Talk about closing a sermon

Very few sermons close off as forcibly as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus summons people to follow him, and the way he does this is to clarify the sort of followers he has in mind (beatitudes), the salt and light vocation, the surpassing righteousness he expects, and the simplicity of doing things with integrity and trusting God for provisions, and then a series of comments about discernment — and then Jesus simply calls people to follow.
Jesus is here not trying to frighten folks; he’s warning the arrogant possessors of gifts who think they’ve got a claim on God because of their service, their success, and their supernatural works. Jesus summons those who hear his words to follow him.

And for Jesus following him cannot ever be reduced to what one says. One can say “Lord, Lord” to Jesus but calling Jesus “Lord” is nothing if it does not mean following Jesus. And here is perhaps the shocker — following Jesus also does not mean ministry experience or giftedness. For Jesus is setting his teeth against those who (1) call Jesus “Lord,” (2) exercise gifts of significance, but who (3) can be called “doers of lawlessness.”
Giftedness does not equal redemption.
Allison suggests that what counts with Jesus is not supernatural giftedness but the gifts of charity and mercy and compassion — and there is good reason to think Matthew 25:31-46 can be brought into play here because it too is a judgment scene.
Finally, a point simply cries out for attention: anyone who thinks final redemption is secure because one has “received Christ” will not find support in the Sermon on the Mount. Redemption comes to those whose lives reveal the presence of God’s redemptive grace. Someone, I think John Calvin, said that we are neither saved by works nor without works. Jesus would utter a hearty “Amen!” to that one.

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  • Duane Young

    Scot, I am still struggling with the suggestion that Jesus is calling followers to take on the characteristics of those described in the Beatitudes. Isn’t it (more) likely that he is blowing up the categories of the cogniscenti describing who they thought were the “unblessed?” Jewish leadership was sure that wealth, or position, or power or similar attributes were evidence of God’s favor. I think Jesus was blasting their exclusivity and opening the Kingdom invitation to those thought disfavored. Paul too inverts conventional wisdom, but as to those thought favored he says “not many;” he does not say not “any.” Mabe I am being too Western and “either/or” whereas an Eastern or Middle Eastern “both/and” is more in order. Thanks for your teaching.

  • Duane,
    What I think is that the beatitudes are “sorts” of persons Jesus sees entering the kingdom; the curses (in Luke) those sorts who are not. Yes, he is blowing up categories. But, what I’m saying also is that these are not moral virtues to pursue so much as sorts of people.
    I agree with you.

  • Don’t you think he’s echoing Mary’s teaching here, too? (That’s a rhetorical question because I know you do). Did I jump in too late here and you’ve already said that?

  • Duane Young

    Scot, Lukas, can you elucidate a bit? What do you mean by “echoing Mary’s teaching?”

  • “anyone who thinks final redemption is secure because one has “received Christ” will not find support in the Sermon on the Mount.”
    Is a comment like this, misplaced in this context? Since this is neither the concern nor the point of the teaching, does a theological inference like this one help us to better understand what Jesus is trying to accomplish?
    To me, the whole idea of “can one lose one’s salvation” appears to be a theological system imposed on the text by our set of questions/assumptions/presuppositions. If one had asked Paul “can you lose your salvation?”, what would he have said? Keep following Jesus, remain in Christ and the love of God will never fail you. Which to my mind, dodges the actual question and gets to the heart of the matter.
    Or did I miss something?

  • Duane, if the summons of the Sermon on the Mount is a summons to be God’s good people by pursuing God’s will, then the Magnificat of Mary, which praised God for that being what God was about to do with his people, anticipates the Sermon on the Mount.
    Loss of salvation was not on my mind either; I am suggesting that the rather casual sense that redemption is reception of Christ is inconsistent with Jesus. For him, works and faith are two sides of the same coin.

  • Duane Young

    Thanks! “Anticipates” is a bit softer than “echoing” although I am not disagreeing in the least. Too often we Protestants fail to give Mary her just due. It was startling (but refreshing) to consider that Jesus may have learned from his Mommy like you and me! Thanks for a new thought!

  • Dan

    Hi all, been out and about… Scot, you will probably never see this as you have moved on since this post, but, it was nice to meet you briefly at Midwinter. The posts on the Sermon on the Mount have been timely for me since I’m currently preaching through Matthew and have been focusing on the SOTM the past several weeks.
    The Beatitudes are wonderful and and certainly multivalient… I’ve come to see a progressive/parallel model of “spiritual formation” in them. The first four building successively and the second four the maturation in parallel to the first four:
    The Poor in spirit —— Merciful
    Those who mourn ——— Pure in heart
    The Meek —————- Peacemakers
    Hunger and thirst ——- Persecuted for
    for righteousness righteousness sake
    The blessedness of the progression/parallel moves form heaven to heaven!
    The ninth then has to do with our ultimate identity in Christ.
    All in all, as you point out these aren’t virtues so much as sorts of persons or perhaps the sort of person who comes to know the Kingdom (again the beginning and ending points of blessedness).
    In Jesus Creed terms, I can see the beatitudes as the Love the Lord your God with all… and the righteousness that exceeds as the Love your neighbor as yourself… a thought… what do you think…