The most famous sermon of all time given by the Most Famous One of all time, starts off with the beatitudes but continues further. Traditionally, we think of only the first 12 verses as this sermon. Blessed are the…… for they will receive……… But Jesus goes on to speak about issues even more specific to his followers. People followed Jesus to get a look, a listen. They were not forced. Some continued their following and others were just checking him out. The things he was saying were very different than what they had learned and grew up with. I love how Jesus speaks right to the heart of each and every sinner with his parables and teachings but didn’t call people out individually from the crowd, “There’s a Tom here today who needs to turn from his wicked ways. He has committed adultery with his eyes. Come on up Tom so the crowd can learn a lesson.” No, Jesus was specific in recognizing and resolving sin but it was to the entire crowd. At the end of the day, all of them, all of us, are sinners in every area he mentioned. Yes, in one way or another, we are guilty of sins whether they are outwardly visible or matters of the heart.
As I was reflecting on this passage in Matthew, I got to thinking of the world around me and my own sin. The sermon starts out so beautifully and everyone can say a resounding, “Amen” to it. “Yes, Jesus. I can’t wait to inherit the kingdom of heaven!. Yay, my day is coming and I will be rewarded.” It reminds us that as Jesus’ followers (not simply believers) we will be persecuted. Our world is backwards. More and more the United States is looking like Sodom and Gomorrah, Ephesus or Corinth. Right is wrong and wrong is right. Like never before, we are able to see what Jesus was talking about as he stood on the mountain sharing his heart with the crowds of people. We see why it was necessary then and why it’s still relevant today. This world that I am raising my children in is not the same one my parents raised me in. I know every generation says that about the current one but the rate of corruption in our society is speeding up like an out of control freight train. Jesus calls his followers then and now to a different standard than the world’s. We have a higher calling. The beatitudes were the beginning of the sermon, the promises of what’s to come (good and bad) but the subtopics hit the sinner specifically.
”You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world. In the same way, let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven”- As Christ followers, where is our saltiness to effect change?
“Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”- As Christ followers, where are our morals, standards and convictions?
“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council and whoever says, You fool will be liable to the hell of fire.”- As Christ followers, are we quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to get angry?
“But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”- As Christ followers, are we keeping our eyes, body and hearts pure in thoughts and actions?
“But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, make her commit adultery and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”- As Christ followers, are we living marriages that reflect the beauty of unity and oneness in Christ?
“But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil, but if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him and the other also.”- As Christ followers do we forgive and move, praying for those who have wronged us or do we become bitter or retaliate?
”But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”- As Christ followers do we love our brother unconditionally the way Christ did?
As Christ followers we are called to look and act differently than the world. Are we living, sold out and on fire for Jesus? I’m not talking about standing on the street corner holding up a sign that says Jesus saves. I’m talking about the day in and day out ordinary life. Are we living the ordinary, extraordinarily? Are we taking the simple (but not easy to follow) commands that Jesus spoke of and doing them well or are we as believers resting in the grace that may have been free for us but costly for him. I fear I have been lazy and have lived a large portion of my life riding the grace train. Works and actions do not get us to heaven but they do bring us closer to our loving heavenly Father who gave up his Son for those he called his own.
This passage doesn’t say that these works get us to heaven or keep us from heaven. But faith without works is dead. There is no glorifying our Father or helping others learn of the good news if our faith doesn’t lead us to action. I want to receive a full inheritance that I can lay at Jesus’ feet as a thank you for the cost of my salvation. I want to be a follower, not just a believer. I want to hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”