In a day when some are erroneously suggesting that the Sermon on the Mount is law, law, and some more law (one scholar said it was Moses mossisimus) there are others of us who think the Sermon on the Mount is gospel.
The Sermon on the Mount, I contend, is the gospel. On the basis of The King Jesus Gospel, in which I outline both the soterian approach and the Jesus/apostolic approach to gospel, I argue the gospel is the declaration that Jesus is Lord, King and as Lord and King Jesus rescues his people (1 Cor 15:3-5; sermons in Acts). The gospel is a message about Jesus first and foremost and not first a message about us and our salvation. The King saves but the gospel is news about the arrival of the King.
Some don’t see gospel in the Sermon on the Mount because they are looking for the wrong thing: the plan for personal salvation.
Now to the Sermon as gospel.
Matthew sets up the Sermon on the Mount and how to read it; he does so in Matthew 4:23-25 and 9:35.
Matt. 4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
Matt. 9:35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
If we read Matthew 4:23-25 we see the following elements in the ministry of Jesus: he teaches and he proclaims and he heals. In 9:35 we see the identical three themes in his ministry: teaching, proclaiming and healing. (The “every disease and sickness,” rhythmic in Greek, connects these two verse sections even tighter. The same appears only at 10:2, which is a different post.)
The Sermon on the Mount “illustrates” or “is” Jesus’ teaching and proclaiming while Matthew 8–9, a collection mostly of healing stories (10 miracle stories), illustrates or is Jesus’ healing. That is, 4:23-25 announces in advance what Jesus will do and be while 9:35 announces what Jesus has done and been. In other words, Matthew 4:23-25; 9:35 say “Here’s Jesus!” and “Here’s the ministry of Jesus!” or ask, “You want to know about Jesus? Here he is!” In other words, this section in Matthew is a revelation of Jesus the Messiah.
The gospel is the declaration of Who Jesus Is, and the Jesus of these passages is the Lord of Moses, the Lord of Nature, the one who brings life to death and who reveals the fullness of God’s will. The Sermon ends on an evangelistic invitation: Here’s Jesus, do what he says by submitting to his Lordship.
The reason the Sermon ends — 7:28-29 — on the marvel that Jesus taught with authority because that is how we are to read it: a confrontation with the majesty of Who Jesus is. Revealing who Jesus is and getting an audience to ask “Who is Jesus?” is what evangelism is all about.
If the gospel is a declaration of who Jesus is, the Sermon on the Mount, in context, is gospel. The recorded response to the Sermon is the intended response for all of us, and that question — Who does he think he is?! — is the fundamental gospel question to answer.