Text: Matthew 4:12-5:1, Romans 8:1-6
“And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.”
– Matthew 4:23
“…the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
- Matthew 4:16
As we set the scene for Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, we find Him in the early stages of His ministry. We see Him call the disciples. We see them begin to travel alongside Jesus as He heals and preaches and heals some more. And we see people flock to Him, in both curiosity and loyalty, as news of the Healer spread. If you heard of a man walking around your city “healing every disease and every affliction among the people,” wouldn’t you run find Him, too?
“They brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.” (Matt. 4:24, ESV, emphasis mine)
Pause your reading for a full minute and think about what it must have been like to be among that crowd . . .
Incredible, right? Part of me wonders if Jesus could have just healed folks until the cows came home and called it a day for His ministry. Heal hundreds of people with the touch of a hand? DONE. (I put a bandaid on my daughter’s toe last night. Does that count?)
As amazing as it was, physical healing wasn’t all they needed from Jesus. It wasn’t the only reason—or even the main reason—that He came. Just like us, they needed a cure that reached down deep into the heart, into the very soul of their being. Jesus knew freedom was coming and it started right there, with Him. And so He climbed the mountain and began to preach.
God’s people had received teaching from a mountain before. The mount was Sinai and the unsuspecting (and reluctant!) preacher was Moses. The law revealed their sin—our sin—in no uncertain terms. But this time was different. Jesus wasn’t presenting the law as they knew it, a list of outward rules to be followed. He addressed the heart.
Jesus spoke of an outer reality (our world and our actions) in terms of an inner reality (our hearts and the gospel).
Those dots had never been connected before. This was revolutionary stuff!
On that mount—with the people gathered close and His disciples gathered closer—Jesus preached a religion that was not about doing, but about being.
He transformed the law from a back-breaker to a freedom-maker.
Moses had presented the law all those many years before, and the people did—and do—fall miserably short. Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law—down to the letter!—so that we might gain His reward (Matt. 5:17, Rom. 5:17). The reward was freedom. Freedom from sin, freedom from self. Freedom from hopelessness and death. Freedom from rule-based religion. Freedom to love and be loved by a holy and merciful God.
Let’s lean in close these next few weeks as we listen to the words of our Savior from His Sermon on the Mount. Let’s sink into the red-letter text and ask God to reveal Himself to us in a new way. Let’s pray for a new understanding of the depth of our sinfulness and the riches of His Grace.