Rethinking the Sermon on the Mount

Jesus' first sermon, The Sermon on the Mount, is probably the most famous sermon in history. We are all familiar with the first few lines:

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 "Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
12 "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13 "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. Matthew 5 (NASB)

Toward the end of the sermon, Jesus says:

1 "Do not judge so that you will not be judged.
2 "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
3 "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
4 "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?
5 "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
6 "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7 (NASB)

Do the consequences sound familiar? Jesus also uses similar language in his last recorded teaching:

20 "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near.
21 "Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city;
22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.
23 "Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people;
24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Luke 21 (NASB), and compare Matthew 24.

I have heard countless sermons on the various portions of the Sermon on the Mount. In fact,  I heard another brilliant one yesterday (I will link to it when it becomes active). And I was stirred to reread the entire Sermon on the Mount.

What struck me was something I had never seen before. The opening of Jesus' ministry is a prophetic plea. Jesus is imploring his Jewish brethren to "get it," and warning them of the consequences of not "getting it": being trampled.

The Sermon on the Mount is indeed full of spiritual truths, sound advice for living, and a whole host of really cool things. It is also much, much more.

When I teach my public speaking class, one of the things I try and instill is that the audience needs to hear what's being said three times: (1) tell them what you're going to tell them, (2) tell them, and (3) tell them what you told them. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins His public ministry by telling his audience what He's going to tell them. Then he spends three years telling them. Finally, He is forced to conclude with a heart-breaking "I told them so."

This is hardly a completed project, more of an infant idea. I just wanted to write it down for future reference (and if I had written it on paper or in a journal, I don't know if I would ever find it).

Dissecting the James Dilemma-Part 1

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