachers authority lay in what they read and who they quoted. Jesus never needed to do this, He simply said and it was true.
Throughout this sermon on the mount Jesus says, “You have heard it said, but I say unto you…” His authority lay not in his learning, or the names he could drop, in the way that he impressed people. But in the very words he spoke!
Now, being acquainted with some level of academia, to defend your cause it is wise to quote someone who is recognised as an authority on the matter; this is literally called an appeal to authority. You mention experts in a field who agree with you to bolster your case.
I remember watching a debate online between two people and the one debate questioned the other saying, “How could you say that?” To which the debater replied, “Well, I am an expert in the topic; I have spent the last 15 years of my life studying this, I teach it, and am considered quite an expert in my field.” And just like that the opponents argument was shut down. He need to site no other reference because he had academic authority, he literally was the expert.
The lesson is this; you have to appeal to authority if you do not have it; and this is where the Scribes and teachers of the law missed it, the spend their lives missing the authority of the very scriptures themselves because they were obsessed with the human opinion, which has less authority than the scriptures themselves.
Jesus never appeals to any authority other than His own, go and read through the teachings of Jesus, He never has to site another teacher, He simply states the Scriptures and gives his teaching on it!
Now, we must ask;
2. What was Jesus authority?
As I have stated Jesus simply quoted the Word of God, the scriptures. This was His authority. But there is something strange, as he doesn’t simply (especially in the context of the sermon on the mount) quote Scriptures, He makes Himself the authority in interpreting the scripture.
A simple carpenter from a backwards no-where town of Nazareth stating that His interpretation was the only way. How could He do this? What authority did he have?
Well, we have to go to John 1:1 to see,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
And again in Colossians 1:16;
“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”
Jesus appeals to His own authority and spoke with real authority because He was the one at the beginning of time who spoke at it was! Who commanded and all of creation responded in obedience.
So, there was an inherent authority in everything He spoke. However, go and re-read the sermon on the Mount; Jesus is not giving us simply a new way, He was and is describing himself.
He spoke with authority because he lived this out, He embodied everything he spoke. Not only that, but he pointed to himself as the message of His message, the fulfilment of His message and the end of His message.
In John 5:36-40 Jesus says this most clearly!
“36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study[c] the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
The whole of the Old Testament, everything Jesus spoke about and emphasised were not good moral tributes or live this way, they point to Christ! They are him!
When asked what the bible is, you get many explanations; Basic Instructions, Before Leaving Earth, a love letter, a map etc, all great but misses out what the Bible is. It is these things but when we look at it; it is actually Christ; the whole of the Bible is the history of Salvation; it is the display on how man lost God and God fought to get man back!
Every page every narrative display this; it is amazing how when we understand this we start to see Christ on every page! Jesus himself shows us this in Luke 24:27 when Jesus is walking with the Disciples on the Emmaus Road, where it says;
“And [Jesus] beginning with Moses and all the prophets, .... explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Lk 24:27).”
Jesus could interpret Scripture without appealing to an authority because the Scriptures all are about Him! The whole of the Old Testament points to Christ and the whole of the New Testament explains Him!
His authority was Scripture and inherent; because He is the message of all of it. I said this last week, and I make the same emphasis again; other religions leaders emphasize a path, a way an act in order to go to God, or paradise. Jesus never points a way or a path, He says come to me! I am the way!
You see church life’s meaning, the hope of life, the centre of life, is a person! It is Jesus Himself, so when Jesus spoke of his truth he pointed to Himself and His own life became the illustration of that life.
I mean the greatest proof that Jesus was in fact who he said he was is the fact that one of his brothers wrote a letter in the New Testament! James wrote of Christ and His divinity and James became one the leaders of the early church. I mean James lived with Jesus as an older brother, if there was anything that Jesus didn’t live up to James would have noticed it! You simply cannot hide from your family.
The power authority of Christ’s teaching was inherent within himself, and so we ask the question tonight;
3. What is our response?
Well the crowd was amazed! I wonder what our response to Christ and his teaching? Many people in today’s world say I like what Jesus said, I think Jesus was misunderstood. Jesus was just a chilled guy that was misunderstood. Essentially the only answer to people like this is to ask have you actually read what Jesus said.
A English and literature professor at a major secular university Virginia Stem Owens gave her secular class the exercise of reading through the sermon on the mount and write a response to it. She was amazed to see the responses. The first response was “In my opinion religion is one big hoax.” The second, “There is an old saying that ‘you shouldn’t believe everything you read’ and it applies in this case.” On an on these freshmen student responded to the word of Christ with distain and revulsion.
One student wrote;
“The stuff the churches preach is extremely strict and allows for almost no fun without thinking it is a sin or not.”
“I did not like the essay ‘Sermon the Mount.’ It was hard to read and made me feel like I had to be perfect and no one is.”
Finally one wrote;
“The things asked in this sermon are absurd. To look at a woman is adultery? That is the most extreme, stupid, un-human statement that I have ever heard.”
These secular students read it and were not comforted by the words of Christ because they were not going to Christ!
The point is you cannot hear the words of Christ and not be crushed because you could not stand before Christ without being bewildered by His greatness! The only answer is to surrender to come to Him with amazement, to have Him be your hope, your fulfilment your everything!
I have used this quote often but it so brilliantly sums up this;
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
So confronted with Christ; with his message which is himself how do you respond? Do you dismiss him? Do you hate Him or do you fall at his feet and call him Lord, God and saviour?