Lent, Day 31 — Summary: The Story So Far

Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
Summary So Far

This is another good spot to pause and look where we’ve come.

I’ve said the Sermon on the Mount is a spiritual manifesto, a charter for the prophetic community that we call “church,” and which Jesus called ekklesia, “the called-out ones.” Jesus outlines what they would eventually call “The Way.”

Here is how I understand the structure of his manifesto. It begins and ends with a description of the prophetic community, and an assurance that what he’s asking them to do is harder yet more life-giving than conventional religion.

  • Introduction (The Beatitudes): This called-out community is to live with an unearthly happiness, as a prophetic community (Matthew 5:1-16).
    • They are not throwing the Bible out of the window (5:17-20), though others may say so. Instead, they are letting their attitudes and relationships be shaped by a deeper reality that the Biblical rules are pointing to: the Way to Life.
      • The big section in the middle is what I call the Ethical Core. It begins with Jesus describing how he is not lowering the bar; he is raising it (Matthew 5:21-42). Avoiding anger, lust, dishonesty, and revenge are about transforming our thoughts and feelings, not just our actions.
      • All of the law and prophets point to the ethic of impartial love (5:43-48) for all people and of all creation. We are meant to love completely, and we are fulfilled as humans when we do.
      • Complete love means we don’t perform religiosity for social acceptance. Giving, praying, and fasting are between us and God. We are neither like the religious hypocrites nor like those who do not know God (6:1-18).
      • Attachment to wealth is a trap. Our relationship to money can distort our hearts, our perception, and our relationship to God (6:19-24).
      • Our attachment to money is not simply greed; it is a symptom of our fear. By keeping our attention on the present moment and the life around us, we can free ourselves from worry about the future (6:25-34).
      • The act of judging is reflexive—it comes back upon us, even if we think we’re being helpful (7:1-6)
      • Trusting that God will give us exactly what we’re seeking, we can release other people from our religious judgment and treat them with love (7:7-12)
    • Again, this trust and love does not mean that we have a casual attitude toward the Bible. Indeed, it’s a reflection of a deeper reality and the narrow gate to the Way of Life that we’re seeking for ourselves (7:12-14). ***This is the part we’ve just finished***
  • But there are some boundaries around the prophetic community. We can tell who to trust by their fruit (7:15-23)
  • Conclusion: So if you’re smart, you’ll heed these words (7:24-27)

This would be a good time to read the whole thing again, at least up to 7:14. You can do so by clicking here.