I could fill a book with countless lessons and quotes given by my father. Many were quite interesting. If you asked me to narrow it down to primary teachings on life, I would still have quite a handful. That seems to be exactly what Jesus did in his famous sermon on the mount. It would seem at first glance that Jesus is giving a summary sermon in the early days of his earthly ministry. Indeed, it does seem to put all the teachings (at least in principle) in a concise format. In whatever way you look at it, The Sermon on the Mount is a very important section of Matthew’s gospel and the Holy Scriptures.
Matthew’s gospel was written by Jesus’s disciple of the same name. Matthew was a Jewish tax collector that Jesus had called out. It is really an interesting calling in itself. Matthew was one of the dreaded tax collectors known for taking advantage of his fellow Jews when collecting taxes. When Jesus called him to follow, Matthew was sitting in the tax booth doing his job. In other words, Matthew was in the middle of his sinful behavior of thievery when Jesus called him away from it and to follow him. We should be thankful that the Lord calls us away from our sin even when we are deep in it.
This particular account that Matthew gives about Jesus was written sometime between A.D. 55-65. So, it is about 20-30 years after the resurrection of Christ that Matthew writes, give or take a few years. He primarily writes to Jewish Christians and therefore pulls more Old Testament references into his Scripture than the other gospel writers. In this we find the primary perspective he has of Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah. He begins by showing how Jesus fulfilled the lineage requirements to David and continues to fill all the other prophecies concerning the Messiah, the one that would “save his people from their sins” (1:21).
The first four chapters narrate to us what has taken place in the thirty years. The first two chapters are concerned with his birth and care as a child. Chapters three and four will then share what took place shortly before this sermon. This is important because it begins to lay a foundation as to the shape and intent of the sermon. As the Holy Spirit moves on Matthew to write this Gospel with Jesus as the messiah we must also gain an insight as to messiah is. The word Messiah itself means, “anointed one.” In the Old Testament, there were only three types of anointed vocations, the prophet, the priest, and the king. The problem is that no one seemed to embody all three at the same time. Maybe, prophet-priest or prophet-king but never all three together (Saul tried and got in trouble).
Only one person in the Old Testament seemed to embody all three (at least priest-king) and that was Melchizedek in the book of Genesis. He was the King of Salem and thanks to the book of Hebrews we know that Jesus was after the order Melchizedek rather than the priests of Israel, making him able to be prophet-priest-king in one person. Prophet in that he reveals to us the Word of God, priest in that he takes our sins away, and king because he is Lord of all.
Matthew is going to hit all three of these in mind but the overarching one is the Lordship of Jesus. Still, before the sermon he wants to show Jesus’ being anointed as the messiah. The anointing being the public inauguration of Jesus. Of course, there is no oil shown in this but there is a baptism in chapter three. During the course of the baptism he is recognized by John and baptized and God the Father announces from Heaven the Jesus as His son and the Holy Spirit in the likeness of a dove landing on him. The baptism of John symbolizes the anointing recognized by man and the Holy Spirit as a dove is the anointing recognized in heaven that Jesus is the Messiah King.
Chapter four will record Satan’s reaction and attempt to thwart the newly inaugurated messiah, only to be put out by the very words of the Jesus. Jesus will then go around preaching and calling his disciples to follow him. As the crowds begin to gather, he goes up in a mountain and begins to speak. The next three chapters are a record of what Jesus shared. With the inauguration of Jesus as the Messiah King, we begin to understand the importance of this opening sermon. It is Jesus’ inauguration speech not only of his rule but the beginning of the new kingdom that he is going to rule over. In the sermon he will describe what the citizens of His kingdom are like. Is Jesus your King? Hear what he has to say in the Sermon on the Mount, the inauguration speech of the newly appointed and eternal King of our salvation.