Scripture Reading: Matthew 4:23-7:29
Can you think back to a moment when your wrong actions or motivations were exposed? When the dark corners of your heart were revealed, and even you stood surprised at the depth of your flaws?
I am remembering a time recently when my sin was laid bare. I failed to consider others before myself, and I acted in a way contrary to what I know to be true. It was not all intentional, but it was all me. I felt embarrassed. I felt sad. I felt distraught at my helplessness to rewind the situation and make it better.
Imagine with me a version of this scenario where the one who reveals your wrongdoing also offers the remedy for it. He says to you, “Here is what you’ve done, and here is how it violated God and others. You are deeply flawed. But you are also deeply loved. You are not wholly righteous, but I am. You can not live up to every line of the law, but I have. You are not enough, but I was and I am and I will be—on your behalf. Your life is now hidden in mine.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ longest recorded sermon and arguably His most well-known, Jesus holds the lives and religion of His hearers up to the light of God’s law. It is as if He takes a spiritual X-ray of their actions, hearts, motives, and rituals, as well as their pain, longings, confusion, and suffering. Reading this sermon should do the same to ours.
The prognosis is bleak: we are broken beyond self-repair. But the remedy is real: Jesus came to fulfill every inch of the law on our behalf.
Much to the shock of His listeners, Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven is utterly unlike our earthly kingdoms. The poor and afflicted—not the powerful and attractive—are called blessed, along with the grieving, the seeking, and the persecuted. The the true measure of a person is not just her action, but her heart. Authentic spirituality is reflected not by how loudly we worship in public, but how earnestly we worship in private. Jesus, in effect, says this: You tout the law even as you break the law, but I alone fulfill the law. I alone am enough.
Because of the person and work of Christ, the law gives freedom instead of chains, life instead of despair. Rather than dwelling in condemnation or striving in vain for our own righteousness, a proper view of God’s law directs our gaze to Jesus. Seeing God’s law as both holy and wholly fulfilled in Jesus compels us to live out of Christ’s love for us in all areas of life.
As we read the Sermon on the Mount, we will feel the sting of Christ’s rebuke of sin and self. The dark corners of our hearts will be exposed, and we may wince at what we find there. But we will also hear the invitation to new life. There is peace in relying solely on Christ’s perfection and goodness. There is freedom in living our lives on earth as citizens of our truer, everlasting kingdom: the kingdom of God.
This is the life we were made for. This is the life that is ours in Jesus.
Editor’s Note: You may notice that today’s reading is longer than the others. On this first day of the study, we are reading the Sermon on the Mount in its entirety. Each weekday that follows will include a smaller section of the sermon to allow for more focused study, along with supplementary passages for broader understanding and deeper engagement. We invite you to read along with us.