THREE THINGS JESUS NEVER SAID IN THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (EVEN THOUGH YOU THOUGHT HE DID!)
The sermon on the mount is arguably the most powerful teaching and oration ever recorded in human history. It is so powerful that even people who do not believe in Jesus Christ or the Bible agree with it, including the legendary Mahatma Gandhi. Christians revere this teaching and regard it as a fundamental pillar of Christianity.
The problem with this is first and foremost, Jesus was not speaking directly to the world or to humanity in that sermon. He was speaking purely to His audience who were Israelites, hence He makes reference to the law of Moses, Scribes and Pharisees. Secondly, since there was no such thing as Christianity at that time as it was before the cross, it would amount to putting the cart before the horse to claim that the sermon is a fundamental of the Christian faith.
That said, we proceed to consider three things we often think Jesus said in that sermon.
JESUS NEVER SAID THE LAW WOULD NOT PASS AWAY
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17–18)
For some reason I have never totally understood, Christians lay so much emphasis on the first half of the first sentence and the first half of the second sentence. Why does no one ever consider those three little words “but to fulfill” in the first sentence and those four little words “till all be fulfilled” in the second. What does it mean to fulfill? Does it not mean to extinguish an obligation such that it does not exist anymore? Jesus’ cross did not destroy the law, it extinguished every obligation under it, thus fulfilling it.
Take for example, a contract for the sale of a brand new Lamborghini for $5,000,000. If the buyer transfers said $5,000,000 to the seller and the seller transfers ownership of said Lamborghini to the buyer, what happens? The contract comes to an end. Why? Because it was destroyed? No! Because the purpose of the contract has been achieved and both parties have been satisfied.
In the same manner, the cross satisfied God’s law and the law could come to an end. Hence Paul writes,
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” (Romans 10:4)
Remember Jesus said the law will remain, not forever, but until all is fulfilled.
JESUS NEVER SAID YOU HAVE TO BE LITERALLY BETTER THAN THE PHARISEES AND SCRIBES TO GET INTO HEAVEN
“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20)
Christians go to town with this verse and interpret it thus,
“The Pharisees were a very righteous lot, they were clean and pure and holy, yet Jesus said we have to work far more than they did to be able to enter heaven”
First, let me say that interpretation is plain stupid…very stupid actually.
There was nobody Jesus insulted more vitriolically than the Pharisees. Look how many times He calls them “hypocrites, fools and blind” in Matthew 23. These, by the way, were the same Pharisees who killed Him! How in the world would we think Jesus was recommending their righteousness as a standard to get into heaven?
Secondly, scripture is clear that it is by faith in Christ men are justified and made righteous with God. This righteousness by faith is a gift (Romans 5:17). It is God’s own righteousness in Christ given to those who believe in Him by faith, this righteousness is billions of light years ahead of the Pharisee’s and that is the righteousness that gets a man into heaven. This is why Jesus said we are to seek first the kingdom of God and HIS righteousness (Matthew 6:33)…we are not to bring our own!
One billion and one Pharisees put together are not half as righteous as the believer.
JESUS NEVER SAID GOD DEMANDED A GREATER BURDEN THAN THE LAW OF MOSES IMPOSED
First, to reiterate a point that has been made countless times in the opening paragraph of this article as well as in other articles, the Law of Moses was never given to the world at large. This alone is enough to counter this impression that Jesus was extending “thou shalt not kill” to getting angry or thou shalt not commit adultery to lusting in the heart. Now, do not get me wrong, this is true, but Jesus never made that statement in the legalistic spirit we interpret it today.
Jesus provides some context in Matthew 5:20 earlier discussed when He talked about your righteousness having to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees in order to get into heaven. It is in that context He then begins to say, “You have heard it said….but I say…”. He was comparing the Pharisaical standard of the Law of Moses to God’s standard to show the Pharisees they still did not measure up. The Pharisee’s boast was that he had not killed, Jesus said if he had gotten angry with someone without a cause that is exactly the same as murder in God’s eyes. It was in that light, Jesus equated adultery with lust.
Despite all of this, some may still argue that the sermon on the mount contained commandments which must be kept as prerequisites for getting into heaven. But what did Jesus Himself say about those commandments?
“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)
Spoiler alert! Jesus never said those who broke those commandments in the sermon on the mount would not get into the kingdom of heaven, He only said they would be called least in it (where? IN IT! as in INSIDE IT!).
Make that the fourth thing Jesus never said…
In conclusion, Christ and Christ alone saves. Although we are saved (and get into heaven) by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ and must never forget that, Matthew 5:19 reveals that the sermon on the mount is still important because how we have lived out those commandments in our daily lives will have some bearing on our ranks in the kingdom of heaven.
The summary of the sermon, which really is the summary of the entire Law of Moses, is love, and God has both shed abroad His love in our hearts (Romans 5:5)and given us a spirit of love (2 Timothy 1:7) to ensure that the believer has the ability to live out every jot and tittle of the sermon on the mount.