#15 What the Gospels Teach - The 'Teaching' on the Mount - Matthew 5:1

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.  (Matthew 5:1 NASB)

 Matthew 5:1 sets the stage for the Christ’s teachings in Matthew 5-7 which arguably are the greatest teachings ever uttered in all of history.  We see in the preceding chapter that Jesus going around teaching that people should repent because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  We also see that though He is going around preaching repentance, He is also serving and healing those who are sick and have need.  It is clear from the end of the 4th chapter that Jesus is gathering quite a following, and the reason is because of the healing, not because of the message.   Enter Chapter 5, Jesus leaves the big crowds, heads up into a mountain and sits down, then His disciples come unto Him.


Now I have heard plenty of parallels made between Jesus going up unto the mount and Moses going up into the mount, and the beatitudes being the ‘Law’ as it displays itself in the new covenant and so on.  That stuff seems all good, but I want to focus on one little portion of this scripture: “...after He sat down...”  Matthew 5-7 has become known as the Sermon on the Mount, but if you look at the setting it was no sermon at all.  This was small group discipleship, this was the Lord seated, with His disciples around Him, teaching the greatest teachings of all time.  Jesus retreated, He sat down, after that His disciples came and joined Him, not the crowds, but the disciples, and Jesus did not stand out their boom a sermon to the masses, He sat and looked the disciples individually in the face and taught them these things personally.  “He opened His mouth and taught them saying...”  Again I tell you this is a small group setting, and this is discipleship, the Sermon on the Mount is a message to the disciple and not to the crowd!  We must read the entire content of Matthew 5-7 in that context, and in the next many posts I will come back to the setting, because the setting is critical to our understanding.  For instance, the warnings in Matthew 7 are not warnings to the crowd, but warnings to the disciples... the few.  Again, what did Jesus preach to the crowds?  Go back to Matthew 4:17-25 and you will see that His message was to repent!  What is His message to the individual disciples?  The ‘Teaching’ on the Mount.  Somehow we have painted the mental picture that Jesus is standing on the mountainside preaching to the masses, we have assumed He went into the mountain to have a better pulpit, we have viewed this as a moment of prominence of Christ, but it really is a moment of retreat.   

 Now, a simple suggestion, I will probably spend a long time in Matthew 5-7 and I am such a novice, your time would be far better spent reading something like Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Cost of Discipleship” which deals extensively with the Sermon on the Mount, and deals with it far better than I will.


brummetm said...

that is a pretty good catch. i never noticed that and how have we a as Christians missed that so many times?

Jay Miklovic said...

This is interesting... we talked a little on this today together. If you watch the progression of the sermon on the mount you will see it takes and interesting turn at about 5:17.

The message leading up to that point deals with what a Christian is (the ontology). It is directed at the disciples. At Matthew 5:17 you begin to notice the message getting decidedly more evangelistic and pointed.

By the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is speaking of narrow gates, broad ways... and even 'depart from me I never knew you'. At the very end of the sermon on the mount you see that He was speaking to 'crowds' that had gathered.

I'm not sure there is anyway of knowing, but I propose that as the message progressed more and more people gathered, which is why you see the message at the beginning being aimed primarily at believers, while at the end the focus seems entirely toward the unbeliever.

Just my thoughts.