I’ve been going through the Sermon on the Mount with a group of university students since January. We pray, read, talk, and try to come to terms with what Jesus meant. A few weeks ago I asked my friends, “How many of you think it’s possible to fulfill Jesus’ teaching in your everyday lives?” Only one person out of twenty raised a hand. One. Does this strike you as a problem?
Why would 19 out of 20 students invest a semester studying a sermon they had no hope of living up to? The Sermon on the Mount has been regarded as the essence of Jesus’ teaching. Matthew chapters 5, 6 & 7 have been called the constitution of the Kingdom of God. But like many famous Bible passages--like much of our worship--we honor the ideal and then return to the “real world,” leaving His words behind. Granted, these are challenging words from Jesus. Here's just a small sampling:
- Anyone who breaks 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 practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (5:19)
- I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. (5:22)
- Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (5:48)
- Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. (6:25)
- For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks find; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (7:8)
- Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (7:21)
The Sermon on the Mount brings this question into sharp focus, but it applies to all of Jesus’ actions and teaching--why would Jesus demonstrate or share the impossible with us? If he is the Master of Living, would he demand of us what we cannot give?
Here’s a Monday meditation: if we think of Jesus as the kind of person who would never say “be warm and filled” to a beggar without helping the poor man, why would we think of Jesus as commanding the impossible of his disciples? As students of Jesus, our answer makes all the difference. I invite you to share your answer in the "comments" section--I'm eager to read your opinion.