Chapter 17.2 Word of Life
Autumn of A.D. 27 to spring of 29 (about a year and a half)
Sermon on the Mount, composite digital image by L. Lovett, 2006
Sermon on the Mount, composite digital image by L. Lovett, 2006
(CLICK on the image above for a LARGER version)

The soft spring morning broke. In the early light Jesus could see the eager multitude coming from all parts to gather at the broad level plateau beneath, bringing him their need of body and soul. Now he descended to them with his apostles to give words of comfort and power of healing. Christ had something new to say and to do for them. As they pressed around him for that touch which brought healing, he returned to a higher place so they could see and hear about the Kingdom of God. His words in what has ever since been known as the “Sermon on the Mount” were the most beautiful plan for a worry-free life.

It was turning into a beautiful warm day, the kind that makes a person want to be outside. Jesus stood on the hillside facing the crowd. His apostles sat in a semicircle closest to him, while the multitude found ample room to sit on the large plain. Thick green grass and colorful yellow and purple wildflowers covered the hills surrounding the lake. Roses and poppies could be picked on every hillside. On the fertile Plain of Gennesaret below they could see groves of all manner of trees and delicate fruits, vines with a new leaves, and crops of vegetables and grains springing up from the soil.

A refreshing breeze from the lake brushed the faces of the crowd looking up at the Lord. Sensing he was about to speak, they became quiet. It was an atmosphere where Christ’s words would cover the seaside with heaven’s music, whose voice would first be heard by those had never before wakened to them. How they would hold the soul entranced, calling up inmost God-born inspiration within each one, rendering them capable of new birth into the Kingdom of God.

He began his sermon with the Beatitudes, revealing the characteristics of a God-pleaser:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who morn in spirit,
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

They were mostly the poor of the earth, yet Jesus said spiritual wealth beyond their dreams awaited them. From that moment on, no one wanted to miss a single word.

Something New under the Sun

Next, he contrasted the religious leaders’ teaching of the Law with the righteousness of the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ interpretation was entirely new, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come to complete the entire Law. Anyone who practices the real meaning of its commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

He compared outward actions with inner thoughts of the heart. “Our people have been told for centuries, ‘Do not commit murder.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will face judgment. You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those persecuting you. In doing this, you will prove you are true children of your Father in heaven.

“Beware of doing good deeds publicly to be seen; you already have your reward. When you do an act of kindness, do it secretly for God’s eyes alone. Then your Father, who sees everything done in secret, will reward you. Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

The multitude was totally amazed by his words. They had never thought of Almighty God (Yahweh) as a loving Father, and had no idea how to act or what to say to a personal God. So he gave them a sample prayer as a guide.

New Way to Pray

“When you pray, go off by yourself, and then your unseen Father who meets with you in the secret place will reward you. Do not babble meaningless phrases like the pagans do, for your Father knows full well what you need even before you ask. Say something like this:

Our Father in heaven,
we hallow your name.
May your kingdom come.
May your will be done on earth,
just as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have also forgiven those who sin against us.
Please do not allow us to be so tempted that we are overcome by evil,
but deliver us from the evil one.”

It was real conversational prayer they all understood.

Secret of a Worry-Free Life

“Do not pile up treasures on earth where they can be lost or stolen from you. Store up treasures in heaven where their value remains forever and there is no way to lose them. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

“Listen carefully: do not worry about staying alive that you become anxious over food and drink. God has given you life and a body, and they are far more important than what to eat or what to wear. If he can give you life, he can certainly provide what is needed for your existence.

“Look at the wild birds. They do not worry about sowing or reaping or storing food. They do not have to; your Heavenly Father feeds them. And you are worth far more to him than they are. So how can worrying about these things add anything to your life? Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not even one of them falls to the earth without your Father’s knowledge. As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Therefore, stop being afraid! You are worth more than any number of sparrows.

“And why worry about your clothes? Look at the wild lilies of the field and how they grow. They do not work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his splendor was never dressed as beautifully as one of these. Therefore, if God clothes the flora of the field with such dazzling beauty, which is here today and gone tomorrow, he will most certainly clothe you.

Rewards of Persistent Prayer

“If a child should ask for food, what parent among you would give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, who would give him a deadly snake? If then, you know how to give your children what is best for them, how much more will your Heavenly Father give what is good to those who ask him? Be persistent in asking and you will receive what you are praying for. Be persistent in seeking and you find what you are looking for. Keep on knocking and the door will open to you. For everyone who asks persistently will receive; whoever seeks persistently will find; and to everyone who keeps knocking, the door opens.

“So do not worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. That is what the heathen do. Your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. And do not worry about tomorrow. Just live one day at a time and deal with one day’s troubles. God will take care of tomorrow as surely as he is taking care of today.

“Those who listen to my words and build their lives on them will be like the wise man who had the good sense to build his house on solid rock. Even though the rains came, flood waters rose, and winds beat against his house—it did not give way. Therefore in view of your astonishing resources through prayer, start treating others as you would like them to treat you—and do it in every situation. When you live by this principle you fulfill the Law and the Prophets.”

Voice of God

The crowd was hushed under the authority of his voice until he finished speaking. Then they asked one another, “What was it about this man that warmed our hearts so? What made his words so compelling, so believable?” It seemed as if God had spoken directly to them—and they were right! He had just revealed the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. It was private, inward, and spiritual.

His listeners were amazed and said to one another, “Never did a man speak like this man. He spoke with authority, not like the scribes and Pharisees.” How different was this Rabbi’s teaching from that of the Pharisees! The rabbis and teachers of Israel got their authority by quoting other people—Moses, the prophets, and the teachers who had gone before them. They had no direct authority in themselves. But Jesus said, “I tell you…” There was no second-hand interpretation!

They were convinced this man surely had come from God. And they wondered, “Could he be the Messiah they had all been waiting for all these years? Was the kingdom really at hand with its freedom from the Law of bondage the Jewish rulers had made unbearable with all their added traditions?”

When Jesus came down from the mountain, the great crowd followed him to Capernaum. They wanted to hear more.

The same person who ministered to the multitude that day is still speaking. So much more is the voice of God who speaks words of mercy to those amid the trees of the lost Garden; who speaks about a real and possible future to those who hide in shame. For it is not the human which has to rise to the divine, but the divine which has come down to the human. And when he does, God’s Word has the same stunning effect on all who hear it.

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In Beautiful Chino Valley, Arizona