What’s the main idea behind the “sermon of the mount”?
This is quite a question to ask, for the Sermon on the Mount encompasses the whole of Christian and Kingdom character that Jesus is working in all of those who follow him. It shows the character that the Holy Spirit works in us to transform us in conformance to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29-30).
Some scholars believe that the Beatitudes in the beginning of Matthew are more about showing the complete character of Christ in us, rather than the character he expects of us on this earth. But I believe God has high standards for all of us that include the Beatitudes.
They show a blessedness that comes only from being in these positions of weakness. It is only through weakness that Christ can be strong through us. So he wants to show his strength in our weakness.
Jesus also expects us to make a difference in our world. We are salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). As salt, we preserve righteousness, season our conversation with God’s goodness, and present a kingdom perspective to the world that they are not used to seeing.
As light, we shine for Jesus the true message of the gospel. We show his character and his teaching to the world through our words and actions. We are representatives of Jesus in the world.
Jesus then explains that he came to fulfill the law rather than to abolish it (Matthew 5:17-20). He fulfills it, and then we fulfill it by following him in complete obedience to the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the completion of all of the Old Testament foreshadowing.
Then he shows how he fulfills the law by going through some of the Old Testament laws and internalizing them. The Pharisees and other religious leaders of Jesus’ day wanted to follow the letter of the law so that they made it easy to say they fulfilled it.
Jesus made it harder when he related murder to anger, adultery to lust, taking oaths as in the salt on a person’s character, countercultural principles like not seeking vengeance, loving your enemies, giving to the needy in secret so you don’t stroke your pride, teaching us how to pray, forgiving others, fasting in secret so we are not revered by other people, storing up treasures in heaven rather than on earth, not being anxious but placing our trust in the Lord, not judging others and treating people the way we want to be treated, and bearing fruit.
He said a standard for holiness and for being like him. Kingdom character is all about what happens on the inside of a person before it happens in their actions and behavior. The kingdom character Jesus set is a high standard that we aspire to. But only through the power of the Holy Spirit and our obedience to him can we even come close to Jesus’ description of the kingdom.
These attributes God is working in us are the very foundation of the kingdom of God. His kingdom is worked in us through these principles and states of being. They are all about the inside character we exhibit through our behavior.
And I believe that by the power of the Spirit and our obedience to him, we can exhibit these character traits that glorify God and show others God’s kingdom. It’s not easy, and we don’t always get it right. But it is something to strive for, ask for, and seek as God works in us until the day he takes us home to heaven.