“You therefore must be perfect”
The above quotation is how today’s Matthew 5 ends. This chapter is normally called ‘the Sermon on the Mount’. It has been portrayed in films as Jesus teaching a whole crowd of people – but that is the opposite to what the text actually says; an example of how, all too often, God’s word is misread.
The last verse of chapter 4 says,
“And great crowds followed him (Jesus) from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan”.
And we can say, ‘wonderful’! But the previous verse plainly states what was attracting them!
“So his fame spread … and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains … and he healed them.”
The Sermon on the Mount was not given to them! Chapter 5 starts,
“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them”.
So this chapter is a special one for those who are prepared to come apart from the ways of the world and, metaphorically climb the mountain as a genuine disciple of Jesus.
Our Master’s message starts (verse 3)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (verse 3).
What does poor mean? The scriptural sense is ‘lowly’ – the opposite of being proud. And his message is about the “kingdom of heaven” – not in heaven! This is shown in verse 5,
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”.
We note the constant use of the word “shall” – it is a promise of future blessings,
“they shall be comforted … they shall be satisfied … they shall receive mercy … they shall see God … they shall be called sons of God …theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (verses 5-10).
Our chapter ends with very challenging teaching by Jesus!
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Perfect has the sense of ‘complete’ – success in getting rid of all blemishes that spoil or tarnish our characters. Jesus uses the word ‘love’ in a very challenging way! He tells his disciples,
“if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (verse 46).
So Jesus challenges us to train ourselves so we become more and more like him in character. Meditating on this chapter and the two which follow is an essential training exercise for those who have hearts that hear their Master saying
“you therefore must be perfect”.
Only those who do this “shall see God” and “inherit the earth”.