The Gospel of Matthew chapters 5-7 is a record, perhaps a summation, of how Jesus expects citizens of his kingdom to live out our lives. Referred to by many as the Beatitudes, these sayings are introduced by the words “blessed are you when …” Presented by Matthew as a single open air speech, the Gospel writer summarized the reaction of the crowd in chapter 7 verses 28 and 29: “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught as one having authority, and not as one of the scribes.”
What was it that astonished the people and caused them to contrast Jesus with their standard religious experts? Was it some new content they had never before heard? I don’t think so. Much of what Jesus said is stated in word and example within the Old Testament. Was it that Jesus had some kind of exciting and glamorous way of speaking? Was he especially attractive? None of the Gospel writers mention Jesus’ appearance or speaking style. What they did say was his parables often confused people! So why listen to Him? Was it the miracles that attracted people That works to attract people but does not explain the astonishment people felt at the authority Jesus spoke with. My suggestion is the people experienced a revelation similar to Peter when he said to Jesus “you are the Messiah, the son of the living God.” I believe in their spirits many of Jesus’ hearers recognized Him as the One behind the sacred words delivered to Israel through Moses and the prophets. The authority they senses was that he, Jesus himself was the source of God’s revelation to Israel!
There are people who maintain these teachings are for the millennium when Christ rules physically over the earth. They say that in this current age it is impossible to survive in politics, business – whatever – if one tries to apply Jesus’ teachings to everyday life. Let’s be honest; if career and security is what one is concerned about it can be just as tough to apply Matthew 5-7 to a Christian ministry as to the secular world! What these people are really saying is it is hard FOR THEM to live according to the Beatitudes and perhaps dangerous to whatever it is they hold dear.
Regardless of what some people say, Jesus really did teach the values of Matthew 5-7 as normative values for His followers. The early disciples believed in Jesus’ authority and honored those teachings to the point of giving up careers and even their lives. In our day multitudes of sincere followers of Jesus strive to live out the words of Matthew 5-7 regardless of their worldly circumstances. The world does not always reward us for living by Jesus’ teachings but that is OK. Our reality is we are citizens of a spiritual kingdom that has already arrived and whose ruler lives within us (Luke 17:21) through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. If we wish to do so, if we are willing to accept the risk we can live out Jesus’ values before the world.
Want to know more? Read Matthew chapters 5 – 7.