Our marching orders

Published 10:34 am Sunday, February 11, 2024

“And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them …” — Matthew 5:1-2 (NKJV)

These simple words from Jesus preface the greatest of His recorded messages. This Sermon on the Mount, as we call it, has been dissected, scrutinized, analyzed, and summarized ad nauseam.

Many have lost sight of the message while searching for the “deeper truth.” Others have given up their investigation, dismissing this Masterpiece (literally) as too difficult to comprehend. So then, wherever I venture in this particular column, I will enjoy the company of those who also tried to comprehend the enormity of this message from our Lord.

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I would like to first say that it was never intended a sermon for the multitudes. Jesus, “seeing the multitudes” before going up on a mountain, would indicate that He sought some separation from them for this teaching. It was the first time that Jesus had spoken more than a word or two (in Scripture) to His disciples and at this point only Simon, his brother Andrew, James and his brother John had been called. There may well have been others who would later be called among those gathered around Jesus, but only these four were mentioned by Matthew.

Every word, line, and phrase of each verse is relevant, there are no words that simply hold the thoughts together; the economy of words that Jesus used far exceeds any such use by natural man. The words flow together, and yet stand alone in their own right. Jesus speaks volumes in such short sentences; making Himself clear without unnecessary explanation.

What appears abundantly clear to this writer, is that Jesus is giving His disciples a complete job description for what lies ahead for those who would choose to follow Him. He reveals His own nature and character in the beatitudes, urging would-be disciples to do likewise. For the next three chapters, Jesus gives them instruction in righteousness and holy living, imploring them to be like Himself.

A text book for discipleship has been given to all who would listen and obey. Closing with the admonition to build on the rock to be safe, and to avoid building on sand that leads to disaster, the Sermon on the Mount is completed.

We have our marching orders — what will we do?

The Rev. Bobby Thornhill is a retired pastor.