January 12, 2024

How to Thrive: Lessons From the Sermon on the Mount

Every community has a set of rules and values to live by: this is what it means to be us. That’s what Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is. In this episode, Whit and Casey explore how the Sermon on the Mount should be understood and applied and what it means to truly thrive.

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We live in a consumer culture of overpromises. Every company markets its product as the thing that’s missing from your life: “Once you have this, everything will change.” As the church gets more influenced by branding and marketing, we’ve gotten into the habit of hyping things in this same way, a sort of over-promise and under-deliver pattern.

But when we do that, we’re framing the church in a transactional way and operating through the lens of scarcity. We don’t see hollow words or this scarcity mentality in Jesus.

The Transformative Power of the Sermon on the Mount

If you’re unfamiliar with the Sermon on the Mount you’re probably at least familiar with some of the things Jesus says in it like, “Judge not lest yea be judged,” “Love your enemies,” or “Turn the other cheek.”

The Sermon is the longest single teaching discourse of Jesus in the gospels.  It doesn’t feel like a normal three-point sermon we’re used to hearing. It hits on so many different topics, presenting them in bite-size phrases that could be easily memorized. In other words, it’s the greatest hits of Jesus recorded over Matthew 5,6,7.

The Sermon on the Mount has the power to change your life. And this is not hyperbole. When understood and applied, it can transform your relationships, your inner life, the way you handle conflict, and the way you relate to God as Father. It can change everything. But we’ve got to look at it through the right lens.

Understanding the Context

In the book of Matthew, the Gospel writer crafts a narrative that reveals the divine nature of Jesus’ birth, baptism, and victorious encounter with temptation.

These events serve as a powerful prelude, showcasing Jesus’ unique ability to accomplish what Israel could not. As Jesus begins his ministry, attracting followers in the regions of Galilee, he introduces a revolutionary concept—a new kingdom that’s not constrained by geographical boundaries.

Jesus as the New Moses

When Jesus goes up on the mountain, it’s more than just to be visible to the crowd. Matthew is trying to get across the idea that Jesus is the new Moses,  showing us a pattern for how God works.

God’s people were enslaved for 400 years by the Egyptians and God instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh to let His people go. Then, God took Moses and the Israelites to Sinai. Moses went up on the mountain and met with God, coming back down with the 10 Commandments.

They were a moral code for God’s people: “This is how we live.”

God doesn’t just deliver His people and then set them free. He brings them to Sinai to give them a law, to form them into a people with an identity. That’s exactly what Jesus is doing. He’s revealing the identity of those who are members of the kingdom of heaven.

What Does It Mean to Be Blessed?

A lot of people think of the Sermon on the Mount as an unreachable standard––Jesus taking the bar and raising it. But was that his intention?

In his Sermon, Jesus uses the word “blessed” over and over again. Understanding this word holds the key to understanding his whole teaching.

There are two words in the Old Testament translated to blessed. The first is Barak, which is the typical way we think of the word blessed. It’s the idea of God pronouncing divine favor over someone.

But the word Jesus uses in Matthew is Esher, meaning “an exclamatory description of the state of happiness, privilege, or fortune that is upon someone as observed by someone else.”

This word primarily appears in the wisdom literature (Psalms & Proverbs), which offer guidance on what a life well-lived looks like. When we read the word “blessed” in this way, it totally reframes our view of what Jesus is communicating.

Far from an unreachable ideal, the Sermon on the Mount provides a practical and attainable set of instructions for flourishing within Jesus’ new kingdom.

The Conditions to Thrive

When you go to a plant nursery and buy a plant, it will include a care instruction card. If you took a plant home that said, “needs full sun and lots of water,” but instead planted it in the dry shade, it wouldn’t be surprising when that plant dies. Its environment wasn’t conducive to its own flourishing.

Maybe your life isn’t producing fruit. You’ve done it your own way for a long time and you’re ready to try something else. You can only produce when you’re connected to life.

When you recognize your condition and turn to Him, you put yourself in the exact right position for God to do what He wants to in your life.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is saying, this is what real humanity looks like. He’s forming an identity for the church and telling us what it means to be fully alive, fully blessed, and fully human in the upside-down kingdom of heaven.

Read Jesus’ famous words for yourself: Matthew 5-7

Show notes:

Listen to the message: What Does “Blessed” Really Mean in the Bible? 


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