The beginning of the Sermon on the Mount:
1 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them . . .” (Matthew 5:1-2 NASB)
At the end of chapter 4, Matthew informs us that “large crowds” followed Jesus. The crowds followed him because of his ability to heal their diseases, pains and birth defects. They needed physical help and Jesus was able to provide it.
What does Jesus do in response to the large crowds? He looked for a place to sit down and begin teaching them. Why would he do this?
Throughout the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) we find Jesus expanding our understanding of God and his view of righteousness and godly living. We are encouraged to move beyond physical obedience to spiritual conformity to a higher calling. We moved past doing to being and Jesus shows us that who and what we are determines what we do.
It is not enough to refrain from murder, we are called to live without hatred. It is not enough to refrain from adultery, we are called to live without lust. What we do on the outside is supposed to match what we are on the inside.
Why does Jesus take the time to tell us this? It is not so that we can be proud of our spiritual accomplishments. Apart from the work of God in my life, I cannot even begin to live up to the standards that Jesus presents in this sermon.
I believe that Jesus takes the time to preach this sermon because the crowds then and now need to know that not only do they need physical healing, they also need a spiritual one. This sermon calls me to the understanding that left to myself, my situation is hopeless. On my own, I can manufacture a pseudo spirituality that may perhaps look good on the outside, but I cannot fix the core problem of my sin.
In this sermon, Jesus provides a glimpse as to what true Godly living looks like and invites us to join him in living it out. Paul tells us in Romans:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16–17 NASB)
It is by the power of the Gospel that I can begin to live up to the standards that are presented in this sermon. So as we read these beautiful chapters of the Bible, we will be alternately scared to death and encouraged. We will be scared to the death of our self-will and encouraged as we yield control to God who promises to bring his work in us to completion (Philippians 1:6).
Jesus teaches us these things so that we look beyond our own abilities and look to Him. We need to quit the self-help movement and embrace the God-help movement. It is then, and only then, that we can begin to experience ultimate healing, healing the part of us that no doctor or pill can fix.
They asked for healing and Jesus gave it to them, though perhaps not in the form they thought they needed.